How many pairs of running shoes do you have stashed away somewhere in your home? How long has it been since you wore the oldest pair?
If you’ve been a runner for any length of time, you’ve got more running shoes lying around than you can possibly use. How do you know when it’s time to move on to a new pair? Do you switch out your running shoes when they hit 500 miles regardless of how they feel? You probably have your oil changed every 3,000 miles too, don’t you? Do you swap out your running shoes for an impulse buy after a sleek new pair of kicks tickles your fancy? Are you faithfully married to one pair until death do you part? Or, are you the shameless playboy who keeps multiple pairs in the rotation at the same time? Do you ever find yourself cheating on your new shoes with an old pair that you still have feelings for? “It didn’t mean anything. I was thinking of you the entire run. It won’t happen again, I swear.”
No matter how many ‘partners’ we’ve had in our running lives, we all have that old pair of shoes hidden deep in the closet that never see the light of day. Those are the ones I’d like you to think about now. What happens to those shoes? Do they just lie around gathering dust? There are a number of better options no matter what your past relationship with them was like.
When you’ve decided that you’re ready to break up with those old running shoes and move on with your life, then check out the ideas below. I’ve listed some places where you can donate your old shoes and some suggestions on which shoes to donate where.
Shoe4Africa and One World Running. Both Shoe4Africa and One World Running send shoes to needy adults and children in Africa. The chances are pretty good that sending your shoes to Kenya will result in them getting significantly faster. I like to donate some of my favorite shoes to these types of programs because even though they are moving on to another runner, I know they will still be happy. They will finally be able to realize their full potential. Sending your shoes to Kenya is like when your parents sent your childhood dog to the farm where he could run and chase rabbits all day long. It’s a happy ending. Of course, it’s not entirely the same because your parents actually had Sparky put down, but in this case, your shoes really will get to run all day long.
Reuse-A-Shoe. Sponsored by Nike, the Reuse-A-Shoe program program will take your old shoes and grind them up into a compound called ‘Nike Grind,’ which is then used to make running tracks, basketball courts, synthetic athletic fields, and playgrounds for kids. This is a great option for shoes that you had a bad breakup with because being crushed into ‘Nike Grind’ sounds like a painful process for your old shoes and allows you to delight in their destruction. If you’re lucky, those shoes that literally rubbed you the wrong way will end up as part of a playground and some kid will drop his messy ice cream right on top of them. That will teach them to underperform on race day. (Incidentally, having a poor race is always your shoes fault. It is never due to the fact that you under-hydrated, over carb-loaded, or didn’t train hard enough.) The Reuse-A-Shoe program is also a good option for shoes that are too worn out to be donated to one of the other programs.
Sole Responsibility and The Shoe Bank. Both of these organizations primarily focus on collecting used running shoes in their local areas. Sole Responsibility is situated in Ottawa and begins collecting shoes each spring at various Ottawa running events. They donate the used running shoes to refugees that have fled to Chad from the violence in their home region of Darfur. The Shoe Bank has locations across Texas. They started out with the goal of providing shoes to homeless people living on the streets of Dallas, and have since grown to provide shoes to India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand in the aftermath of the tidal waves that hit Southeast Asia. These programs are good options if your running shoes left you and moved to Texas or Ottawa, or for those of you living or racing in those locales.
If you are looking for a place close to home to drop off your used shoes, a local track club or running store is a great place to start. Many of them will already be working with the aforementioned organizations and some of them may even have a charitable shoe drive of their own, distributing used running shoes locally to children of low income families or homeless people.
As runners we usually get a great deal of joy out of purchasing a new pair of running shoes. Imagine how much more joyous it must be for those less fortunate than us to receive a pair of running shoes that they otherwise wouldn’t have had the opportunity to own.
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