what to do with old shoes

What to Do with Old Shoes: 10 Ideas for Upcycling, Reusing, and Crafting

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At one point or another, we all have to part with our favorite shoes. It’s heartbreaking, but at some point, you have to retire them. Have you ever thought about what to do with old shoes once they’ve passed their prime?

There are endless possibilities when it comes to figuring out what to do with your old kicks. Even the old ones can be put to use in one way or another. If you think outside the box, you’ll be able to keep those favorite shoes around longer than you thought.

What to Do with Old Shoes

Before we get into the fun ideas, we want to make a note of a few practical options first.

As fun as it is to find a new purpose for old shoes, sometimes it just isn’t necessary. There are four basic options you can consider.

  • Recycle
  • Donate
  • Refurbish
  • DIY projects

It’s important to know the difference between a shoe that has a little wear and tear and one that’s beyond any purpose. That usually depends on the type and their condition.

How to properly recycle your old shoes

Athletic shoes are almost always too cheap and worn out by the time you’re done with them to use for anything else. They’re mass manufactured and made with cheap materials. Even if you spring for an expensive pair, they can’t last forever, and you will need to replace them over time.

There are several options for recycling your old shoes.

TerraCycle, for instance, is a company that will accept boxes full of recyclable materials, including footwear. While you do have to order their box and pay a certain price depending on the size, you could get friends to join in and fill the box to make it worth it.

If you have old running shoes that you need to get rid of and prefer not to pay anything out of your own pocket, try Nike’s Reuse-a-Shoe program. They accept any old athletic shoes and will repurpose your old footwear into apparel or even running tracks.

While these are only two possible options, they’re a wonderful idea if you don’t want your shoes adding to the landfills. The plastic components of these shoes, like the heels, could take as long as 1,000 years to break down in a trash heap completely.

Consider donating your old shoes

While it can be fun to turn old shoes into a new project, you might want to consider donating them instead. Obviously, if your shoes aren’t in good condition, you can skip this option. However, if you have some shoes that are in good condition, there is always someone else less fortunate that could use them.

Plenty of kids grow out of their shoes before they show any signs of wear and tear. Pregnant women can grow out of the size that they’ve worn for years. Some people don’t get much use out of half their shoe collection and eventually need to downsize.

No matter what the reason is, if you have a good pair of shoes and no use for them, someone else can always use them.

Spruce up those old kicks

Refurbishing old shoes is another excellent idea and has the potential to save you a decent amount of money in the long run. Depending on the footwear, you could either turn a shoe revamp into your own personal project or visit a cobbler.

We have some ideas for projects you can do yourself. However, if you have some high-quality, expensive shoes that you want to get more life out of, you should consider going to a cobbler.

Cobblers can bring old shoes back to life, as long as you take them in before they’re too far gone. In turn, by taking good care of your shoes, you can potentially double their lifespan.

What to Do with Old Shoes: 10 Fun Ideas

You might have noticed that we didn’t talk about our fourth option yet. That is, turning those old shoes into DIY projects. That’s what we want to focus on now.

There are a lot of ideas for turning your footwear into something new or even making old shoes look brand new. Although, some of the ideas floating around out there are eccentric, to say the least.

We’ve gathered a few of our favorites to give you some new ideas for old shoes.

1. Baby shoe pin cushion

Baby shoes are one of those things that are absolutely adorable but pretty useless. They grow out of them quickly, and they never wear out, but you still can’t bring yourself to get rid of them.

That’s exactly why turning baby shoes into pin cushions could be the handiest and cutest solution of all time.

All you have to do is put stuffing inside and cover the opening with fabric. You could sew the fabric in place over the stuffing or use a little glue.

You could even cheat by finding a little fabric ball that fits in the opening. Perhaps even a small round pincushion from a craft store.

The shoe will help prevent the cushion from rolling away, and you can admire those baby shoes long after your babies have flown the nest.

2. High heel coat rack

Do you have a ton of high heels that you love to look at but never wear? Are you a single lady that loves to add subtle girly touches around your home?

If any of that is true for you, a high heel coat rack might be the perfect project for you. All you need are a few high heels, a board to put them on, and a way to attach them.

Then you can hang your coats on the heel of the shoe and repurpose them in one go. And the best part? You can make the coat rack as big or small as you want and personalize it to your own space.

