Q. I'm aware of recycling options for used sneakers, but what can I do with old dress shoes (particularly women's leather pumps and knee boots) that are just too worn to repair or donate? – Emily, TN

A. The non-profit Soles4Shoes is in the market for old shoes of all kinds, which they then sort and donate to the appropriate charity. They do a fair amount of repairing and refurbishing and manage to find a home for about 95 percent of what they get, says Wayne Elsey, the group’s founder.

Your old dress shoes could probably be refurbished and given to an organization like Dress for Success, which provides low-income women with job-interview attire--find drop-off locations here. But if you’re convinced your shoes are beyond repair, consider upcycling, which means to transform something disposable into something worth more than its raw materials.

No crafting skill? No problem.  Etsy, the online marketplace for handmade crafts, has a feature called Alchemy, where customers can post requests for custom jobs, including upcycling. One woman, for instance, recently posted a request to have someone remake a brown, polyester, floor-length bridesmaid gown into something fabulous and got at least nine different offers. So post a request to refashion your trashed shoes and boots into something you’d rather have for yourself—a wallet perhaps? A belt? Or—if you’ve got an Imelda Marcos-size collection—a set of luggage? Let us know how it goes!

Story by Sarah Schmidt. This article originally appeared in Plenty in June 2008.

Copyright Environ Press 2008

Repurposing old dress shoes and boots
There are many different ways to refurbish your old soles.