When inventor Kenton Lee realized just how many children in developing countries are stuck with too-small shoes (or no shoes at all), he decided to do something about it.
Lee, the founder of humanitarian organization Because International, describes his mission as one of “practical compassion.” During a 2007 trip to a Kenyan orphanage, he realized the shortcomings of donating shoes: Within six months to a year, children would easily outgrow the shoes, leaving them either barefoot or in pain. Instead of “donating things that don’t make sense,” Lee realized, it was time for the humanitarian industry to revamp its ideas. Then came his “aha” moment: Children needed shoes that could literally grow along with them. So after years of planning, The Shoe That Grows was born.
The sandal is designed to grow five sizes and last for five years, and is simply made with leather, compressed rubber and snaps that allow children to readjust its size. With a versatile size range (“small” shoes last from kindergarten to fourth grade, while the “large” size lasts from fifth grade through ninth grade), the shoe could change the lives of millions of young people around the world.
The change doesn’t just start with a shoe, though — it starts with a duffle. Fifty pairs of sandals can fit in a single duffle bag, so with every donation, buyers are helping to fill a bag that will eventually ship out to relief organizations in areas such as Ecuador, Haiti and Kenya.
The sandal is a simple and literal solution to Lee’s goal: “Let’s keep going and growing.”