3. Shoe birdhouse

If you can’t get any use out of your old shoes, little critters certainly can. All you have to do is nail an old boot or shoe to a tree with the toe pointed at the ground. Then stuff some bedding into the toe to ensure birds can’t fall in and get stuck.

Before long, a bird will discover your shoe birdhouse and possibly even build a nest. That will give them a cozy spot where they can hunker down in the winter and raise their babies.

In this instance, it doesn’t matter what condition your old shoes are in, as long as they aren’t completely falling apart. Avoid using anything with big holes.

4. Boot planter

Boots are one kind of footwear that gets absolutely beat over time. By the time you need a new pair, it doesn’t seem like there’s much use in keeping the old ones. That is until boot planters became popular.

Golden Pothos

All you have to do is fill an old boot with the appropriate soil and add whatever plants you want. Make sure you stick with plants that don’t need too much room and don’t root too deeply. Succulents, herbs, or marigolds, for example, are excellent options.

5. Ring holder

Heels are some of the best shoes to use for cute projects. In this case, you could consider turning your heels into an adorable ring holder.

You will only need fabric, glue, and a high heel for this project.

Stuff the end of the shoes first. Then cut a long piece of fabric that is the width of the shoe. Roll it up until it’s thick enough to fill the intended space. Then tuck it into the shoe and glue it in place.

Repeat until you fill the whole shoe tightly. And make sure each roll fits the portion of the shoe you’re rolling it for. Keep in mind that heels taper from front to back so that you will need wider rolls in the front and shorter rolls in the back.

6. Bookends

Turning your old shoes into bookends is another adorable idea. You can use old, beat-up shoes or some cute shoes that you never get to wear but love to look at.

If you are using old shoes, it might not be a bad idea to decorate them or cover them in a cute fabric beforehand. Then glue the soles to a flat object that has some weight to it. A finished piece of wood would add some weight, keep the books in place, and prevent the shoes from falling over.

7. Painted shoes

Painting shoes is a fun idea if you want to have some fun spicing up plain shoes. A lot of people have white shoes lying around that they don’t wear too often.

Instead of struggling to keep those white shoes clean, you can change them completely by painting them. That opens the door to endless possibilities.

Before getting started, make sure you know what material you are painting on and how to prepare the surface for that material. This will differ depending on whether you are dealing with canvas, mesh, leather, or vinyl.

8. Glitter shoes

If you aren’t confident in your artistic skills, you could also try spicing up your shoes with some glitter instead. All you need is glue, a foam brush, glitter, masking tape, and a sealant.

Mask off the sole of your shoe, cover the fabric with glue, pour on the glitter, and let it dry. Once it’s dry, you can either go in for a second coat or seal it. That way, you can avoid getting glitter all over the place while wearing your beautiful new shoes.

9. Cover them with fabric

Another great way to spruce up old shoes is to cover them with a new fabric. Take a trip to the craft store and grab some glue, enough fabric for both shoes, and a foam brush.

Carefully map out the fabric so it will fit each section of the shoe in one piece. Make sure to cut it slightly larger than it needs to be. That way, you can fold over the edges as you glue the fabric down to give it clean edges.

If done carefully enough, nobody will ever be able to tell you did it yourself.

This is a great option even if you don’t plan on wearing the shoes ever again. You can also do this to the shoes you’re turning into bookends or using as a decoration. Some people even cover high heel booties and use them as organizers for pens or paintbrushes.

10. Shoe succulent planters

One of the cutest options of all is using shoes as succulent planters. High heels especially make the cutest planters, but you can also use baby sneakers or flats.

So Sweet Hoya Heart Succulent

Any shoe will work as long as they’re tall enough because succulents don’t need a ton of soil or water. Therefore, the material won’t end up soaking wet and retain enough moisture to mold.

Give Those Old Shoes a New Purpose

No matter what you decide to do with your old shoes, finding, any new purpose for them is always an excellent plan. It doesn’t matter if you want to donate them, repurpose them, or recycle them.

There’s no shame in needing to get rid of shoes and not having the time or energy to turn them into a project. But if you want to have some fun and repurpose your old kicks, we hope we were able to help you come up with some great possibilities.

If you tried any crafts for your old shoes or worn-out shoes, we would love to hear about it in the comments below!

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