No shoes? No problem.
Not for the new TOMS club, but they are working to raise awareness of those who do need shoes.
On Tuesday, April 16, the SUNY New Paltz club joined other people around the world participating in TOMS’ “One Day Without Shoes,” an event where people go through the day without their shoes.
The club tabled outside of the Lecture Center from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. to inform those who didn’t know about the event. While tabling, Club President Alana Costenbader had a station set up called “Experience the Walk” which consisted of three large drawers filled with dry grass, rock and dirt.
“We encouraged people to ‘experience the walk’ by walking on each type of terrain to feel what it’s like to have to walk on something other than grass or concrete like we have here,” Costenbader said.
About seven of the club members participated in the event and there were several students who normally walk around campus barefoot.
“Freshman year of college, I went shoeless on my own. I got escorted out of the Stop and Shop in New Paltz because they said it was hazardous and that you had to have shoes on to shop in their store. Last year, I went solo again and took my shoes off directly after field hockey practice in the morning,” Costenbader said.
According to the TOMS website, campus clubs nationwide seek to work “together to raise awareness and share the TOMS story and movement at their school by hosting events and activities.”
“Initially, TOMS was solely a shoe company in which you bought a pair of their shoes and they would match that pair and give a pair to a child in need in an undeveloped country,” Costenbader said. “I became interested in TOMS my senior year of high school, 2008, when I saw a friend of mine wearing them. I checked out the website, bought a pair of shoes, and have been interested ever since.”
Currently at 15 members, the club started up this semester and Costenbader said having the backing and support of the TOMS Company is really comforting, especially being a new club.
Club member Emily Azer, a third–year interpersonal/intercultural communications major, said she was nervous about going barefoot, possibly hurting her feet or feeling embarrassed.
“Being in New Paltz you’d think a barefoot person would get no attention, but I was incorrect. After the second head turn as I walked through campus with no other club members by my side, it hit me,” Azer said. “Of course I was for the most part fine with it because I was doing it for a cause, but I could not imagine going to school every day without a pair of shoes.”
Kellie Gainey, a second-year sociology major, said the event would have been more effective if it took place in a city where everyone always wore shoes.
“It’d stick out more,” Gainey said. “But since it’s a norm here to not wear shoes in the warm weather, it would be hard to tell the difference between cause and culture.”
Kirstie Juenger, a fourth-year contemporary music studies major, believes events like these are meant to start a reaction.
“It has more to do with raising awareness than first handedly doing something about a problem,” Juenger said. “Not wearing shoes for a day causes people to ask questions, both to you and to themselves… So raising awareness is the only thing they can do in hopes of gathering many people together to make a difference.”
Moving forward, Costenbader said she wants to improve advertising and get more people involved in the club.
“I just want people to take a step back and realize all the stuff they do have and what they take for granted,” Costenbader said. “Shoes aren’t something that we think about, it’s a little thing and starting with shoes is just one step.”