Just about every parent has had that feeling, looking at the feet of their fast-growing children: “Time to buy another pair of shoes already?”
It’s especially challenging for those living in poverty. Now one man has come up with a solution: a shoe that grows right along with the kid.
Kenton Lee was volunteering at an orphanage in Kenya seven years ago when he noticed a common problem.
“Next to me was a little girl in a white dress and I looked down and was shocked,” Lee told CBS News. “Her shoes were so small, she had to cut open the front of her shoes to let her toes stick out.”
He also saw kids missing school after being infected by soil-transmitted parasites, a problem the World Health Organization says affects 2 billion people globally. That’s when he came up with an idea — footwear that grows with a child.
“When kids have shoes that fit, they stay healthy,” he said. “When they stay healthy, they’ve got chances to succeed.”
Lee tried unsuccessfully to make his own prototype and later approached several shoe companies with his idea. No one was interested.
So he brought his vision to a shoe development company founded by a former Nike executive.
“They were just incredible,” Lee said. “We told them our idea, they loved it, they totally saw what we were trying to do.”
The company, Proof of Concept, donated its time and technical expertise. The result was The Shoe That Grows — the first project for Lee’s nonprofit,Because International. The shoes are made of leather and rubber and expand five sizes.
“Our shoe grows in the front, with the post, on the sides with the snaps and on the back with the buckle,” Lee demonstrated.
Now, 3,000 pairs of the shoes are on kids’ feet and 5,000 more are expected to be delivered this month.
Word is spreading. Lee said he’s been inundated with calls from people in the U.S. who also want the shoes for their children.
He is also working on a more enclosed version of the footwear that offers even better protection. Ultimately, he hopes the shoes will help lead children around the world down a healthier path.