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Should I throw away old shoes?

a girl sitting, reading a book

When it comes to shoes, there’s no fixed expiration date and we are confident that Start-Rite shoes are never outworn. However, it is advisable to replace, or repair, shoes when they start showing signs of wear and tear, such as holes and worn-out soles; or when they have been outgrown.

Depending on the age of your child they could be growing out of their shoes anywhere between two and 12 months. That’s why checking the fit of current shoes, and measuring their feet regularly is a must – it’s not just worn out shoes that can cause problems, ill-fitting shoes can to.

Throwing shoes in the bin isn’t to be encouraged. Some can be donated, recycled or even repurposed.

Is wearing old shoes bad for your feet?

Yes, wearing old shoes can be bad for your feet. As shoes age, their cushioning and support can wear down, leading to reduced shock absorption and increased pressure on feet. This, as well as shoes that no longer fit properly, can cause foot pain as well as blisters, calluses and corns in some cases. Children’s feet are particularly vulnerable as their feet are still developing and require proper support and cushioning to grow healthily, so it’s important to replace old shoes when they have been outgrown or become worn out.

For really old shoes that haven’t been cared for, it’s possible that the leathers, buckles or laces have degraded over time too. Deterioration could mean that the fastenings break, or the uppers crack and let water in when wearing them.

Can old shoes cause back pain?

Thankfully, good quality children's shoes tend to be outgrown long before a loss of cushioning or support. But well-worn shoes can lead to poor posture or back pain. Old shoes can lead to uneven weight distribution causing imbalances in the body, which again could contribute to back pain, or force your child to walk unnaturally. This sends signals to the brain that something is wrong. The brain will compensate for it and can adversely affect development in other parts of the body. This can lead to problems in later life, including problems with the knees, spline, even the way we walk can be affected for life.

The bones in our feet continue to develop until we are into our late teens, so shoes are of critical importance to our children’s development and it’s a good idea to regularly check the condition of their shoes.

Can old shoes cause foot pain?

According to research*, over £30 million is spent annually on chiropody services for the over 60s and most of these foot problems (around 70%) can be attributed to badly fitting shoes or unsuitable footwear in childhood. Wearing shoes that are no longer fit for purpose can cause the foot to be unsupported. The increase in pressure on the feet, leads to pain in the feet, ankles, and sometimes the lower legs. Old shoes can also cause blisters, calluses, corns and other foot problems.

Additionally, there is a chance that old shoes can sometimes harbour bacteria and fungi, which can lead to foot infections.

Where possible, we recommend that children alternate between shoes. This gives each pair the chance to air and minimise the chance of bacterial growth. With daily sock changes and washing of the feet, bacteria and foot infections are kept at bay.

How to dispose of old shoes

There are a number of ways to dispose of your old shoes. One option is to donate them to a charity such as ShoeAid. This is a great way to give back to the community and help those in need. Another option is to recycle them - some recycling programs collect old shoes and turn them into new products.

If your shoes are too worn or damaged for donation or recycling, you don’t need to throw them in the bin. Have you thought about re-purposing them around the house if they’re not suitable for recycling? We have some clever and fun ways to re-purpose tired shoes and avoid landfill in our ‘what to do with old shoes’ blog.