5 Amazing Ways to Re-Use Old Shoes and Clothes

My back and feet were always hurting when I exercised.  Must be time for a new pair of gym shoes but how can I re-use old shoes?  In 2013, it was estimated that 20 billion pairs of shoes are produced each year and of that, 300 million pairs are thrown away.  300 million each year!?!  Americans throw out 13.1 million tons of textiles per year, roughly 70 pounds PER PERSON!  The recycling rate of textiles is a dismal 16%.  The impact to our planet is staggering.  According to Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (SMART) Executive Director Jackie King, more than 95% of all textiles can be recycled or reused in some way.

The manufacturing of an average t-shirt wastes 700 gallons of water. Just think of how many t-shirts you receive from school events, sporting events, participating at an event as a competitor or volunteer, joining a group, the list is endless.  If 300 million Americans recycled just 1 more t-shirt, the impact would be huge.  It would save 210 billion gallons of water and keep 1 million pounds of carbon dioxide (greenhouse gas) out of our atmosphere.   What if shoes or clothes are too damaged to be worn again?  Raise your hand if you’re continually pulling socks out of the dryer with holes in them.  I can’t begin to tell you how many pairs of socks my son goes through each year.  He doesn’t outgrow them, he just wears through them.  How can we give clothes and shoes a second life?


Mama needs a new pair of shoes!

Ways To Re-Use Old Shoes and Clothes


Even though you may not be a runner, you still need a decent pair of athletic shoes for any exercise or even just for walking and if you have a son, you know boys go through sneakers like water.  I’m not a runner but I was due for a new pair of athletic shoes and needed some help finding the right pair.  I hit my local “runner type” store to enlist the assistance of a professional to find a pair the fit properly.   I figured out what I needed and purchased my new shoes.  Now the question, what do I do with the old shoes?  I could donate them but what if they have holes in them or barely any tread left?  Can they still be used?  Surely there was some way to re-use old shoes.

This type of problem plagues me every time I have to get rid of something.  I don’t consider myself a hoarder however, I’m sure my husband has a different opinion.  I can’t in good conscience throw something away when I know it’s just going to sit in a landfill.  This was definitely one factor that prompted me to start this blog.  I need to be more thoughtful about what I buy and how I dispose of what I no longer need.   As you know, there are two options, recycle it or repurpose it.


Consignment Couture

If your clothes or shoes are in gently worn condition, you may be able to sell them yourself or to a consignment shop, either in your town or online.  I am a far cry from a trendy fashionista so by the time I’m ready to part with clothes or shoes, they are generally no longer the latest style.  Most consignment shops require that your clothes are only a year or two old, if that.  Last year I discovered ThredUp.  If you haven’t come across this company, you must check it out.  It’s basically an online second-hand shop.  I needed a cocktail type dress for an event but since I was only going to wear it once, I didn’t want to spend much money.  ThredUp was the perfect solution.  They have fashionable merchandise at great prices and a 14 day return policy.

Social Media has afforded the public an extremely innovative way of parting with our once loved possessions.  Like many neighborhoods, my neighborhood has a Facebook page that’s used for a variety of purposes,  one of which is selling or trading items that are no longer needed.  Facebook seems to have groups for everything so I’m sure if you search long enough, you’ll find one suitable.  There is also a social media site called Nextdoor, which serves a wider geographical audience.  I’m sure there are others that I haven’t even heard of.

Donate for the Greater Good

There are any number of charities who would be more than happy to take your used clothes and shoes and get them in to the hands of someone in need.  Some that you may be familiar with:

  • Goodwill
  • Salvation Army
  • Soles for Souls
  • Purple Heart
  • American Red Cross

I recently learned more about a local charity, The Place of Forsyth County, Inc., that will not only take clothing and shoes that are gently used and can be worn again but also clothes in poor shape.  They’ll even take your socks and underwear that are full of holes.  The clothes can be sold to a recycling company and the charity earns money.  These items get used in a variety of different ways from being sent to organizations in third world countries to being turned in to new products.

An increasingly popular option is dropping items in the steel bins you see in parking lots and along road sides.  While this may be convenient, the back story on many of these organizations is quite contrary to what it’s advertised to be.   Many look good on paper (or on their website) but once you start digging, you can uncover some unsettling truths.  There are so many charitable organizations out there, be sure to do a bit of research before donating to any organization.


turf field made from recycled material

Today a Shoe, Tomorrow a Sports Field

Each year, 2 million tons of textiles are recycled.  This equates to removing 1 million cars from our roadways – HELLO emission reduction!  According to SMART, used (dry) textiles can be recycled in to not only clothing but other products such as commercial wiping cloths, insulation, furniture stuffing, mattresses, towels, building materials and much more.  Nike will take back any brand of athletic shoe through their Nike Reuse-a-Shoe program and recycle it in to their Nike Grind product.  This material is used to make things like athletic surfaces, sports fields, gym flooring tiles, carpet cushioning, etc.  You can drop your shoes off at any participating store.  If you’re interested in how the Grind product is made or how it is manufactured in to new products, there are some great videos on YouTube.

Creative Uses for Old Textiles

Out Of The Box Ideas

My creativity has it’s limits but fortunately, there is Pinterest.  How in the world did we survive before 2010?  Seriously though, I have no idea how we all survived before the internet, much less Pinterest but thankfully, we did.  I’ve turned to Pinterest yet again to find some interesting uses for used shoes.  Why not turn your old shoe in to a bird house or a planter?  I also saw some pictures using shoes as book ends, a pin cushion holder and even a stylish jewelry holder.  Give Pinterest a search and re-purpose to your hearts content.


We are living in a wonderfully innovative time.  Dresses and shoes made with recycled plastic.  How great is that?

What do you do with your old clothes and shoes?






15 thoughts on “5 Amazing Ways to Re-Use Old Shoes and Clothes

  1. Wow, I had no idea how many shoes and clothes go to waste each year! Those numbers are frightening! Thank you for sharing. ❤ I always try to donate, but now I’ll be sure to definitely do something with EVERYTHING I outgrow or don’t need anymore.

    1. I know, it’s just not something I paid much attention to. When I learned about even worn clothing and shoes being useful, it was a game changer. I cringe at the thought of all the socks I’ve thrown away. The good news is, now we know 🙂

  2. I’ve always loved reusing everything, but have never been able to do a t-shirt DIY and have it end up like the original picture. So I started donating my old clothes to drag queens and other fabric artists! The things they do with them are AMAZING and it’s so great to see my old stuff become beautiful again!

  3. I can’t believe I never thought about recycling old shoes! The track around my old high school was donated by Nike and made from recycled shoes but it never occurred to me. My husband and I have tons of old shoes laying around because I feel so bad throwing them away.

    1. Oh how cool that the track was donated by Nike. I’ve probably seen some tracks made with the Nike Grind material but never even knew that was it.

    1. Thanks! I’m always so intrigued when people come up with such creative ideas. Makes you look at even the littlest things in a whole new way.

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