The 365 Ways Blog

Michael Norton is author of "365 Ways to Change the World", which provides an issue for each day of the year, interesting facts, inspiring case studies of people doing things to address the issue and ideas for action. Originally published in the UK, versions with local content have been published in Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and the USA. To find out more visit our website:

06 November 2006

Shoes that make a difference

Two ways with shoes… or how to put your foot in it and change the world!

Buy one… and get one free (for a child in need). TOMS Shoes (shoes for tomorrow) are made to a traditional Argentinian design by Blake Mysoskie in Venice, California (Los Angeles) “to make life more comfortable”. TOMS accomplishes this through its unique shoe and by donating a pair to a child in need for each pair purchased. This is Blake’s story:

“I went down to Argentina for three weeks to play polo and to relax, and a lot of the farmers and polo players wore these shoes called an “alpagata” which has a rope sole and cardboard on the interior. They are the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn. A lot of the children in Argentina don’t have shoes… and when they don’t have shoes, they get cuts, they get scrapes, they get infected and it turns into a bigger health issue.

“I turned to my friend and I said I’m going to start a shoe company, it’s going to be called TOMS – shoes for tomorrow – and every pair we sell, we’re going to give a pair to a child in South America. We put a flip-flop-type bottom so that it would be urban and more comfortable, and we decided to have a leather insole so that your foot would stay dry if you wore them all day long out in the hot sun. So we designed about 15 different styles. I came back to the US and started giving them away to my friends and different celebrities. Literally that was 3 months ago, and since then we have sold 5,000 pairs, we’ve been in half a dozen publications and it’s just really exploded. I think right now in this environment there’s a real opportunity for entrepreneurs who have social causes or environmental causes behind what they are doing.

“It’s really important to us that we are literally giving the shoes to the kids ourselves. So we’re actually going down ourselves, myself, my family, a couple of local celebrities, going down to Argentina for a week and distributing the shoes ourselves throughout the different villages. The most touching experience that happened to me was these kids had never received a gift before. These shoes represent hope, a gift, that someone cared about these people. I realised that day that not only was TOMS going to help hopefully millions of kids by giving them shoes, they don’t have enough shoes. We’re just going to give a million children hope.

“Don’t ever let anyone tell you can’t do something because you have experience. That is completely untrue. I had never been in the fashion business three weeks ago. Now I have one of the fastest growing shoe companies in the world!”

TOMS shoes cost $38 a pair. Buy two or more pairs and they are shipped free worldwide.

Trainers that are nattier than Nike: The “Worn Again” shoe brand created by Anti-Apathy uses recycled materials, from suiting to prison blankets. This is their story:

“Every year, in the UK, 900,000 tonnes of textiles are thrown into landfills. Worn Again believes some things are just too good to go to waste...

“Since 2003, Terra Plana have been making good-looking eco-friendly shoes, in the UK, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Romania, Morocco and Mexico - always looking for pioneering new ways of producing them. And Anti-Apathy have been finding ever more entertaining, satisfying and intriguing ways to build social and environmental enterprises.

“One hot evening in Spring 2004, in a crowded nightclub, AA and TP met, fell in love and decided to make shoes together. Shoes for people who want good-looking feet, without a guilty conscience.”

“Anti-Apathy have always looked for new ways of working that could improve labour standards, help deal with climate change and address issues of global trade and sustainability. Worn Again is a way of trying to fit all of that work into a shoe. A beautiful, sexy, guilt-free shoe.”

Anti-Apathy is now proud to present its Bigger Shoe, a limited edition trainer made to celebrate the 15th anniversary of The Big Issue which is made from firemen's uniforms… shoes made from material that has saved lives and seen the heat will look great wrapped around your toes!

Now you’re wearing Worn Again shoes, it’s time to take 10 easy steps… a few simple things to make that move to a cleaner, fresher, fruitier world.


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