Perfect for working up a sweat at the gym or wearing around town, a good pair of running shoes are an invaluable wardrobe staple. But what do you do when that trusty pair of sneakers can be worn no more? Luckily there are a variety of places to recycle running shoes in the UK.
The athletic footwear industry is often overlooked when people think about the wider fashion sector, but it is a booming business. The sector is expected to grow by 8.11% annually between 2022 and 2025.
Consumer interest in sustainable athletic footwear has also been experiencing growth over the past five years. The market share for sustainable athletic shoes has risen from 3.4% in 2016 to 4.6% in 2021.
How Long do Shoes Last?
How long a pair of trainers will last is dependent on a variety of factors. Even the temperature that shoes are commonly worn in impacts how long they can last. Shoes that are worn on hard, rough ground will wear through quicker than those worn on more forgiving terrain.
Athletic shoes of higher quality will generally last longer than their cheaper counterparts. New shoes worn more often will likely wear out quicker than trainers worn infrequently. However, it can be expected that a new pair of kicks will last anywhere between 300 to 500 miles.
For the casual member of the running community completing 20 miles a week, it is recommended that shoes be replaced every four to six months. If you are a serious runner with race day shoes, your favourite race shoes may need to be replaced more frequently.
But what to do with your old pair?
Repairing Running Shoes
If that perfect pair of running shoes are looking a little worse for wear, but still are in a largely good condition, then repairing them might be the way to go. There are a variety of online tutorials for at-home repairs for patching holes and fixing minor sole damage.
If your shoes need a bit more than an at-home fix, then taking them to a professional cobbler is a great way to get them looking like new in no time.
Considering that the lifecycle of running shoes, from production to eventual disposal, creates on average thirty pounds (or 13.6kg) of waste, repairing old trainers to increase their longevity is always an environmentally friendly option.
What Happens to Recycled Running Shoes?
If you have a pair of shoes that are beyond repair, then recycling them is the next best thing. As the different parts of running shoes are made from a variety of materials, there are a lot of things they can be recycled into to be given a second life.
How to Recycle Running Shoes in the UK
If your running shoes have simply been worn to the point of no return, or you have a pair that just aren’t your style anymore, then there are great organisations taking the hard work out of giving new life to your old trainers.
Schuh Sell Your Soles Scheme
Where to participate: In-store in Schuh branded establishments
The Sell Your Soles scheme, hosted by Schuh is creating an environmental and economic incentive to recycle old shoes. When consumers bring in worn-out shoes to be recycled, they receive a £5 discount on a shiny new pair of shoes.
The brand has partnered with Recyclatex and works with the World Land Trust to implement its recycling programs and work towards improving sustainability.
Yorkshire Air Ambulance
Where to participate: Check here to find your nearest recycling bank
Having partnered with Recycling Solutions, Yorkshire Air Ambulance can now receive vital funding through donated clothing and shoes. Donating shoes to be recycled through the program helps to keep waste out of landfill and supports the lifesaving work of the air ambulance service.
Through the scheme, Yorkshire Air Ambulance receives a portion of the sale price achieved for the recycled materials.
Local Recycling Centres
Where to participate: Check here to find your closest centre
Many local council recycling centres accept running shoes as part of their recycling programs. Shoes are sorted and recycled into a variety of new products. The advantage of these services is that they are easily accessible and a great way to keep clothing out of landfill, reducing overall carbon footprint.
If you’re wondering where to donate old running shoes in the UK, most councils have a recycling centre that accepts used footwear and textiles.
Cyclon (On Running)
Where to participate: Subscribe through the Cyclon website (shoes are sent through the mail service)
The champions of circular fashion, Cyclon offers an innovative shoe subscription service that recycles worn shoes. When customers sign up for the subscription program, they receive a pair of the brand’s quality shoes. After six months these can be returned to the company and replaced. When sneakers are returned, the label grinds down the components of old shoes into raw materials. These components are then put to good use to make an entirely new sneaker.
While this recycling program may only be available to Cyclon subscribers, it does provide an innovative take on sustainability in the sports shoes sector.
Variety Children’s Charity
Where to participate: UK donation banks
Accepting old sneakers in any condition, Variety Children’s Charity has partnered with SOEX UK and Clover Environmental Solutions to make a meaningful impact. When engaging in the scheme you are helping Variety to make a difference in the lives of disabled children across the UK.
For all shoe donations given to the recycling scheme, a donation is made to support the inspirational work of Variety Children’s Charity. With 7,000 donation points, there is sure to be a donation bank to recycle running shoes in the UK near you.
Where to participate: In participating Clarks stores
Clarks has partnered with Unicef to help fund and support education initiatives around the world. For every tonne of old shoes that Clarks collects through the shoe program, a donation is made to Unicef, this donation helps to fund life-changing education for some of the world’s most vulnerable children.
Since the scheme began in 2008, the ShoeShare program has donated more than £1.6 million in support of Unicef’s vital work.
Revivo Take Back Scheme
Where to participate: Send in running shoes through Royal Mail
ReVivo, run by UK footwear brand Vivo Barefoot takes a circular approach to the footwear industry. The program encourages Vivo Barefoot customers to return their used running shoes and boots to be refurbished, repaired, and recycled to then be resold at a lower price.
The scheme works to create a lighter environmental impact by keeping footwear out of landfills and promoting an attitude of conscious consumerism. ReVivo also offers a repair service for customers that aren’t quite ready to part with their Vivo Barefoot sneakers. The ReVivo program is part of the brand’s commendable commitment to make a positive impact on people and the planet.
Running into a Sustainable Tomorrow
Running shoes are one of the most useful footwear styles and a classic component of a modern wardrobe. Athletic shoes pose an interesting challenge in the recycling sector, but innovative organisations are taking on this challenge to create a sustainable industry that looks out for people and planet Earth.
Whether it is unwanted shoes at the back of your wardrobe, or an old faithful pair of trainers that have seen better days, there are fantastic schemes offering to recycle your running shoes in the UK. The simple act of recycling your shoes helps the entire industry step into a sustainable future.
If you are looking for some new sustainable trainers, check out our article on ethical running shoes. To recycle shoes, see our post What to do with old shoes? 11 best ways to recycle them UK. And for more on hard to recycle items, we have an article on how to recycle your bra, what to do with your old underwear and even where to donate your wedding dress!
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