If shoes I no longer need have any kind of life left in them I take them to a charity shop, or street shoe bank. However I was at a loss about what to do with shoes that have fallen apart. This is a challenge of being an inspiring minimalist, I tend to wear the few shoes I have, a lot. Although I try to look after them the best I can. This includes repairs as needed. I have found an amazing shoe repair shop for boots, trainers and leather shoes. The staff at 5th Avenue Shoes in central London have a very “can do” attitude to shoe repair. They have fixed shoes I did not think were saveable!
Closing the loop
I didn’t want to put my canvas shoes in the bin for landfill or incineration, not closed loop zero waste at all. The soles had split in multiple places, the canvas was frayed and the edges had many cracks. So I did a bit of research. Discovering that both Nike and Runners Need have shoe recycling programmes for those that can’t be reused.
Nike have a reuse programme called Nike Grind to reuse trainer materials into new products. Phone, or pop into, your closest shop to see if they offer this service.
Runners Need and Cotswold Outdoors also have a trainer recycling service, they are owned by the same parent company.
Do I have to get my new shoes there?
You do not need to buy shoes in either of these shops to be able to use the recycling programme. I would not buy Nike Shoes myself as they currently only score 4.5 out of 20 on the Ethical Consumer Magazine scoring table and have an active boycott out against them for workers rights issues. It is worth noting that Nike also make Converse trainers. However they are trying to improve their sustainability footprint with some strong targets for the company by 2020. Sometimes it takes a company with the resources, and power, of Nike to innovate changes that the rest of the industry can follow.
Runners Need is owned by AS Adventure, they also own; Cotswold Outdoors, Snow & Rock and Cycle Surgery. The group scores 6.5 out of 20 on the Ethical Consumer score table, so again not a company I would choose to shop with. They seem to score badly across all the metrics rather than one issue being stand out.
Where can I get sustainably made trainers?
Ethical Consumer Magazine recommends Viobarefoot and Inov-8 for trainers. For fashion trainers they recommend Ethletic (Converse style) and Vega. However I have not had the best of luck with the hard wearing-ness of Ethletic. In fact these were the shoes that prompted the research above, and this post. The company do not take them back for recycling the materials. I discovered Grand Steps in a vegan shoe shop in Berlin. A simile style to Ethletic and Converse. They are made of hemp and organic cotton, and seem to adhere to very high workers rights standards in their factories in Europe and Vietnam. A small German company (you will need to use Google Translate to read their website) they do not have any physical store stockists in the UK but can be found at Avesu.com. I have been wearing them regularly for around a year and so far they are holding up well.