Apr 072010
 
Authors: Sara Michael

Thousands of people across the nation will go barefoot today, as part of a campaign by TOMS shoes.

The footwear company, which donates a pair of shoes to a child in need for each pair purchased, is raising awareness of global poverty. By walking around shoeless for a day, people can both experience the pain of bare feet and also share their message with less-informed souls.

According to the TOMS Web site, one of the main causes of disease in third-world countries is soil-transmitted viruses, which are absorbed through the skin and are prevented by wearing shoes. This is a major problem in countries like Ethiopia, where “podoconiosis,” a disfiguring disease, is caused by walking barefoot in the volcanic soil.

“Going barefoot, to us, might not be a big deal,” said freshman undeclared major Ian Samuels, who will participate today.

Yeah, we’ll get banged up, maybe, but it’s about raising awareness. Other people will see and say, ‘Who are those (jerks) with no shoes?’ We’ll tell them, and that’s how the word gets spread.”

Many buildings and dress codes prevent going barefoot, and most businesses require a shirt and shoes for service, as does CSU’s Lory Student Center.

And whether it is the entire day or just for a few minutes, TOMS says that the movement is all about the first-hand experience of life without shoes.

According to their Web site TOMS’s “One-for-One” business model “transforms our customers into benefactors, which allows us to grow a truly sustainable business rather than depending on fundraising for support.”

Celebrities such as Kirsten Bell and the Jonas Brothers have publicly joined the cause, and the event has been widely broadcast online.

Even in Fort Collins, there are health consequences of going shoeless that people should be aware of, said Dr. Laurie Elwin, director of Medical Services of the CSU Health Network.

“One concern, of course, is the weather,” she said. Though frostbite remains a concern, she conceded that it was less so now that winter has ended.

Shoes also protect feet from trauma, Elwin said, and without that protection, exposure to the elements can cause cuts, scrapes or bruises.

“There’s always the potential to pick up warts or the fungi that cause athletes’ foot,” she said. “It’s not uncommon to find people who have these conditions. People don’t realize.”

Staff writer Sara Michael can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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