What to Do with Old Running Shoes: 18 Eco-Friendly Ideas

 Check out these eco-friendly ideas to find out what to do with your old running shoes!

It can be difficult to part ways with your old running shoes that you’ve depended on for so long. However, if you don’t get rid of them in one way or another, they’ll pile up, taking up much-needed space.

If you don’t want to throw them away, rehoming them or finding a new use for them is the best way to go. This post will walk you through several eco-friendly ways to get rid of your old running shoes and free up some extra space for your new ones:

  1. What Can You Do with Old Running Shoes? Our Favorite Idea
  2. Collect Old Running Shoes with Your Community
  3. Collect Old Running Shoes at Your Next Walkathon or 5K
  4. Ideas for Repurposing Old Running Shoes

Don’t just toss out your old athletic shoes; recycle them! Someone else may need them, or you can find your own way to reuse them.

What Can You Do with Old Running Shoes? Our Favorite Idea

A running shoe drive fundraiser is a great way to recycle your old running shoes!Running Shoe Drive Fundraiser

Cost: FREE

A running shoe drive fundraiser is a great, eco-friendly way to get rid of your old sneakers. It can bring your community together for a good cause, and best of all, it’s easy to set up! If you have an organized running group or have tons of friends who love to run, this can be an easy way to get them involved, too!

When you partner with an organization like Sneakers4Funds, an athletic shoe drive fundraiser is made easy with just a few simple steps:

  • Step 1: Collect gently worn, used and new running shoes.
  • Step 2: Place the donated pairs of sneakers in a pre-paid shipping bag provided by the fundraising coordinator.
  • Step 3: Ship your bag (free of charge!) from the nearest UPS store to Sneakers4Funds.
  • Step 4: Receive a check!

Most people have old sneakers lying around that they haven’t worn in months and would be more than willing to give away! Instead of letting them throw out perfectly good running shoes, give them the opportunity to rehome them.

For more information on repurposing running shoes through an athletic shoe drive fundraiser, check out our how-to guide!

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Get your whole community involved in repurposing old running shoes!

Collect Old Running Shoes with Your Community

When you expand your efforts to locations in your area, you can get your entire community involved. That way, you’re making everyone else aware of the potential impact they can make through athletic shoe drive fundraisers. It’s a simple way to multiply your contribution with a little extra effort on your end!

Partner with your local running stores to host a shoe drive fundraiser!Running Stores

Cost: FREE

What better place is there to set up an athletic shoe drive fundraiser than a running store? Partner with your local athletic and sporting goods retailers who sell running shoes and ask them to help you collect unwanted athletic shoes from their customers.

Chances are, they’ll say yes! In fact, running stores are becoming more aware of their corporate social responsibility (CSR). They’re always looking for ways to give back. It drives business and can have a huge social and environmental impact on their communities.

Take advantage of this and ask generous retailers to put their efforts into a good cause by setting up donation bins for gently worn, used and new athletic shoes. Runners will love to pass along their unwanted sneakers that are still in wearable condition!

Start a running shoe drive fundraiser at your local farmers’ markets!Farmers’ Markets

Cost: FREE

Farmers’ markets are a great place to find environmentally-conscious people who would love to contribute to a running shoe drive fundraiser. You can go every weekend, collect athletic shoes, and pass out flyers reminding people to bring their sneakers the next weekend.

Recruit some of your friends to help out. A few can walk the floor while one or two set up stations with collection boxes throughout the market. The entrances and exits are an excellent place to start! Make sure to use eye-catching signs to bring in potential donors.

Schools are a great place to host a running shoe drive fundraiser!Public Schools

Cost: FREE

Schools are typically eager to help host athletic shoe drive fundraisers. It teaches kids the value of giving and can help families clear out their unwanted sneakers. Kids quickly grow out of their old clothes and sneakers, so many parents will jump at the chance to donate sneakers in good condition instead of just tossing them out.

Try making it an annual event! Suggest that it should happen every August or September when school starts back for the year. Parents typically buy their kids new sneakers during back-to-school shopping, so offer them the opportunity to get rid of those extra sneakers they don’t need anymore!

