It’s that time of the year. Closet decluttering! You’re trying to “Marie Kondo” your closet, determining what sparks joy and what simply doesn’t. And you’re attempting to answer what to do with old shoes that are piling up at the back of your closet.
Maybe you’re not actually doing this, but I’m sure you have a pair or two of old shoes, and you simply have no clue what to do with them. Or why do you still have them in the first place, if you’re not actually wearing them?
If you have found yourself in a similar situation, I’m happy to inform you I have the most perfect solution! Below, you will be able to go through 5 useful tips on what you can do with an old pair of shoes. Perhaps even six, if you stick around for the bonus one at the end of this article.
So, let’s not waste any more of your precious time, and let’s jump right into our topic!
What to do with old shoes?
1. If necessary, take them to a cobbler to be repaired
If you have an old pair of shoes you don’t wear because of a specific minor (or major) issue, your first reaction should be to attempt to repair them.
Some things you can even fix yourself at home. For example, if you have a pair of overly loud high heels, and you don’t wear them because the sound they produce makes you uncomfortable, you can easily make them quieter and get back to wearing them in no time.
But, if the problem is more serious, in most cases you can be sure your local cobbler will save the day. For example, if your old shoes feel a little too tight around your toes or heels, the cobbler would be able to stretch them or modify them in a way to fit you better.
And, if for any reason the local cobbler is not available to you, you should know that there are many clothes and shoe repair services online that can definitely help you.
Also, some brands like VYN, Vivobarefoot, NuShoes, and others alike, apart from offering high-quality and modern footwear, also offer a repair service. You do have to have their shoes, though. They don’t offer their services to other shoe brands.
2. Ask your friends if they want them
If you don’t know what to do with old shoes that are still in good condition you can always ask your friends if they want to take them. Maybe you have just recently repaired them, but for whatever reason, you still don’t gravitate towards them, know that your friends might.
My best friend and I always do this. Just the other day, I gave her an old pair of black ankle boots that I have bought two years ago. They were on sale and at that time I thought I would undoubtedly wear them every other day. However, I wore them maybe three times, and they ended up collecting dust in my closet.
The heel of the boots was a bit too high for my preferences. Besides, I had so many other pairs of black ankle boots I preferred to wear instead. I knew she would make better use of them, so I decided to give them to her.
They are totally her style, and she’s been wearing them almost every time we go out. So, this truly ended up being a win-win situation for both of us.
3. Donate your old shoes
If it doesn’t work with your friends, your old shoes can always be donated. Goodwill, The Salvation Army, American Red Cross, Soles4Souls, and many other organizations will gladly take your old shoes and help you declutter.
However, please make sure your shoes are in somewhat good condition. It’s true, people in need will not be picky and will gratefully take what’s been offered to them. However, that doesn’t mean you should donate shoes which should actually be thrown away.
Before donating them, consider asking yourself the following question: Would I wear these shoes if I had nothing else to wear?
If your answer ends up being something like, “No, because the insoles are missing.” or “No, because their outsoles are too worn out and cracked in several places.” or “No, because there are too many holes on the shoes.” the chances that someone else would want to wear them are extremely low.
Many of these organizations will not even accept shoes and clothes if the condition they are in is too bad. I know that the saying goes, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” but sometimes that trash ends up being trash for everyone.
4. Sell your old shoes online
Imagine this: you have bought shoes you liked and later realized that they, let’s say, don’t fit you properly. You were just about to return them but quickly realized that the brand’s return policy offers no refunds.
What to do in a situation like this?
We’re all familiar with the old adage that money doesn’t grow on trees. Therefore, people often hesitate to donate brand-new shoes since they haven’t worn them previously but have paid full price for them. However, leaving them in the box they came in is also not the best solution.
In these and similar situations, the best option is to sell those shoes online.
There are many great ways to sell shoes and clothes in general online. You can do it via Poshmark, Depop, ThreadUp, Facebook Marketplace, eBay, and others.
Find what works best for you and enjoy being a seller for a second. This can be a great way to get rid of something which doesn’t serve you in any way, and to earn some cash, too. Just make sure you sell shoes that are in good condition. No one would buy something that’s overly worn down.
5. Find them a new purpose
If you’re wondering what to do with old shoes that are beyond repair and don’t have any use, you can always consider repurposing them.
Some people are very creative and extremely good at coming up with interesting DIY ideas and projects. I swear, I saw so many amazing things while researching this topic and now all I want to do is put on my overalls and go work on some DIY magic in my garage.
An old pair of shoes can easily be turned into a plant pot, for example. Little plants with a shallow root system, like succulents, can look adorable when planted into an old pair of ballet flats.
Old and worn-out winter boots can be filled with concrete and rocks and used as a doorstop. And old running shoes can be a perfect little birdhouse when nailed to the tree.
Heels you no longer wear can become key or coat rack in your entry hall, and your baby’s first shoes can be a new and fun pin cushion.
Let your imagination run wild and don’t be afraid to get creative.
Can you recycle old shoes?
If your old shoes are in a very bad condition, so bad you actually can’t even repair them, your initial reaction might be to throw them away. However, think twice before you actually proceed with your decision, because maybe there’s a chance to do something a bit different.
Both shoe production and shoe waste have a major and detrimental impact on the environment.
For example, the production of a regular pair of athletic sneakers creates more than 30 lbs of CO2 emission, releases toxic chemicals from materials like plastic, leather, glue, and rubber, and pollutes water with microplastics.
As we can assume, the majority of shoes are, of course, made out of non-biodegradable materials. Those include materials like EVA, PVC, TPU, or PET which are considered to be one of the worst enemies of Planet Earth today.
These types of shoes usually take up to 30+ years to start degrading, and the majority of them don’t fully degrade even after 80+ years.
These are very devastating facts that should motivate us to make some sort of change. And that change starts with recycling.
So yes, your old shoes can in fact be recycled. You just have to pay attention to how you do it.
How to do it responsibly?
Even though shoes can be recycled, it’s not that simple to execute this operation. You cannot simply put them in the recycling bin outside your apartment building and call it a day. You need to find a special recycling program.
Sure, if your shoes are made out of one solid material, like recyclable plastic, or natural materials like cotton, wool, or bamboo, then you can definitely drop them in the recycling bin. However, most shoes are made out of more than one material.
That’s when you have to turn to the abovementioned special recycling programs. You can consider Terracycle and their Zero Waste Box recycling program. There’s also American Textile Recycling Service that will gladly take care of your worn-out shoes.
And if you have a pair of old Nike sneakers, you should know that this brand offers an eco-friendly program called Reuse-A-Shoe.
When is it okay to throw away an old pair of shoes?
Sometimes, it’s hard to distinguish a line between a shoe that can be recycled and a shoe that needs to be thrown away. If you’re in any doubt, you can always consult a specialist and seek a professional opinion.
But, let me give you a little piece of advice that can aid you pretty well in determining when it’s time for your shoes to meet the garbage can.
If they are overly destroyed, beyond repair, and if they have a foul odor that simply cannot be washed away, that’s when you know it’s time to say goodbye.
Be responsible and never throw them anywhere in nature. Always put them in the bins intended for garbage.