After working at Dodds Shoe Co. for almost 6 years, I’ve got a lot of shoes. A LOT. But today, I’m not using a single pair. Why? We are participating in this year’s “One Day Without Shoes” campaign, to raise awareness about the hardships children who are forced to go without shoes have to endure every day. Now, I have never been one to overlook the importance of shoes, but while researching what to say when people ask me “why no shoes,” I learned they are much more important than relieving back and knee pain or completing outfits.
According to onedaywithoutshoes.com, shoes can help protect against injury, and in combination with basic hygiene and sanitation, help prevent disease and soil-transmitted infections. In a case study done in the Philippines, 30,000 people live on one landfill, living with exposure to broken glass, syringes, and debris. In Kenya, nearly 2 million children are infected by burrowing fleas called jiggers, causing infections. All across the world, people are affected by hookworm, podoconiosis, and other hazards associated with living without shoes.
One of our brands, TOMS shoes, developed the “One Day Without Shoes” campaign to have —in founder Blake Mycoskie’s words—“one day where we focus 100% on the need.” Through the one-for-one program, for each pair purchased TOMS donates a pair of new shoes to a child in need. Since 2009, the company has also united with Partners in Health, which has not only distributed shoes to impoverished families, the organization also builds hospitals and health clinics, while providing health outreach staff and education. By providing multiple layers of health care such as access to hospitals, vaccinations, medication, food, shelter, and yes, even shoes, PIH addresses the broad definition of health care. New shoes may be just one layer of the process of health care, not even the biggest layer; but they are a barrier of protection and a source of excitement. And when it comes to health care, all layers are important.
I love my shoes, but I will gladly forego my heels today (although I feel rather short!) to raise awareness about this movement and get just a small taste of what it’s like to go without shoes.