How to Recycle Used Hiking Boots (All You Need to Know)

Trust me, I know. After years of steady use, you’ve probably found that your hiking boots have only got better with age, and parting with that perfect pair just doesn’t seem right – even without considering the expense of a new set.

But if over time, the damage they’ve sustained is now affecting your performance, then perhaps it’s time to prioritize safety and comfort. So what should we do with the old pair? Well, instead of simply tossing them away, why not try and recycle them?

Quick Summary 

  • Determine if your hiking boots are recyclable by checking the label or manufacturer’s website.
  • Clean your boots before recycling them to remove any dirt or debris that might contaminate the recycling process.
  • Find a recycling center that accepts hiking boots, prepare your boots for recycling, and drop them off for recycling.

Can You Recycle Hiking Boots?

You can recycle hiking boots, although this will depend on the recycling services offered in your local area.

If you can’t find any organization willing to recycle your unwanted shoes, you might instead opt to donate them to local thrift stores, or a homelessness charity, where a pair of sturdy, warm hiking shoes won’t go to waste.

What to Do With Old Hiking Boots?

salomon boots ready for recycling

Hopefully, that explanation doesn’t leave you too disheartened. There are still plenty of things you can do with old hiking boots to give them a new lease on life. Let’s take a closer look at just a few.

1. Restore/Repair

General wear and tear to a pair of old shoes don’t have to mean they’re done for. There are plenty of options to bring back some of their performance, in fact, we’ll be getting to that shortly.

2. Recycle

In the United States, which types of waste can be recycled, and where, depends on how recycling is conducted within your state or local authority (there may also be third-party recycling programs that can assist you with this) [1].  

3. Repurpose

The arts and crafts world has shown us how to reuse and breathe new life into anything, even an old boot. One popular idea is to transform them into vintage-style planters, perfect because of their waterproof qualities.

4. Donate

Although the idea of sending your used footwear overseas is an admirable one, there are some doubts as to the overall impact of donated shoes. You’re probably better off donating them to a thrift store or community homelessness charity.

5. Upcycle

If for whatever reason you’ve decided to part with your clothing or any outdoor gear but still consider them to be a good pair, why not do an at-home restore job and sell them using a retailer like Depop or Ebay [2]?

If a repurposed pair offers a reasonable degree of performance and comfort, there will absolutely be someone willing to purchase them, but don’t forget, a stylish set of ski boots has a range of other uses on and off of the trail, just expect a discounted price.

How to Restore Used Hiking Shoes?

a cobbler restoring my hiking boots
Courtesy of Val H @ Flickr

Removing Dirt

  1. Remove the laces to free up the tongue and scrub the leather with a mixture of warm water and soap.
  2. Scrub the sole with a tough scrubbing brush (do this outdoors or over a basin as it can get messy).
  3. Rinse the shoe to remove the soapy mixture, then leave it to air dry.

Check our guide for more information on how to clean your hiking boots.

Reattaching the Sole

  1. Get in between the midsole and the leather with a small blunt object and excavate any dirt that has been collected there.
  2. Dip a toothpick in some heavy-duty glue and dab it between the midsole and the leather until an adhesive layer has formed.
  3. Leave to dry completely.

Restoring Laces

  1. Pinch the laces between your fingers crosswise, and use your other hand to stretch them apart. If holes have appeared in them, they need replacing.
  2. Pinch the frayed end of the lace and try to split it apart. If it separates down the middle of the lace easily, then replace the lace.
  3. If the end of the lace is worn down, but the whole lace still remains structurally sound, wrap it in electrical tape and burn the end until it forms a solid stump.

Pros and Cons of Restoring/Recycling Used Hiking Footwear

A pile of muddy shoes for USAgain for donation
Courtesy of Steven Miller @ Flickr

If you’ve still not decided whether to give an old boot the boot, we thought we’d help you out by breaking it down into some pros and cons.


Outdoor gear tends to become more comfortable over time as it adjusts to your body, and restoring used shoes can help keep this continuity.

There’s also potential resale value in used outdoor gear in the future, helping you get your investment back on an expensive pair.

