• At my work, we often have food drives, toy drives, and you-name-it drives to try to help the needy.  These are all wonderful and commendable events.  However, currently we are holding a “shoe drive,” which I just can’t stand. It usually takes place around this time of the year,  when the weather gets cold, and people start thinking about those people who are less fortunate and have to struggle with the outside elements. The thought of which is heartbreaking. While the “shoe drive” is a good concept, the reality is it’s not good at all. As happens every year, the box is filled with old, musty, and smelly used shoes, which I cannot believe that someone had the audacity to expect someone else to wear.

    I remember how excited I was the day I got a used pair of penny loafers, when I was 13

    Growing up poor, we always shopped at second-hand stores and got hand-me-downs from friends and people in the community. I rarely felt embarrassed or too proud to accept the clothing. When I was really young and the kids at school made fun of me for not having the latest fashion, so I did have those moments of inside cringing. And yes, kids can be cruel! None the less, we had no choice, and we appreciated whatever we got. The truth is, I still like hand-me-downs – the generosity of them, the function and decrease of overall waste, and the concept of getting something for free. Who can beat that? I remember how excited I was the day I got a used pair of penny loafers, when I was 13. Everyone was wearing them and the pair I received already had the penny tucked into them. So, score! Yes, I’m dating myself but this is back in the 80’s when they were still cool. The soles were a little worn but I took those babies home and shined them up so I could wear them for a class party we had that Saturday night. I had some pain in my feet from the unevenly worn heels but that was a small price to pay (or so I thought) because, man, did those babies look good. How I loved those shoes…

    Within a few weeks of constantly wearing those shoes I developed pain in my knees– but I just kept on wearing them.  What I didn’t realize is that the uneven wear on the bottom of those shoes was changing my posture and the way I walked.  My body adjusted to the shape of the shoes.  Soon enough all my other pairs of shoes developed the same uneven wear along the outer heels. My foot shape had been permanently changed for the worse. Those shoes caused me a lifetime of knee pain and problems with my feet. As I got older (and heavier, of course) one thing I learned was to never be cheap or try to skimp on shoes. Everything else, I don’t really care about all that much (though my wife begs to differ). But good shoes are a must! All I need are jeans, t-shirts, a good pair of shoes and I’m happy. I don’t splurge on clothes but shoes are another thing. I generally don’t buy cheap name brands as they are often not made well and will ruin your feet. Bad shoes not only ruin your feet but eventually the problem crawls its way up your body and messes up your knees, hips, back, shoulders and neck. And it might not stop there – body pain can lead to migraines and other health problems.

    So, if you want to be kind to the needy, give them your entire used wardrobe but do NOT donate used worn-out shoes. Don’t even take hand-me-down shoes from anyone (including friends or family) as their misaligned gait will soon be yours! When there is a shoe drive I only donate new shoes so I don’t hand down a lifetime of problems to anyone else!