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Letter to the editor

When helping hurts

To the editor: I applaud the Fairbanks sorority’s efforts to provide shoes to 2,500 Africans. However, I question whether shipping our used shoes to Africa hurts more than it helps.

Wouldn’t it be better if people in Africa were empowered to purchase their own footwear made in their own country, designed for their hot climate and rainy season instead of sending them our aging footwear?

The majority of our Western footwear, including most athletic shoes, is designed with a stiff sole and tapered toe box that has resulted in 77% of U.S. adults being plagued with bunions and other foot, knee, hip pain and/or misalignment issues not seen in parts of the world where people walk around barefoot or in flip-flops.

Having recently been plagued with runners knee, I just recently replaced all of my footwear with minimalist lightweight shoes with larger toe boxes that allow for more natural foot movement and flexibility, which, ironically, imitate more primitive footwear, in order to realign my toes, strengthen the muscles in my feet and promote a natural arch. Having traveled to rural areas in Zambia, Uganda and South Africa, I would not want my African friends to walk for miles in my used shoes.

Wouldn’t it be better to collect monetary donations to enable 2,500 Africans to choose their own footwear so that they can continue to walk with naturally aligned feet and walk with their heads held high?


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