Shoes for the soul

I don’t run advertising on this blog, but sometimes I find a product or service that makes not only my life in Siwa better, but the lives of others better, so I will share those. And as Ramadan ends and it is a month of thinking about how we can better be of service to others, Toms is a fine example for businesses, especially in the too often unethical, exploiting world of Fashion.

I have just had to ditch my last pair of comfy thongs, totally worn through by the rough roads and sand here, and I haven’t been able to find a non blistering alternative. In desperation I dug my two pairs of Toms out of the “cool weather clothes” suitcase a bit earlier than anticipated. I go barefoot in the house anyway (everyone does here) so until I find a replacement sandal or thongs that don’t rip into my feet, I’ll wear my Toms and just cool my feet in water at the end of walks.

But what is she talking about, what are her Toms? some of you will wonder. Has she gone totally mad in the heat and started naming her shoes? Not quite; for those who don’t know of them, Toms are a special brand of shoes.

A few months before I came to Egypt I first heard of and bought my first Toms. For every pair of shoes this company sells, it provides a pair of shoes for a child in need that otherwise would not have them – see the background in the link at end of this post.

Even if I put aside the bias that this positive motivation gives, I swear these are the most comfortable shoes I have EVER worn. I have very sensitive feet that blister in almost any shoes, including sandshoes or soft leather, and athletic shoes with padded insides may be soft enough but become very hot (especially walking on hot sand here constantly) and the padding gets quickly eroded by sweat. My cotton Toms are almost as soft as just wearing socks, but have a slightly padded insole that gives just the right support so I can walk for hours without blisters or aching feet. As mine got dirty through every day wear, I have found they can be hand washed (great for my sweaty feet) and a roller that you use to get lint off clothes or a quick soft brush keeps the dark colored Toms looking good.

Toms started with a very basic style, and if you are only familiar with the early Toms you need to see how the range has developed. The basics may look only suitable for casual wear, which was fine for me, as that is mostly how I would wear them. But now they offer more suitable for the office and some pretty styles, even options for weddings. The basic Toms shape looks fine with pants or skirts of any length, so you don’t need multiple shoe styles anymore, but if you still think you do need more choices, variations now include a lace-up style, cork wedge heels, wrap boots and glitters. There are apparently ballet styles on the way, less foot-enclosing for the hotter weather and they will also look more elegant than the basic Toms. There are even Vegan options.

I started with a practical for Melbourne black pair, with a cuteness factor of little animal silhouettes on the white lining; the children here love the little surprise of seeing the animals when I take my shoes off to enter a home. My second pair is in cream with Moroccan print, which I knew would not show the sand / dirt so much in Siwa and would go with most clothes. I also chose them because I like Islamic patterns and knew they would have cultural resonance here. I hoped people’s recognition of the pattern may sometimes let me get away with wearing such a casual shoe style for more formal occasions.

Toms may initially look expensive for a casual cotton shoe. Yes, you will find similar styles for about $10 in Kmart or Target, but every time I have skimped and bought those, my feet ended up sore, the shoes smell of nasty glues that are used in their production, and we all know that if they are that cheap, they must be produced using unethical sweatshop labor, probably women and children working in countries such as China or India where labor is cheap (and workers are exploited) or at the bottom of the economic scale in richer countries (like Australia) where they are taken advantage of. Toms are also far less expensive than athletic shoes, and look better with casual wear – save the athletics shoes for your sports and workout clothes. See the website for the fine details of Toms construction, and you will see you are definitely getting value for your money.

For all the women who do the clunky looking athletic shoes-with-suits / work-wear walk to work (and I’ve done it many times and looked just as tragic), these are the solution – they weigh less than athletic shoes and can be more easily fitted into a bag, so when you are not wearing them, Toms are less hassle to cart around or hide under the desk. You may find they are so comfortable and look good enough that you won’t want to take them off once you do get to work. Oh, they have shoes for men and children too.

Fan that I am, as a design / fashion journalist I have to admit Toms are not the most elegant shoe on the planet. I will still love to look at designer shoes most of us could never afford or that are totally impractical to wear, and I still have a dozen pairs of shoes I will keep for city meetings and special event wear. But for Siwa and for actually walking in the cities, and whenever it is not unbearably hot, I will live in my Toms.

Not the most beautiful shoes on the outside, but they have a beautiful soul (no pun intended – but hey Toms, there’s a slogan for you). Next time you are thinking of shoes, go into a store, try a pair on, walk around in them and see how you feel. I promise your feet will be happier, and you will be making a child somewhere a gift of shoes, while you walk. I honestly do not think that for the rest of my life I will buy another pair of shoes that are not from Toms. Now if only they did an open, sandal style for summer…..

I have used a couple of Toms website images and I hope they won’t mind, I will add photo of my Toms in action in the Sahara some time.

One For One Movement – A Pair Of New Shoes Is Given To A Child In Need With Every Pair Purchased – TOMS.com.

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