Save Your Old Shoes From The Landfill — And Recycle Them For Free

Donate your old shoes to an industry-wide drive that's helping reduce waste.

Photo: Rattanakorn Songrenoo / EyeEm / GettyImages

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

It’s no secret that gear waste is a problem in sports. Despite impactful advances in sustainability in recent years, the end-of-life phase for most gear remains a problem—as recycling for products like shoes and boots is notoriously difficult and expensive.

This month, in honor of Earth Day, Outside (Vegetarian Times’s parent company) has launched a large-scale shoe drive in cooperation with Soles4Souls to help address the problem. Headquartered in Nashville, Soles4Souls accepts donations of used shoes and clothing across the U.S., repurposing those products to supply micro-enterprises, disaster relief programs, and direct-assistance efforts all over the world. In other words, the group not only saves gear from the landfill, it helps people in need by repurposing it for good causes.

If you have piles of old shoes lying around your house—or even just a pair or two you no longer use—consider saving them from the landfill by donating though our joint recycling drive right now. It’s quick, easy, and best of all, completely free for you.

How Our Shoe Drive Works

The process for donating shoes is simple. Just navigate to Outside’s campaign page hosted on the Soles4Souls website and follow three steps:

  1. Print and fill out a donor form
  2. Box up your shoes with the completed donor form
  3. Print a free shipping label, courtesy of Soles4Souls’ partnership with Zappos, and drop the box in the mail

To print out the Zappos label, you’ll need to sign in with your Zappos account, or with an Amazon or Gmail account if you prefer.

Shoes can be of any kind, other than highly technical footwear like cycling shoes or ski boots. Donors can ship up to 50 pounds of shoes per box, with no limit on the number of boxes sent. Get a bunch of your tri buddies together and pack up a box of your old shoes.

Why Shoes?

Simply put, shoes and other textiles are a problem for the planet if not disposed of properly.

“On average, Americans throw away 70 pounds of textiles per person, per year,” according to Soles4Souls’ website. “That adds up to 21 billion pounds of unnecessary waste added to our landfills. The EPA estimates that only 15 percent of clothing and footwear in the U.S. is recycled, leaving the remaining 85 percent in our landfills.”

To solve the problem, the group says it focuses on recycling used gear as well as repurposing it to help those in need around the world: “By putting unwanted shoes to good use, textiles are kept out of landfills. Shoes prevent injuries and illnesses, and they provide dignity to people in need. Micro-entrepreneurs can also sell shoes to build businesses and support their families.”

About Soles4Souls

Since its founding in 2006, Soles4Souls has kept more than 51 million pounds of shoes and clothing out of landfills.

“We focus on three main program areas to fulfill our mission,” the company says in its promotional materials. First is free distribution: “We distribute new shoes, donated by our corporate partners, to people in need in the U.S. and around the world.” The second focus is micro-enterprise: “We help hard-working entrepreneurs build their own small businesses selling donated shoes.” Finally, impact travel is one of the company’s specialties, achieved through its Global Experiences program: “Traveling on a Soles4Souls Global Experience is a great way to learn new cultures, meet amazing people, and play a hands-on role in distributing shoes to people in need.”