Get your community involved with your shoe drive fundraiser with a potluck meal!Community Meal


Bring your community together by hosting a breakfast or dinner open to all. You can partner with another organization, a school, or a church that lets you host the event on their property. Recruit volunteer chefs, and focus on a specific meal. For example, you could host something like:

  • A pancake breakfast
  • A spaghetti dinner
  • A taco bar

Earn money to pay for the ingredients and venue by selling tickets. Coordinate your sneaker drive fundraiser, and have attendees bring their old running shoes, too.

Set up a dunk tank and have people donate their unwanted shoes in exchange for throws!Dunk Tank


At one of your community’s events, line up a dunk tank. It costs a bit of money, but you can easily earn it back by charging a small fee per throw or set of throws.

Most people will jump at the opportunity to knock their friends and family members into a dunk tank, and the person being dunked won’t mind being dropped into a cool dunk tank on a hot summer day. Advertise ahead of time that you’ll offer free throws per shoe donated. That way, people will scour their house for old sneakers and won’t have to remember to bring extra cash.

Invite your neighborhood to a block party and have them donate their unwanted shoes!!Block Party


A block party is a great way to get your whole community together! In addition to food, have community members bring their old athletic shoes. Everyone will be sure to take advantage of the opportunity to clear up some space in their homes and put their old sneakers to good use!

Allow community members to purchase tickets that can be redeemed to participate in simple but fun activities, like:

  • Mini golf
  • Cornhole
  • Giant checkers
  • A petting zoo
  • Face painting
  • A three-legged race

Community members will love getting together to play games and have fun, so take advantage of the opportunity by incorporating an athletic shoe drive fundraiser with this entertaining event.

A walkathon or 5K is a great place for gathering old athletic shoes for a running shoe drive!

Collect Old Running Shoes at Your Next Walkathon or 5K

Have mud run participants donate their muddy shoes to your drive!Mud Run


An epic mud run race is sure to bring your community together to have some good, old-fashioned fun and to support a good cause. You can have participants run through a deep mud trench the entire way, and you can toss in a few challenges along the way.

Be creative and have fun creating your obstacles, but always keep safety in mind! Consider some of the following obstacles:

  • Mud pit. It’s a must-have obstacle for any mud run!
  • Tire climb. Create a wall of tires by hanging them from a beam. It’ll test your participants’ endurance, and they’ll have fun doing it!
  • Slip wall. As the last obstacle, have participants climb a hill covered with a muddy tarp for a slippery finish!

Sneakers4Funds has even developed a unique green mesh bag to collect muddy athletic shoes. They’ll provide you with everything you need: mesh bags, a garden hose nozzle to clean off the sneakers, and even marketing materials to promote your mud run!

When your participants cross the finish line, have them drop off their unwanted gently worn, used and new athletic shoes. Rinse them off and store up to 15 athletic shoes per bag.

Incorporate a shoe drive fundraiser with a community obstacle course race!Obstacle Course


Add a twist to your typical 5K or walkathon by incorporating fun obstacles. The extra challenges will keep participants engaged, so try adding the following:

  • Tire run
  • Mud crawl
  • Monkey bars
  • Rope climb
  • Beam walk

Remind participants to donate their (likely muddy) sneakers at the end of the race! They’ll probably plan on throwing them out once they’re done anyway.

Have an environmentally-friendly paint run to gather people’s unwanted sneakers for your shoe drive!Paint Run


Add a splash of color to your next 5K with paint! People are sure to wear sneakers that they’re willing to part with but are still in good enough shape to wear to a race. Advertise that you’ll be collecting unwanted gently worn, used and new running shoes after the race.

Make sure to use non-toxic, eco-friendly paint or powdered chalk! That way, you’ll protect the environment while still letting participants have a blast throwing paint at one another.

Set up a race on a hot day that ends with a snow cone in exchange for old, unwanted running shoes!Snow Cone Social


It can be difficult to get people to participate in a walkathon or 5K during the dog days of summer, but it’s much more enticing if they’re promised snow cones at the finish line. Use biodegradable cups to cut down on waste produced by the event.

You can still have participants pay an entry fee, but have them bring an old pair of running shoes in exchange for a snow cone. You’ll be sure to get a few donations this way, especially on a hot summer day.

Set up a family costume contest walkathon where people donate their unwanted sneakers in exchange for entry!Eco-Friendly Costume Contest


If Halloween is approaching, host a walkathon where participants come dressed in costumes, specifically eco-friendly costumes! Add a fun incentive by incorporating a contest where people vote for their favorite costume and the best eco-themed costume.

