Running Shoes Can Go a Long Way Even After You Hang Them Up

By Vicky Hallett
Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Q. Do you know of anywhere in the D.C. metro area that collects used tennis/running shoes for recycling? I hate to see the materials used in them end up in a landfill. I know that Nike offers a recycling service, but you have to mail the shoes in, and I'd like to avoid the fuel/energy costs of shipping the shoes across the country to Oregon.

-- Nat

A. The truly green option would be to run them all the way to Oregon, but that's perhaps more of a commitment to eco-living than you were ready for. And it would create a heck of a lot more shoes to be recycled. So how about Silver Spring or Arlington instead?

The running store Pacers ( has bins at all four of its locations (Alexandria, Arlington, Silver Spring and Fairfax) for the Perpetual Prosperity Pumps Foundation. Don't worry, I won't make you say that five times fast. It's a nonprofit that ships old athletic shoes to Ghana, sells them for about $3 a pair and then uses the proceeds to help local families learn how to create more-sustainable lifestyles.

"We get them beehives, water pumps, all the things a farmer needs. We teach them to grow enough to feed themselves and manage their resources," explains Jim Riordan, who leads the program. (For all of the drop-off spots, see They can pay for a family's full training and equipment with just 600 pairs of shoes. Riordan asks for "used, but not abused" footwear; at least 10 percent don't make the cut and end up in the trash.

If you're worried your old pairs are dumpster-bound, then stick with the Nike Reuse-a-Shoe program ( The concept is pretty cool: Your old athletic shoes of any brand get pulverized into Nike Grind, a material that's being used to build tracks, soccer fields and basketball courts. Assuage your eco-guilt by getting beach-bound buddies to take them to the Nike Outlet store in Rehoboth, which is a lot closer than Oregon.

I'm 17. I was in pretty good shape in the fall, when I was on the cross-country team. But I didn't do a winter or spring sport and haven't run in six months. How should I start up again? Should I run two minutes and walk two minutes, for 30 minutes, for example? Or try to run as long as I can (probably about 10 minutes) before walking? Or should I work out on an elliptical machine for a couple of weeks in order to get my stamina up before trying to run?

-- Lyz

Of the many splendid things about being 17, the best is that if you wanted to run a marathon tomorrow you probably could. You think you're feeling out of shape now? Wait 10 years, don't exercise for six months and then get back to me.

If you had never run before, or were a particularly inactive kid, the walk/run technique would be a good starting point. It's the same deal with the elliptical, especially if you were say, 38, and feeling sorer than you used to. But as a cross-country vet, you can push yourself a bit harder.

Cricket Batz, one of the directors for RunningWorks (, which organizes camps and clinics for high schoolers out of New Jersey, wants you to start up again by jogging just one mile. That's probably the 10 minutes you estimate you can handle now anyway. "Run easy, not all-out," she cautions. "You can't increase your base mileage and intensity at the same time."

Do that four times this week. Then next week, up your distance to a mile and a half for those four runs. Continue to add gradually, and keep a log of your runs so you can make sure you're not overdoing it, Batz says. Scale back if you're hurting. In a month or so, you can add speed work and hill drills. Eight weeks in, you'll be ready to join that cross-country team again.

And after next season ends, feel free to take a week or two off, but don't spend a full semester on the couch. With each year, you'll find it's tougher to get into "pretty good shape" again.

I am 38. In the past year or so I haven't been bouncing back after workouts like I used to; I feel sore longer. I usually do cardio for one hour a day at a moderate level and maybe once a week or so at a higher level. What should I be doing to recover better from the workouts?

-- Anonymous

This might sound strange coming from me, but have you tried not working out? A day off isn't a sin. It's a necessity. Just ask 45-year-old W. Hodding Carter, whose new book "Off the Deep End" chronicles his decision to train for the U.S. Olympic Swimming Team. Trials are this weekend, and it's safe to guess he won't qualify, but he is speedier now than he was more than two decades ago as a Division III All-American.

Carter's secret: That recovery day. "A recovery day means I don't do anything strenuous. My heart rate is always below 140, and I don't lift," he explains.

Those days are on his schedule three times a week now.

You'll get similar advice from Robbie Hebert, director of sports performance at the Edge Sports Performance Center in Roanoke. He tells his more, ahem, mature clients not to schedule workouts back-to-back, and he's a stickler for a dynamic warm-up and static stretching for the cool-down.

He also advises exercisers not to skimp on proper hydration and nutrition. And if you're not getting massages? Do something about that. (Carter pays his kids a quarter a minute to rub out his muscle kinks.)

Just don't sit back too long. Aging doesn't give you a pass on exercise. As Hebert says, "If you can work out, you'll feel young."

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