Shoes that Grow : Practical Compassion

My father once told, In the past, shoes could stink; in the present, shoes can blink; in the future, shoes would think.

Shoes, for most of us, shoes are a vanity, something we buy that goes with our outfits, our occasions our day to day utility. We have shoes to walk in, shoes to run in shoes to dance in or exercise in, and these are just the basic shoes we use. I won’t even get started on the heels and flats and everything else that goes in that direction. But for some, shoes are a luxury, something they can only buy after saving. And though shoes are a necessity, they protect your feet, they preserve your hygiene, they prevent you from falling sick or catching infections, they are a luxury for some.

We have often heard parents complain how its a pain to buy a new pair of shoes every time the children grow. But eventually, after a lot of coercion, we all manage to pursue our parents, don’t we? Not all of us are so lucky, and children in some parts of the world don’t get that new pair, and as a result fall victims to a number to medical conditions. Poverty doesn’t stop natural growth of children. As they grow up, they need clothes and shoes accordingly. Poor parents around the world find it very hard to provide their children with clothes and shoes each year. But let’s face it, at a place like Eritrea or Zimbabwe where the GDP fluctuates only between 0.1$ to 730$, a pair of shoes every time your feet grow as a child is just unthinkable.


The Shoe That Grows started when Founder and Executive Director Kenton Lee was living and working in Nairobi, Kenya in 2007.

One day while walking to church, he noticed a little girl in a white dress next to him who had shoes that were way too small for her feet. That led to questions aboutwhy.
And finally an idea: “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a shoe that could adjust and expand – so that kids always had a pair of shoes that fit?”

And just like that The Shoe That Grows was born.

Charity worker Kenton Lee, from Nampa, Idaho, looked down and saw the feet of a little girl standing beside him. The front of her shoes had been completely cut open, and her toes curled over the edges. Other children at the orphanage where he was volunteering in Nairobi, Kenya, had also outgrown their shoes and were similarly making do. According to a supervisor, the children had received a shipment of shoe donations awhile back, but hadn’t gotten any others since.According to Lee, there are over 300 million children in the world who don’t have shoes and over 2 billion people who suffer from soil-borne parasites and diseases. Without proper footwear, children are more susceptible to these illnesses and parasites.


 “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a pair of shoes that could adjust and expand?” Lee recalls thinking. “That would make a lot of sense for these kids.”
Lee, now a pastor, graduated from Northwest Nazarene University in 2007 with a degree in business administration and religion. “I didn’t know a thing about shoes,” he says. So, he and his board went to the experts. “We started by contacting all the big companies—Nike, Adidas, Crocs, Toms—to see if they’d like to take the idea and make it happen,Nobody was interested.

After getting turned down, Lee decided he had to create the shoes himself. “I bought 20 pairs of Crocs and cut them up and was piecing them together to figure out a design that would work,” he says. While experimenting, the Because International team connected with Proof of Concept, run by Gary Pitman, a veteran in footwear design and manufacturing who had worked at Nike and Adidas.

Together, Because International and Proof of Concept whittled down 70 potential ideas to two feasible models. In the summer of 2012, Lee and his wife, Nikki, took 100 prototypes to four different schools in Kenya and had kids wear and test them for about a year. The team took the kids’ feedback on fit and comfort into account and produced their 2014 batch, which sold out. Because International is now eagerly awaiting a shipment of 5,000 more pairs.

The rugged sandals are best suited for warm environments since part of the foot is still exposed, and Because International has seen high demand in countries such as Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Haiti. The shoes allow kids to experience daily life without worrying about exposing their feet to soil-transmitted diseases and rough terrain.

My biggest motivation is that I want kids to be in the best possible position to succeed and to keep them a little bit happier and healthier,” says Lee, who feels his product could impact kids’ walks to school and time spent playing outside. “To see them lose some of these chances because of something as simple as a pair of shoes really breaks my heart.”

The components of the shoe are not very complicated. That is, simple but fine quality leather, compressed rubber and snaps have been used in these shoes. Children won’t have to learn any techniques to use these clever shoes because of the simplicity of the used material. The non-profit explains it on its website saying that shoes have “no mechanical parts of gears to break.”


While the shoes are available for people in America, The Shoe That Grows wants us to help with their charitable outreach endeavor: The Fill a Duffle Bag program costs $10 per pair of shoes and as each duffle is filled, the shoes are sent to areas in need. You can even select the area to which your donation will go.

The shoes are currently sold out, but as of July, there will be 5,000 more pairs available for purchase.

Check out the official sit for the authentic story and excluisve interviews! Kenton Lee and Andre have also listed down their email ids for further contact, if any.


Published by darshitajain

artist | poet | journalist | human

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