What do you do with old shoes in any condition? This Allen County nonprofit can help

Have you ever thrown away a pair of old shoes? You might have wondered if they were in good enough shape to donate, if anyone would want them, or where you might give away a pair of shoes.

Fortunately, there is a local group that will take your old footwear of any type to reuse or recycle—in Fort Wayne and beyond.

Changing Footprints is a nonprofit started in Indianapolis in 2004. Since then, the group has expanded to other parts of Indiana, including Allen County. 

In 2017, Karen and Dave Kuehnert started the first Fort Wayne location of Changing Footprints out of their garage with 1,000 pairs of shoes that had to be sorted and cleaned for redistribution. Working with the nonprofit, they started donating the shoes to local churches, back-to-school programs, and on mission trips to Guatemala.

They were looking for a way to serve locally and globally as they entered retirement, and they loved that this program was keeping tons of shoes out of the landfill. 

According to the US Department of the Interior, Americans throw away 300 million pairs of shoes each year. But so far, more than 180,000 pairs of shoes have been reused or recycled through Changing Footprints. 

After collecting thousands of shoes (and deciding they needed the use of their garage in the winter), the Kuenerts enlisted Cheryl and Jim Brockman, another recently retired couple from Fort Wayne, to help them. Together, the team has established a dedicated location to store and process shoes at a warehouse in New Haven, allowing them to expand their operations and collect shoes at several drop off sites across Allen County.

Changing Footprints offers several drop off sites throughout Allen County.

The Brockmans became involved in Changing Footprints through previous humanitarian work, Cheryl says. They travel to Kenya each year, and delivered their first load of donated shoes a couple of years ago. Even so, Cheryl says it was important to her not to just “take” the shoes overseas; she wanted to give something in exchange for them to the local community, too.

When she returned from Kenya, she began collecting and redistributing shoes among people in need in Allen County. Today, the majority of shoes collected through Changing Footprints are cleaned and given to recipients within 10 miles of the donation point.

Changing Footprints’ motto is “Changing the world, two feet at a time.” The organization keeps shoes out of landfills and gives footwear to the homeless, needy, unemployed, or impoverished, as well as victims of natural disasters, people living in war-torn countries, and anyone needing a helping hand.

There are no forms to fill out or qualifications to meet when you donate or receive shoes. All kinds of shoes are given out, including ice skates, high heels, sandals, and cleats for sports teams. “The highest need is always for children’s shoes,”Cheryl says, “and we don’t get a lot of men’s shoes.”

She warns residents to not worry about the condition their shoes are in, either. Changing Footprints is able to collect any kind of footwear in any condition because they have a partnership with Nike to recycle shoes that are not able to be worn again. Through the “Nike Grind process,” old shoes are dismantled, ground up into components, and used to make padded recreational flooring and athletic surfaces.

It’s all about making the most of products people have purchased and keeping shoes out of the landfill.

Donate shoes

To donate shoes to Changing Footprints, drop them off at one of several locations in Allen County, including:

Fort Wayne

Proline Rental – 9030 Lima Rd, Fort Wayne

Roberts Shoes – East State shopping center

Fushion Yoga – Covington Plaza

Fort 4 Fitness Fall Festival  – On September 27 & 28, 2019, participants can donate running or any other kind of shoe at the event. 

New Haven

Proline Rental – 1315 Lincoln Highway

New Haven Community Center – behind McDonalds on Hwy 930 East

New Haven Family Dentistry – off of Werling Road, behind Crumback Symons Chevrolet


The month of August the Lions Club will be doing a town wide drive. Information will be on the Changing Footprints Facebook page: “Changing Footprints – Allen County & Northern Indiana.”

Read more articles by Jodi Leamon.

Jodi Leamon is a Fort Wayne native with degrees in Environmental Studies from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and Biology from the University of Illinois Chicago. Send her your questions at [email protected]
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