What a westernized conundrum to have. Which of my 55 pairs of shoes should I officially retire (despite wearing only a handful of times) so I can add a quirky punch of charm to my garden? While it is oddly fun to contemplate the decorative aspects of an old boot bursting forth with bright crimson berries or flowers, common sense tells us that on the other side of the world, there are people who are positively thrilled to bits to own just one precious pair of sneakers. Imagine how they’d feel if they could fall back on a spare pair. So, before you empty out your closet with the sole intent of pouring potting soil inside your unwanted footwear, please exercise a bit of practicality first. If you have a bunch of gently worn shoes that you no longer want, think about the joy that they will surely bring to those in underdeveloped countries. You enjoy feeling a little warm and fuzzy inside, right? Then ship those excess shoes off to nonprofit organizations like Share Your Soles, Soles4Souls and Donate Your Old Shoes. In doing so, you officially made the world a better place! Yeah, but what about me? I really do like the idea of donating to those who are less fortunate, but I also love getting down and dirty with super cool recycling projects. Now that I donated all my unwanted shoes, I have little to work with. Not to worry. Here is what you need to do next. If, in your entire household, you are not already the unwitting owner of at least one pair of shoes with major air-conditioning going on (such as unsightly holes, rips, tears, gashes or any type of flaw that even a cobbler would happily pass on), ask family and friends for their garbage-bound kicks. Between what they pass along to you and the holey footwear you likely already have on hand, you are good to go (although a quick gander in a community dumpster for additional raw supplies couldn’t hurt, either).

 recycled footwear planter

Recycling technique

Decorate There are some eager eco-crafters who absolutely love customizing things so that they’re oozing with 100% one-of-a-kind charm. If you belong to that elite group, then by all means pull out your paintbrushes and other artistic doodads in order to visually transform your holey, torn shoes into works of household- or garden-worthy art. If you plan on using your final recycled footwear planter(s) outdoors, ensure the longevity of your creative efforts by covering your donor shoes with several coats of eco-friendly sealant. Line Whether you have spruced up the appearance of your high heels, oxfords, rain boots or trainers with artistic embellishments or you are allowing them to remain au naturel, take the time to line your soon-to-be garden planter(s) with a thin layer of cheese cloth or other fine mesh material in order to prevent soil from needlessly escaping. If the hole or tear is relatively small, a paper coffee filter will also do the job, as will a scrap of lightweight fabric. Fill with soil Once you have anchored the lining inside your planter-to-be, fill it with the proper potting medium (which is dependent upon the botanical variety you will be planting inside). Add the plants of your choice Carefully tuck the roots of your preferred botanical varieties inside your new-to-you garden planter, making sure that they have enough room to spread their wings. Other considerations Placing plants inside the main shoe opening is a no brainer, but if you are using old boots, don’t be afraid to make additional, customized cutouts on the side or along the length of the calf with a Dremel tool.

Recycled footwear-turned-garden-planter success stories

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, feast your eyes on these 35 recycled garden planter ideas showcasing everything from succulent-filled construction boots, hiking boots and running shoes, to heels and children’s Croc-like footwear. You know what they say: If the (worn-out) shoe (no longer) fits, eco-flair it!