vegan footwear

What to Do with Old Shoes?

Out of style, outgrown, or outworn, old shoes are a reality to deal with at some point in time. Footgear that is no longer required poses a dilemma, unlike recycled or repurposed items such as empty bottles of plastic or second-hand clothing.

A green-minded person has three options to deal with old shoes: Re-use/ Restore, Recycle or Repurpose.


  1. Rotate the use of the several pair of shoes you own to keep your shoes feel comfortable for a longer period of time. This helps in drying them out between periods of wearing and prolongs their life. Store them in a location with adequate ventilation- it is fine to do this on a shelf or a closet but not in a stuffy shoe box.
  2. What to do when caught in the rain? Avoid the temptation to keep the leather shoes, boots, or sneakers next to a heater. The leather will be de-hydrated and such treatment is harmful to the glue which holds the footwear in shape. Instead, you must wipe the soles and uppers using a clean rag. Next, stuff the shoes with newspaper for absorbing moisture and maintaining the shape while they dry at room temperature.
  3. When pumps or sneakers start to smell bad, slip in an unused tea bag into each one and keep them aside for a few days. You must gently wash with your hands the smelly orthotics and insoles using a few drops of shampoo and allow drying them outdoors in some sunshine.
  4. In case you face the issue of muddy shoes, scrape away as much soil as possible. Then scrub non-leather shoes with toothpaste and rinse. Air dry away from sunlight.
  5. Clean leather as per instruction of manufacturers. Clean with a dry rag or soft brush and wipe with a damp cloth.
  6. Re-sole or re-heel as required. This is much better (eco-friendly and cheaper) than purchasing a new pair.


Every shoe will wear out with time. Re-cycling shoes provide several benefits compared to throwing them in the bin. Recycling can help in the following ways:

  1. Reduce the pressure of waste in landfills
  2. Reduce your carbon footprint
  3. Offer footwear for those who have none
  4. Support the developing nations
  5. Breathe fresh life into waste material

Recycling shoes is both beneficial and easy. There are many modes of recycling, including:

  • Take these to your local charity shops who will pass the items further for recycling and repair.
  • Make use of a shoe recycle bin or shoe bank such that parts of the shoe can be used to create something useful. These can be found at supermarkets or local recycling centres.

Donating old shoes

All the shoes you wish to discard may not be in poor condition. In certain cases, your shoes will be in a wearable state, but you no longer wish to wear them. In such cases, it is good to donate your old shoes. Wearable shoes can be refurbished and re-sold in charity shops. Also, there are international agencies that will send your old but repaired shoes to needy persons in third world countries.

Shoe upcycling

The hottest trend in the market is up-cycling. Whether it be a pair of jeans or an old chair, social media is replete with craft projects where persons have made use of waste material to create something new, beautiful, and useful. Shoes are ideal candidates for such endeavours.

Some popular upcycling ideas include:

  • Using new laces
  • Dyeing canvas to new colours
  • Stitching patches onto canvas shoes
  • Decorating shoes with fabric paint or pens or sequins

In sum, one can make the best use of old shoes by re-using or restoring them, recycling them, donating them, or up-cycling them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.