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Blog: A Second Life for Athletic Shoes

Everyone out there has heard countless redundant lectures about the importance of recycling and reducing solid waste, so I'll skip that part of the program and go to this: As an athlete, I have an obscene number of used pairs of shoes scattered around.

It's sort of like reverse evolution. When I buy a new pair of shoes, they become my good indoor court shoes, and my formerly good indoor court shoes are busted down to the rank of being worn to play on the clay tennis courts near my house. My old clay court shoes then get demoted to being my work-around-the-yard shoes. The next logical step is the trash can, but I always feel guilty putting shoes there. And really, I can't in good faith donate them to charity because they're just too gross.

So it was a pleasant surprise last week to walk into my health club and see they had a donation bin for Soles4Souls, which is a Nashville-based charity that collects shoes and distributes them to people in need. Apparently, a lot of other people at the health club feel the same way I do about their shoes, because within a day or two, the bin was full, then emptied, then on its way to being refilled. And Soles4Souls takes all kinds of shoes - athletic, dressy, casual and all the hybrids in between.

Of course, that doesn't really solve my problem of the bottom tier of shoes that now have mud, crud and everything else caked on them, several pairs of which are residing in my tool shed rather than my closet because they're the next best thing to a biohazard. And for that reason, I'm glad I now know about the Reuse-A-Shoe program. Reuse-A-Shoe collects old, worn-out athletic shoes and recycles them into playground surfaces and crumb rubber for use in synthetic surfaces.

These are far from the only opportunities. A quick search on the Internet turned up several others, including those promoted through Run The Planet, Recycled Runners and SimplySoles. There are also a number of listings for local shoe drives offered by schools, churches, homeless shelters, running organizations and athletic clubs.

As the weather changes and seasonal athletic clothing goes on sale, we're likely to see more people buying new workout shoes. Try providing them with a receptacle for the old ones. Whether they wind up on someone's feet, or under them as an athletic surface, they've gone to a better place than the trash can or the floor of the tool shed.

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