Instead of having people pay an entry fee, have them bring their old sneakers for your athletic shoe drive fundraiser. A Halloween walkathon is an event for the whole family, and you’re sure to see some crazy, creative outfits!

How can you plan a walkathon that serves a good purpose but is still incredibly fun and engaging for your community? Take a look at this guide to find out!

 Check out these eco-friendly ideas for repurposing your old running shoes that you can do in your own home!

Ideas for Repurposing Old Running Shoes

If a community event isn’t feasible for you or if you just want a fun project, there are several creative ways you can reuse your old sneakers. Don’t just toss them out; give them a new purpose!

Donate your unwanted running shoes to an eco-friendly donation program!Donate Your Soles

Cost: FREE

After a lot of wear and tear, athletic shoes get worn down, dirty, and generally unwearable. Many programs that take old footwear and recycle them, so you won’t have to worry about them winding up in a landfill. While some programs take old sneakers and repair them, others reuse the material for new athletic shoes or new clothing items. The great thing about these programs is they even take athletic shoes that have run their last mile.

Alternatively, running shoes still in good condition can be brought into secondhand stores or donated to an athletic shoe drive fundraiser.

Get creative by turning your old sneakers into a flower planter!Turn Old Shoes Into Planters


Plants will grow in pretty much anything, so try turning your sneakers into a flower pot! All you need for this is some dirt and some seeds (and water and sunlight, of course)!

When turning your athletic shoes into planters, make sure there’s adequate draining by making a few holes in the soles. Adding a layer of rocks at the bottom will add some additional drainage and can add a bit of weight to the sneaker to keep it from blowing over.

Use eco-friendly paint to brighten up your old shoes!Paint Them


If you have sneakers that have run their course but you’re not quite ready to part ways with them just yet, paint them! Choose a picture, grab some eco-friendly paint, and be as creative as you can on your innovative canvas. Typically, this works best with white sneakers but can be done with any solid-colored athletic shoes.

It’s also a great idea for school or local art classes. Ask students to bring in their old sneakers and have them paint a picture of where those running shoes have been. You’ll be surprised at the amount of creativity used and the stories a simple picture can tell!

Give birds a new home and give your unwanted running shoes a new purpose by turning them into birdhouses!Make a Birdhouse


If you want to give back to the environment in an easy way, try turning your old athletic shoes into a birdhouse! Simply grab your unwanted athletic shoes and nail them to a tree through the heel.

You’ll want to stuff the toe of the shoe with something, so when birds decide to visit, they don’t get stuck. It may take a while, but at some point, you may notice a family of birds inhabiting your old athletic shoe!

Recycle your old sneakers by turning it into a bird feeder for your backyard!Create a Bird Feeder


Speaking of birds, try turning your sneakers into a bird feeder. Either remove the sole from the sneaker and nail it to a tree, or hang it from a limb by its strings. Keep an eye on it, and make sure it stays filled with birdseed.

Your birds will love it, and your neighbors will think you’re incredibly creative! Who knows? You may even inspire them to do the same thing!

Making stepping stones out of your old running shoes is a fun family project!Create Stepping Stones


Making stepping stones is an environmentally-friendly way to recycle old athletic shoes but may require more than just a few pairs. You’ll need to clean the running shoes well, paint the soles, and stake them into the ground with the soles facing up.

Your garden will have a unique, creative feature, and little kids will be entertained as they hop from sneaker to sneaker!

Check out these awesome resources to learn more about running shoe drive fundraisers and coordinating them with events.

Additional resources for what to do with old running shoes

Find out what to do with old running shoes with this step-by-step guide.

Donate Running Shoes: The Step-by-Step Fundraising Guide. Find out how to run your own running shoe drive fundraiser with this helpful guide.

Read More

Check out these 5K ideas to get everyone involved in finding out what to do with their old running shoes.

21 Awesome 5K Fundraiser Ideas for All Organizations. Want some more ideas to freshen up your 5K fundraisers that you can coordinate with your next athletic shoe drive fundraiser? Check out these ideas!

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Consider these walkathon ideas to get your whole community involved in your next running shoe drive.

21 Essential Walkathon Fundraiser Ideas for Every Cause. Get some unique inspiration for your next walkathon with these fun themes!

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