How To Recycle Shoes

recycling shoes

Do you have shoes sitting in your wardrobe that serve no purpose but cluttering your space? You could have bought them for a special occasion and haven’t had a reason to wear them again,  or maybe they didn’t quite fit right but you never got round to returning them. A study by Oxfam found that each of us has, on average, seven unused pairs of shoes. In fact, there are so many unused shoes in the UK you could create a trail that stretches around the world, now that’s a lot of waste!

Here at Rieker , we like to be kind to our environment, that’s why we’re on hand to take you through ways to recycle or creatively reinvent your shoes. Recycling your shoes is not just great for the environment, it will help you re-organise your space, which can also result in a mental health boost. 

Why should I recycle my shoes? 

There are so many beneficial reasons you should recycling your shoes, whether it’s old trainers, sandals, heels or worn work shoes, you can: 

  • Decrease your carbon footprint.
  • Reduce landfill waste. 
  • Provide less fortunate individuals with footwear.
  • Support charities and the world’s developing nations.
  • Save energy.
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions (which helps tackle climate change). 

The decomposition of shoes leads to huge problems for the environment as organic materials such as leather release methane which contributes to climate change, that’s why recycling is vital. 

Where to recycle shoes

  • Shoe recycling bin 

Instead of throwing your shoes in the bin, donate them using a shoe bank or shoe recycling bin, this way textiles, leather and soles of shoes will be made into something more useful.

  • Donate to charity 

1.5 billion people worldwide without shoes of which 300 million are children. Donating your shoes to charity can help people in need. In some countries, soil-transmitted infections are spread as a result of poverty and bare feet. Footwear that you donate can prevent these infections from occurring. 

Charity shops will accept all kinds of shoes, as long as they are in a wearable condition. 

You’ll find plenty of local charities ready to accept your unworn shoes, however, there are a number of international aid organisations like Soles4Souls, or Shoe4Africa that are great too. Shoe Aid and Sal’s shoes are also providing a step forward to reducing shoe poverty while reducing footwear waste and its impact on the environment.

What to do with old shoes

Whether your shoes are outworn, outgrown or just simply out of style, you may not be quite ready to part with your favourite pair, so we’ve come up with some solutions for giving your old shoes a new lease of life, as well as tips for restoring them as long as possible. 


  • The best way to keep your shoes as comfortable for as long as possible is to rotate a number of pairs. Wearing the same pair of shoes every day does not allow for restoring or drying out time. Allowing time for your shoes to breathe between wears extends their life.
  • It’s highly likely your shoes are going to get caught in the rain,  but we recommend not placing your soaked leather shoes or boots next to a heater or radiator; as well as being harmful to the glue that holds your shoes together, the heat will dehydrate the leather.  The best way to restore wet shoes is by wiping dry with a rag or cloth, then stuffing with newspaper to absorb any additional moisture. This way they hold their shape and will dry at room temperature. 
  • After a lot of wear,  your shoes can carry a distinct odor. The best way to combat this is by placing a tea bag in each shoe and leaving for a few days. If your shoes have got removable insoles, you can wash these gently with a drop of shampoo. Leave to dry outside and your shoes will be smelling as good as new.
  • Clean dirty boots and shoes properly. Check out our ‘How to clean your dirty boots blog’ for advice. 
  • Resole or replace worn-looking shoes for a new lease of life. Re-heeling is also an eco-friendly way to get the most out of your shoes.


  • You can turn your old shoe or boot into an eye-catching and unique planter for the garden. Coordinate the flower to the shoe, spray-paint the shoe a different color or experiment with different shoe styles until you find what works best for your garden.
  • Flip flops can be cut up, heated, and impressed with textures to create unique artistic ink stamps.
  • Redesign your shoes by adding extra textiles or re-lace with something more eye-catching. 
  • Dress up a pair of sandals with some charms or beads. 
  • Running shoes that are completely worn can be recycled for their materials. Nike has a Reuse-a-shoe recycling program which means you can drop up to 10 pairs of old athletic shoes at selected stores. They accept any brand of athletic shoes but are unable to recycle sandals, dress shoes, boots, or shoes with metal (cleats or spikes).

When to replace running shoes 

Running in old or worn-out shoes can lead to rubbing and discomfort, and even worse – injury! Over a period of time running shoes lose cushioning, stability, and shock absorption, so when you run it increases the stress and impact on your joints and legs. This can lead to aches, pains, and overuse injuries. The best way for you to avoid this is by replacing your shoes at the right time, but how do we know when?

Generally, you should replace your running shoes every 300-400 miles, this, of course, depends on running style, weight, and the terrain in which you run.  Heavier runners, or runners who run on rugged terrain, should consider changing their running trainers closer to 300 miles. However, it’s still important to pay attention to how your shoes look and feel, if that’s worn out, then it’s time for a new pair.

Pain when running 

If you’ve been experiencing pain in your joints or muscle fatigue then it is likely that your trainers have lost their cushioning. If you’re feeling pain in relatively new shoes, you may want to consider speaking to a professional in a shoe store so ensure you are wearing the right shoes. 

If you can feel the impact of your feet hitting the floor then the absorption in your shoes has deteriorated. Running is a high impact sport so your shoes need good shock absorption to minimise the strain on tendons, muscles, bones, and ligaments.

Worn out soles 

Soles last a considerable amount of time longer than shoe’s shock absorbency and cushioning, so if your soles are worn down, it’s definitely time for some new ones.

Uneven wear 

Excessive wear on the front area of your shoe can be a sign of overpronation, this means that your foot is turning too far inward as you step. However, if you find you’ve got excessive wear on the outside edges then it’s a sign of underpronation, this means your foot shifts outward with each step. 

Talk to a foot specialist or opt for advice in a footwear store on advice on how to correct the problem. Changing your running form can help, but once the damage is done to your running shoes, you’re going to need to replace them.

Test your shoes for over wear 

If you hold your shoes at either end and gently twist the shoe, it should feel firm. If your shoe has lost its support it will twist easily.

Your overall comfort when running or walking is important. When you’re wearing comfortable shoes you can maintain form and movement, which also helps prevent injury.

Replacing your shoes 

Here at Rieker, our shoes are more than just a fashion statement. They are designed and crafted with our signature antistress and antishock technology. Our Rieker shoes provide optimum shock absorption on various surfaces, maximum inflexibility, and a design that allows space for feet to expand during the day. 

Wearing the wrong shoe can exacerbate existing problems such as pain or arthritis in your hips, knees, ankles, or feet; that’s why it is essential to choose shoes that offer comfort and style in equal measure. Rieker shoes eliminate pressure points so reduce the risk of both pain and injury while offering luxurious styling. Remember once your shoes have had their day,  recycling them is the best way to help the environment, reduce landfill waste, and provide for those who need it most.

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