These shoes come with a nifty trait: They grow.
That's important, says inventor Kenton Lee, who designed them for needy kids in developing countries who don't have easy access to footwear. When kids outgrow the shoes they have, they end up going barefoot, which can expose them to soil-transmitted parasites and diseases.
"I used to think shoes weren't a big deal. If kids didn't have shoes, they're just running around barefoot and they're happy and they're fine,” Lee told KPTV, a TV station in Portland, Oregon. “But when they're running around without shoes or with shoes that don't fit, they're getting cuts, they're getting scrapes, they're getting infections ... when they get sick, they miss school, they can't help their families; a lot of their opportunities are lost."
Between 576 and 740 million people worldwide suffer from hookworm, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The parasite enters the body by burrowing into a host's skin, often via the person's exposed feet.
To solve that problem, Lee came up a shoe that can be adjusted to accommodate up to five different sizes of feet and is durable enough to last at least five years. He reached out to Gary Pitman, a footwear designer who used to work at Nike and Adidas, to help turn his idea into reality.
The shoes come in two different base sizes, small and large, and can be adjusted using a simple system of buckles and buttons. A $10 donation to Lee’s nonprofit, The Shoe That Grows, is enough to send a free pair of shoes to a child.
"There are over 300 million children who do not have shoes, and countless more with shoes that do not fit," the group's website says. “Sometimes they receive donations of shoes, but these are kids. Their feet grow. And they outgrow donated shoes within a year."
The organization has already distributed its first production run of 1,000 pairs of shoes in Kenya, Vietnam and Nicaragua. It is currently raising funds to produce 5,000 more, to be delivered in Kenya, Ghana, Haiti and Ecuador.
Readers interested in contributing to The Shoe That Grows may do so via its Crowdrise website.