How to Upcycle Your Old Shoes

Upcycle shoes

People often find it hard to throw away their old shoes. But what if there was a way to recycle them?

Shoes are made of leather, rubber, and other materials. It’s natural that they eventually wear down and need to be disposed of. Turning them into something new is a form of recycling that offers many benefits: reducing landfill space, providing jobs for people who would otherwise be unemployed, and giving others the opportunity to use something you no longer want or need.

Let’s explore what can we do to give them another life.

Can they be saved?

Repair and resell

Can we wash them or clean them? If you can, try to resell them as your first option because this way you can ensure that they are going to have a second life.


Another option is to donate, although you can’t really know if they are going to make the cut or end up in the landfill.

Sneakers both men’s and women’s, soccer shoes, and men’s dress shoes are most in demand in the international secondhand trade and are good options to donate. Fashionable women’s shoes, on the other hand — especially high heels — are a better option to repair and resell.

You can always donate them to friends and family, or through a Facebook group. This way you know for sure they are going to be in a new home.

If they can’t be saved…

In the past, people would have to throw away their old shoes if they are worn out. But now, with the help of upcycling methods, people can get creative and turn their old shoes into something brand new!

Turn them into a plant pot

Succulent plants and cacti are long-lasting and low maintenance and will be fine in an unconventional pot.

Plant pot shoes

Turn them into art

Challenge your creativity and see what can come up with for the shoe materials. This could also be a cool project with your kids.

Turn them into new shoes

You can create a shoe from scratch by using materials in good condition. For example, you might have shoes where the sole is in good condition, but the body might have been damaged. You can just take the soles alone and turn them into sandals. If you are good at stitching, you can add the fabric and sew them into the design you want.

You can also transform an old pair of shoes by painting them or adding different materials and fabrics.

Here are some of my favorites:

Take them to recycle programs for shoes

There are recycling programs that will receive your shoes. Some examples are:

Big Back Box

Asics has partnered with Big Back Box to create a recycling program for unwanted footwear. Fill the box your order came in with shoes and apparel you no longer need, print a pre-paid shipping label from their website, and ship it as usual at a FedEx, UPS, or your local post office.


Terracycle has a program where you can recycle just about any pair of shoes you have. Just choose a box on the website that applies to the pair of shoes you would like to recycle, and they’ll send it right to your door. Once it’s packed, just ship it back and Terracycle will reuse, upcycle, and recycle it as appropriate.


Soles4Souls helps people in developing countries launch and sustain their own businesses selling donated shoes. This could be a good option if your shoes are gently-used.


Reuse-A-Shoe Program has partnered with Nike. You can go to any of the participating stores and drop off your shoes. Most stores accept any brand of athletic sneakers, but they don’t accept sandals, dress shoes, boots, or shoes with metal (like cleats or spikes).


If you are ready to say goodbye to your shoes, consider all your options and see what is in your possibilities. Going sustainable can be challenging and there are a lot of tradeoffs but do not get discouraged. Challenge your creativity and be more mindful the next time you buy another pair of shoes.

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