TOMS wants you to bear your bunions for a good cause


Philanthropic shoe company TOMS has become wildly popular among the public with its simple canvas flats and a promise to donate a shoes to a needy child each time a customer purchases a pair. Now, the shoemakers are calling for people to kick off their shoes on April 10 to spread awareness about the lack of footwear in underdeveloped nations and the risks that this can pose for people.

Well, I'm not exactly thrilled about showing the world my bunions, but I'm considering it after hearing that walking around sans shoes can lead to totally gross bacterial and parasitic infections, such as podoconiosis, hookworm and jiggers.

Bonus: Apparently I can jump on the TOMS bandwagon without giving up heels. The brand features 3.25-inch wedge heels in a number of colors and fabrics, in addition to their original styles.

This is making me feel more than a touch guilty about the array of extravagant shoes in my closet. After doing some reading about the association between foot conditions and poverty, I found that I have something in common with these unfortunate individuals, as they appear to experience bunions at a disproportionate rate.

According to a report in the Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association, bunions commonly affect homeless people. This is likely because their shoes provide poor arch support, which is known to exacerbate bony deformities. The article stresses improved podiatric care for individuals living in poverty, since many foot conditions can make it painful to get around and therefore make finding and retaining a job more difficult.

"This study is significant because it validates the issue that homeless populations are at a higher risk in developing lower-extremity pathologies, and that this issue poses both an economic and public health concern," according to researchers from the California School of Podiatric Medicine.

Perhaps it's time to start donating supportive footwear, bunion splints and orthotics to the homeless in addition to canned goods and clothing. Healthy feet are known to promote mobility and allow individuals to remain active in the community. Conversely, foot conditions can hold people back from working and even getting around without great difficulty.

I'll make my own TOMS-worthy pledge: For every pair of Louboutins or Manolos that I buy myself, I'll donate supportive foot devices to my local homeless shelter. What will you do, dear reader?