Q: You guys always have interesting ideas on recycling things. I want to recycle a pair of dress shoes — one has a hole in the sole — and I’m thinking that I probably won’t want to use them for a planter.

I know there are old-shoe-collecting charitable organizations like Soles4Souls, but they usually have the tag “gently worn” as a donation requirement which I’m guessing means not with a hole in the sole. I really would rather not toss them in the trash. Please let me know if there is any way to recycle a pair at this point!

Don’t want to landfill my Louboutins,

Ginny W.

A: Hey Ginny,

No DIY sexy stiletto planters for you, eh? No problem. First off, if you ultimately decide that you want to keep the shoes in question around, you might want to consider resoling them instead of recycling them. If you’re handy with contact cement and a utility knife, you can perform this sartorial procedure at home instead of spending the money to send them off to a cobbler for repair. Personally, I’d opt for the latter.

Even if you opt not to wear the shoes after resoling, you can stash them away as hand-me-downs or donate them in “gently worn” condition to a shoe-centric group like Soles4Souls or to a local charity shop/secondhand store. If you want to keep them around and not wear them in public, use them as garden shoes or painting shoes — although your fancy dress shoes may not be the most comfy option for these tasks unless you’re dead set on aerating your lawn with a pair of heels.

If you have a Carrie Bradshaw-esque thing for designer labels and you think that the shoes are in sellable condition, also consider hawking them at a consignment shop. I suppose this way you’ll be recouping the cost of resoling them and still avoid tossing ’em in the trash (or onto a power line).

If resoling isn’t exactly what you had in mind, I’d try putting the shoes up for grabs on Freecycle … it’s kind of like Craigslist but strictly for free stuff that folks in your community are looking to unload. Think of it as a virtual, environmentally minded garage sale with no price tags attached. You never know, one person’s dress shoe with a hole in the sole could be another person’s treasure. Perhaps your old shoes will be resurrected as garden planters … just in someone else’s backyard.

On the topic of trash to treasure, I’m not sure if you have a pet pooch but letting Fido have his way with an old pair of shoes is pretty much a doggy dream. However, come to think of it, this may give your dog the idea that they can use any pair of shoes, not just the old ones, as a chew toy so I’d proceed with caution on this one.

If you end up dreaming up some wildly creative way to upcycle your old dress shoes — a tres chic belt, perhaps? — but aren’t necessarily craft-talented, I’d check out Alchemy, an Etsy service in which sellers actually bid on the opportunity to create a unique, handcrafted creation.

Nike also has a fabulous shoe recycling initiative, the Reuse-A-Shoe program, where old sneakers — sorry, no dress shoes — are broken down and grinded up. The rubber, fabric and foam from what was once your sneaker is now called Nike Grind and is used in the construction of running tracks, basketball courts, tennis courts and other athletic surfaces. It’s something to consider the next time you have a beat-up old pair of tennis shoes to put out to pasture.

Hope this helps, Ginny. Although athletic shoes tend to be more recycle-worthy, it’s still possible to give your dress shoes a second life. Let me know what you end up doing with them.

— Matt

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