Get to Give: The Story of TOMS Shoes

by Shea Gunther

In 2002, while competing as a contestant on CBS’s Amazing Race 2, Blake Mycoskie first visited Argentina. Four years later he returned to the country for vacation, was struck by the poverty found in some of the villages he visited, and ended up starting one of the coolest shoe companies in the history of footwear.

TOMS Shoes is a shoe company like no other shoe company- for every pair of shoes they sell, they give another pair to a child in the developing world. They’re giving shoes to children who would otherwise be running around barefoot, which puts them at a higher risk of contracting soil-transmitted disease and parasites and bars them from attending school in some instances.

TOMS Shoes

Since TOMS launched in 2006, over 600,000 pairs have been given children in both the developing world and here in the United States. TOMS stages “Shoe Drops” to distribute the shoes and deploy an army of employees and volunteers to fit each child with the correct size shoe. They plan to sell hundreds of thousands of shoes this year meaning that that many children will be individually fitted for their very own pair of shoes. Hundreds of thousands of children will have a fighting chance against crippling soil-transmitted disease and parasites and will have the simple dignity of having a pair of shoes on their feet.

Watch this wonderful video showing how it all works.

Last year TOMS partnered up with Element Skateboards and created a line of skate shoes and decks that were paired with kids at the Indigo Skate Camp in the village Isithumba in Durban, South Africa- every time someone buys TOMS Element shoes or a deck, a kid at the Indigo Skate camp gets the same.

Here’s a video slideshow of some photos from the camp.

A lot of those kids skate in barefeet on old boards, they’re going to be pretty stoked to get new shoes and boards.

Mycoskie wants to expand this One to One model into other areas like school books, housing, and water. He’s built a factory in Ethiopia and even developed a rubber boot specially for the region that will cut down on the disease in the local area.

He’s clearly on to something, the sales of TOMS shoes have seen a healthy increase year over year and Mycoskie has been invited to speak at a the White House, at a conference alongside Bill Clinton, and at the TED conference (Technology, Entertainment, Design).

Kudos to Mr. Mykoskie and the crew at TOMS for all their wonderful hard work. It’s always good to see people working to help give shoes a good name.

You can visit TOMS Shoes to see what all the fuss is about. They also have a great blog you might want to click through.

Photo credit: Deepchi1/Flickr

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