What to do when you finally let go? – Soles4Souls

Birkenstocks“How long have you had those?” My doctor raised an eyebrow as he looked askance at the Birkenstocks I’d worn that day.

“These are practically new,” I said, lifting a foot so he could see my Birks clearly. Since leaving the corporate world, I’ve seldom worn other kinds of shoes. I can stand in Birks and walk on them comfortably all day long. Birks have great arch supports and give my feet room to breath. Other than looking a little shop worn, they never really wear out. Or so it seemed to me.

“How long?” He probed more firmly. He had diagnosed the foot problem that brought me in that day as a painful condition called a dropped metatarsal.

“Two years. Maybe a little longer.” I began to hedge.

“That’s too old. The toe ridge and the footbed are too hard for your toe. You need something with more cushion.”

“But I’ve worn Birks for years and never had a problem,” I protested. I elected not to tell him about the pair of Birks I’ve been wearing around the house and garden for more than a decade.

Since seeing the doctor, I’ve done more research into my foot problem and am pleased to find that Birkenstocks are among the shoes recommended to help with metatarsal problems. Whew! At least I don’t have to give up my favorite shoes entirely.

I do, however, acknowledge that my decades-old Birks have to go. So, what to do with them? Resigning what appear to be perfectly good shoes to the landfill seems wrong.

An Internet search led me to Soles4Souls, a group that recycles shoes of all types, as well as other used clothing, to people in need, worldwide. Even 10-year-old Birks are better than what many people live with daily.

There’s far more to Soles4Souls than I could cover here, but this anti-poverty organization does more than just collect and give away clothes. They also create self-sustaining jobs through micro-enterprises in communities like Haiti. An added bonus – there are two drop-off locations in my area. So this week, my beloved Birks will begin their  journey to new owners. And I am on a journey to find replacements.

Helping combat poverty. Keeping things out of the landfill. It’s a win-win. If you have shoes you no longer find useful, they may still mean a lot to someone else. I urge you to check out Soles4Souls. If you’ve found other good organizations that take shoes, comment here. I’ll pass the news along.


  1. Ronda Menke Haas says:

    Where are the drop-off sites?

  2. Click on the “drop-off locations” link above and enter your zip code. You’ll find the sites closest to you. There’s one near the Hwy 141 – I-80 interchange, Ronda. Very convenient.

  3. What a wonderful idea! I don’t wear Birks, and I’ve worn my summer flip-flops to the nubs. But I shall look in my closet to see if I have something. Thank you for the website information. And a note: Keep wearing those comfy Birks! It will pay off in the end. It makes traveling a whole lot more comfortable. Oceans of blessings Carol!

    • Glad to share such a worthwhile site that most of us could contribute to, Sharon. I’ve worn my Birks all over Europe and never regretted it. I’m committed to them. Thanks for commenting.

  4. Carol, I mourn my shoes when I have to let them go 🙂

  5. This is very good to know. I always wonder what to do with old shoes. Of course, like you, when I find a pair of shoes that feel good I hang on to them for years. It’s traumatic every time I have to shop for new shoes. This summer I bought two pair before I found one that worked. I brought them home and tested them on the treadmill, then returned them when they didn’t work. And that’s tennies. Dress shoes are even worse. I have had a summer pair and a winter pair for at least five years. I gaze longingly at the beautiful shoes other women wear, but it’s useless to even think about it. When these two faithful friends finally give up the ghost I’ll try to replace them, but for now I’m thankful for them.

    • Dress shoes are the worst, Veronica! Heels! Tiny toe boxes! What instruments of torture. My doc doesn’t know I’ve had dress shoes even longer than I’ve had my Birks. Nor does he need to know, I think, since I wear dress shoes so seldom. I found Birk inserts that make loafers – actually any shoe without an arch – tolerable. Enjoy your beloved shoes while you can.

  6. You took something about you, your feet, your shoes, and turned it into a big picture help link. I love that so much. It would have been perfectly okay for it to have been all about you, no problem with that at all, but I just love the tie in to help, to learn about this group, and to see more recycling. Big cyber hug to you. Great post, my friend. Paulette now, take care of your tootsies.

    • Carol Bodensteiner says:

      Thanks, Paulette. Sometimes the stars come into alignment on things like this. When they do, I’m extra happy!

  7. Hi Carol
    Nice to kind of meet you..smiles. I saw your post on my friend Sharon’s page and was interested to know what SOLES4SOULS is. I immediately thought of how beautuiful the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace…and thought it was our walking somewhere that was bringing us to souls…he he. Now I know, and I think it Soles4Souls is quite a wonderful thing!

  8. Carol, I love the fact that old shoes can be recycled, so I’ll definitely bookmark that site – thank you. I was caught in the rain with my Birks the other day, so the cork turned my feet orange … my husband said it was funny seeing the shocked expression on my face. Fortunately, it washed off quite easily, but I’m thinking it happened because of their age, which I’m not sharing 🙂

Join the conversation. Your comments or questions welcomed!