Red Card Roberts
July 3, 2012
No matter where they live, every runner on the planet must, at some point, answer the same question: What should I do with all these old running shoes? (Most of us also have to answer the question about when we should get our knees replaced, but I can only solve one major problem per column.)
So, those shoes you dropped $100 on, that are still in decent condition but just a little worn for your needs, what do you do with them? Now there’s a better option than tossing them in the famed Shoe Tree. (And it’s an option that will make at least one Deer Valley woman much happier.)
You can donate them to African Strides, a company that ships them to Mozambique, giving them new life and a whole lot of new purpose.
Park City resident Brad Pillsbury and some of his buddies came up with the idea after Brad traveled to South Africa. When he was there, noticed how many people were shoeless and envious of his Nikes. He felt bad, but didn’t know what he could do.
Upon returning to the U.S., he started talking with his friend Drew, a collegiate track runner. Drew told Brad he and most of his teammates go through a pair of running shoes every month, and they were tired of watching them pile up.
And that’s when the light bulb went on.
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"Most of Drew’s shoes are fine for day-to-day use, but the tread is worn out from aggressive running. So they were just ending up in the garbage," Brad said. "Having just returned from Africa where so many people don’t have the right footwear for the conditions, it just seemed like such a waste."
And that’s how his little project took off running.
"The general idea is that we bring a durable product to individuals at an affordable price, while helping out individuals on both sides of the ocean," Brad said. "For Americans, we want to be the best outlet for recycling shoes. As for the individuals that will ultimately receive the shoes in Africa, we will have a product that will be affordable for the customer, yet also be a financially rewarding product for the vendor to sell and build a small business from in Mozambique."
Here’s how it works: People donate their old shoes, and Brad and his buddies collect them and ship them over to some of his friends in South Africa. His friends will then take the shoes to the neighboring country of Mozambique, where they will sell them to vendors at a nominal price. The vendors can refurbish the shoes and sell them to customers who could not afford, and do not have access to, new shoes.
It’s a full-circle idea you can really run with.
And if getting rid of all the old Nikes you’ve been tripping over in the garage isn’t enough of a reason to donate them, there’s this: African Strides will donate $1 for each pair of Park City shoes sold in Africa to Summit Land Conservancy.
"There is something pretty cool about trail running at Round Valley and knowing the pair of shoes on your feet could help protect open space in Summit County and also help out a small-business owner in Mozambique," Brad added. "Everyone loves open space. It’s tangible, it’s something we all enjoy and benefit from. It’s the perfect organization to benefit from this operation."
Brad started collecting used running shoes last October, and now has a couple thousand pairs getting ready to be shipped out. He expects the shipping container to weigh about 6,000 pounds when he sends it off in August.
If you’d like to add to his collection, he’s put a collection bin at the Park City MARC (also known as the old Racquet Club). Or you can email him and arrange a pickup: firstname.lastname@example.org .
For more information, visit africanstrides.com.