You might also consider that Gore-Tex (waterproof lining) contains PFAS chemicals that are potentially harmful to our environment when left in landfills (though these have started to be phased out as of last year).


Some vital elements, like inner padding, are difficult to repair and might necessitate the purchase of specialist tools to do so, which isn’t necessarily a worthy investment if you’re just intending on fixing one set.

Also consider that an amateur repair job will probably lack the efficacy of professional help, necessitating expert assistance from a cobbler down the line.

Related Articles: How Long Do Hiking Boots Last

Does Recycling Save the Environment?

recycling sign

Yes, recycling helps our environment by reducing the number of raw materials that need to be extracted from the earth and turned into new products.

Each step of this manufacturing process requires a significant amount of energy, which often comes from non-renewable sources, but it can also create its own pollution which may directly harm humans and animals.

While it is a difficult task to expect everyone to contribute to recycling (and whether or not the companies that manufacture our goods are dealing with their fair share) each individual does contribute to a collective difference and we should attempt to recycle whenever we can.

What Can You Recycle at Boots?

Unfortunately, not a lot of the parts of a shoe can be recycled. While some of the shoe’s textiles (i.e. leather) may be recyclable, the laces, nor the waterproof lining – both of these items, which contain microplastics – are not [3].

Metal eyelets can be melted down, if you’re able to remove them entirely. Generally, we’d advise that you either donate or attempt to restore your shoes back to performance if you’re unable to recycle them.

Will Wearing Restored Hiking Shoes Affect Performance?

tread of a pair of salomon hiking shoes

The performance of restored hiking boots will depend on the quality of the repair and the type of damage caused (no matter how thoroughly you may have cleaned a sole, if the tracks are degraded you will see an effect on performance, the same goes for insufficient padding).

So we’d recommend taking your boots on trails for a test drive – don’t attempt a strenuous hike at first otherwise you may get caught out by a damaged pair.

Stick with a familiar trail with a fast return back to base if things go awry, and use a different pair of shoes to get you to and from the location.

Is It Best to Restore Used Hiking Boots Rather Than Buying a New One?

It depends on the condition and the type of damage sustained. Aesthetic issues probably won’t affect performance (although excessive dirt may undermine their traction).

Generally, if the soles are degraded, the cost of individual, specialist repairs (and the tools needed for them) will encourage you to pick up new footwear.

Here is a guide where we compare the best hiking boots in 2023 if you need some help deciding which one to pick.

Ultimately, there’s nothing wrong with parting with an old pair of boots. If you’ve worked them down to the point where their performance is undermined, it suggests that you’ve got all the use out of them you could.

There’s no point continuing without comfort, avoiding the damage you could potentially inflict on yourself is worth more than the cost of a new pair.

If you decide to replace your hiking boots, we have an article on just that subject that’ll help steer you toward making a conscientious decision. Plenty of factors go into picking the perfect pair, so it is well worth doing your research.


Are There Brands That Accept Used Hiking Shoes for Recycling?

Several brands, including The North Face, Nike, and Salomon, offer recycling programs for their used hiking shoes, which can be returned for recycling and repurposing into new products like sports surfaces and playgrounds.

When Should You Throw Away Hiking Shoes?

You should throw away old hiking or running shoes when the damage inflicted on them undermines comfort and performance – always keep your safety in mind!

Do Hiking Boots Expire?

Yes – while hiking boots are built to last longer, they will inevitably expire as wear and tear degrade them.

Where to Donate Worn Out Hiking Shoes?

You can donate worn-out hiking shoes to a thrift store or to support a local homelessness charity, even if you’re unsure whether or not they’re in a fit state. The staff will decide whether they are suitable donations.

Can I Sell Restored Hiking Shoes?

Yes, you can. You’ll find plenty of prospective buyers on consumer-driven e-commerce sites like eBay.


Jennifer Strom

Jennifer Strom

Jennifer Strom has been a writer for over 20 years and an outdoor and hiking enthusiast for most of her life. After spending much of her career in the corporate world, she decided to freelance to spend more time with her family and explore new places. You will find her always looking forward to her next weekend adventure and writing guides that help others make the most of their own hikes and time outdoors.

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