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Canadian Olympian Julie-Anne Staehli gives old running shoes a new purpose

Staehli's ReRun Shoe Project turns used running shoes into an opportunity to make physical activity more accessible

Julie-Anne Staehli, ReRun Photo by: Kevin Morris

Canadian distance runner and Olympian Julie-Anne Staehli is renowned for her success in the 5,000m, but she has also made a profound impact through a project that’s close to her heart.

The ReRun Shoe Project originated in 2016 during a local road race in Kingston, Ont., when Staehli and her friend, Kurtis Marlow, realized the number of shoes they accumulate each year. This gave her the idea of repurposing shoes to enable others in their physical activity. Staehli explains, “The project started with a personal donation to a local youth sports organization, which sparked the idea of repurposing shoes to make a difference in the community. With no local organization dedicated to donating lightly used shoes on a regular basis, we took the initiative to create The ReRun Shoe Project.”

ReRun Shoe Project
Kurtis Marlow (left) and Julie-Anne Staehli (right) founded ReRun during their time at Queen’s University in Kingston

The primary objective of ReRun is to collect lightly used running shoes that are no longer suitable for running but that could be worn by those without access to expensive gear. By reducing the number of unused shoes and donating them to local organizations, ReRun aims to provide shoes with another purpose and enhance the lives of others.

“Most of the recipients of shoes are elementary school and college students, but we have also built a network with organizations like Big Brothers and Big Sisters to ensure the shoes reach those who need them the most,” says Staehli.

Julie-Anne Staehli: Run Your Way

Having grown up in the small town of Lucknow, Ont., Staehli feels personally connected to this initiative; she received her first pair of spikes through a donation. “Making physical activity more accessible and witnessing the impact, regardless of who receives those donations, is truly meaningful,” she says.

Staehli takes pride in the project’s meticulous selection process, accepting lightly used shoes with good soles that are still suitable for walking or other activities. Its mission is to ensure the shoes find their way into deserving hands.

A poignant moment for Staehli and Marlow that reinforced their commitment to the cause occurred at a women’s shelter in Kingston. Staehli recalls, “We donated hundreds of shoes, mainly adult sizes, and all the shoes disappeared within the hour. This highlights the immense need for shoes in our community.”

To date, ReRun has collected more than 5,500 pairs of shoes. The project has expanded to collect donations in three stores in Kingston, two stores in London and multiple locations in Edmonton and Calgary. ReRun serves as a remarkable example of how a simple idea and a dedication to giving back can create a lasting impact on communities.

By providing shoes with a new lease on life, ReRun is taking strides to make physical activity more accessible—one step at a time.

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