Runners go through shoes at an alarming rate—after as little as two to three months or 400 to 500 miles, our favorite running shoes are discarded for the next pair. Simply wearing our shoes for longer periods of time isn't the answer. Continuing to run in shoes that have passed their prime leaves us prone to injuries—in fact, changing to a fresh pair of shoes can help prevent and cure plantar fasciitis, Iliotibial Band Syndrome and other injuries.
Shoes are necessary gear for most runners, but they do contribute to the amount of trash heaped into landfills every year. While running is a relatively green sport, the discarding of shoes is one area in which we can do better.
However, there are environmentally and socially responsible ways to get rid of old running shoes, such as Nike's Reuse-A-Shoe program and One World Running's shoe redistribution program.
Nike's Reuse-A-Shoe Program
Nike's Reuse-A-Shoe program takes old running shoes and breaks them down into their component parts to be recycled into new applications. These components are combined with what's known as pre-consumer material, that is, factory defects that are normally discarded as waste. The Reuse-A-Shoe program has collected over 25 million shoes since 1990 and re-used them for worthwhile sporting applications.
The rubber from the soles of the shoes gets melted down for use in rubberized surfaces for running tracks, footpaths and playgrounds. The foam of the midsole is turned into underlay material for basketball courts and other surfaces while the fabric from the shoe's upper is recycled into padding for facilities such as basketball courts or football goal posts.
To donate your old shoes to the Reuse-A-Shoe program, simply drop your shoes off at any Nike or Converse store in the United States, or participating Nike stores around the world.
One World Running
On the other hand, if your shoes are still in relatively good shape—perhaps the size wasn't quite right or they didn't feel quite comfortable after a few runs—you might prefer to donate them to One World Running.
One World Running is a nonprofit organization headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, that was founded in 1986 by runner and author Michael Sandrock. The original name for the organization was Shoes for Africa, but the distribution has since expanded to other areas of the globe, particularly Central America (there's also another nonprofit named Shoe for Africa that accepts and distributes shoes to runners in Africa), and even some of the poorest areas of the United States as well.
Sandrock, a sub-2:30 marathoner, was taken aback by the need for shoes and other basic clothing items for athletes and the general population while on a trip to Africa, and decided to do something about it. In addition to accepting donations of shoes, T-shirts, shorts and other clothing, One World Running also sponsor fun runs to promote fitness across the globe.
More: Running is Green, Right?
The organization also raises cash to send shoes to underprivileged areas of the world. One World Running accepts donations at many local running stores. Any shoes you wish to donate should be washed and air-dried, since the heat from a standard clothes dryer can melt the glue that holds shoes together. Any shoes that are deemed too old or worn are donated to Nike's Reuse-A-Shoe program.
It can be hard for many runners to give up their old shoes, but donating them to One World Running or the Reuse-A-Shoe program is one way to be socially and environmentally responsible while supporting runners all over the globe. When it comes to reducing our environmental impact, every lit bit helps.
Sign up for your next race.