Students go barefoot to spread awareness

TOMS Shoes designated Thursday as One Day Without Shoes, which hundreds of students participated in.

University senior Geoff Enright holds a sign urging students to take off their shoes in front of Coffman Memorial Union on Thursday.

University senior Geoff Enright holds a sign urging students to take off their shoes in front of Coffman Memorial Union on Thursday.

Andrea Schug

Hundreds of University of Minnesota students went barefoot on Thursday in order to spread awareness about the impact of not wearing shoes. April 8 was named One Day Without Shoes by TOMS Shoes , a shoe company in California. For each pair of shoes purchased from TOMS Shoes, the company gives a pair of new shoes to a child in need. AIESEC , a student group dedicated to promoting international economic and social issues, registered with TOMS Shoes to promote the issue in Minneapolis. âÄúA lot of AIESEC people were already fans of TOMS, so we wanted to pick up the event,âÄù Sarah Hale, journalism senior and AIESECâÄôs vice president of talent management , said. AIESEC set up camp in front of Coffman Union Thursday at 10 a.m. and stayed in place until 5 p.m. to inform students about One Day Without Shoes. AIESEC member Geoff Enright said that the group gathered in front of Coffman was getting mixed reactions from students walking by. âÄúSome people are ignoring us, some are giving us weird looks, but quite a few are curious and we tell them everything we know,âÄù Enright said. âÄúWhen people listen, we get a positive response.âÄù One Day Without Shoes was created not only to promote TOMS ShoesâÄô mission but to also spread awareness of the health problems that can arise when people canâÄôt afford shoes. Children in many developing nations suffer from cuts and sores on their feet that can lead to Podoconiosis, a disease that weakens and disfigures the foot. That is completely preventable with shoes and proper hygiene. âÄúItâÄôs something that we donâÄôt think about,âÄù Kelsey Gallagher, retail merchandising senior said. âÄúPutting on a pair of shoes seems so simple.âÄù Gallagher got involved with the movement after hearing about TOMS one-for-one shoe purchase movement. She made the decision to go shoeless Thursday and promoted the movement to her friends and classmates. âÄúMy feet were frozen,âÄù Gallagher said. âÄúIt was a numbing experience which is ironic because thatâÄôs how it is for a lot of kids all the time.âÄù Psychology senior Caitlan McDaniel also learned about the issue on her own. After seeing a TV commercial earlier this year, she said she started looking into TOMS Shoes and wanted to participate in ThursdayâÄôs effort. âÄúWith each step, youâÄôre going to feel it on every toe and really think about the implications,âÄù McDaniel said. She said she left all of her shoes at home, giving her no option but to stay barefoot the entire day. âÄúIf someone wonâÄôt let me walk in somewhere, thatâÄôs just the price you have to pay,âÄù McDaniel said. âÄúThatâÄôs the whole point.âÄù Some participating students said they had to rearrange their day-to-day schedules in order to get the full dayâÄôs experience. âÄúI work at a disabilities service and they said I have to wear shoes there, so I took the day off,âÄù Hale said. English first-year Matt Barrett said that while he was participating in the day, he was not allowed to enter his dormâÄôs cafeteria without shoes. He then realized that hardly anyone in his dorm or around campus was participating and decided to join the AIESEC members gathered at Coffman. âÄúI thought it was sad that almost everyone was wearing shoes and I wanted to do more than just participate,âÄù Barrett said. Hale said that of the six hours she spent at Coffman, AIESEC had convinced a couple hundred people to remove their shoes. âÄúWe want people to take their shoes off even if itâÄôs just for 10 minutes,âÄù Hale said. âÄúIt doesnâÄôt take much to get an idea of what thousands of kids experience every day.âÄù Since 2006 when TOMS Shoes was founded, it has provided more than 600,000 shoes to children in need. TOMS shoes range from $40 to $100 per pair and the styles range from tennis shoes to boots. âÄúIf you look at it, youâÄôre paying $60 for your shoes, which actually means two pairs of shoes,âÄù McDaniel said. âÄúFor $30 for a pair of shoes, IâÄôll do it.âÄù