Voices

The worst running shoes you’d never want to wear

Athletes research the best running shoes to enhance their performance. But in many places, children walk for water, to school, and play in bare feet or terrible shoes.

Athletes research the best running shoes to enhance their performance. But in many places, children walk for water, to school, and play in bare feet or terrible shoes.

Today’s photo series shows some of the worst running shoes you’d never want to wear … let alone walk 6 kilometers in.

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I painfully walked as the sun slowly peeked over the horizon and began meandering its way up over the water, creating a gorgeous, late-summer Midwest morning. The beauty of the Great Lakes surrounded me, with Lake Huron to my left and Lake Michigan to my right. But the beauty of what surrounded me was marred by the throbbing in my feet.

You see, each year during Labor Day weekend, the Mackinac Bridge — a 5-mile bridge that connects the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan — shuts down. Walkers and runners alike are bussed from the Lower Peninsula to the Upper Peninsula, where they begin the annual Mackinac Bridge Walk. I was in northern Michigan visiting a friend’s family that weekend when they spontaneously decided we should all do the walk. But they had a lake house, so I had only brought flip flops for my weekend beach getaway.

Masked by naivety in my younger age, I said I could totally do it in my $5 flip-flops. It only took a couple miles in to realize the error of my ways, but I had to get to the other side. By the time I did, my feet were blistered and beaten.

Flash forward more than 10 years, and I was following two young girls, 5-year-old Grace and 3-year-old Judith, in northern Uganda as they walked barefoot to gather dirty water for their families. These girls walked about 6 kilometers every day with heavy jerry cans on their heads — without any footwear. I couldn’t even fathom it as I followed closely behind them with my fancy trail runners protecting my feet.

While runners, walkers, and athletes around the world search for the best shoes to enhance their athletic performance, children living in poverty often work, travel, and play in the worst shoes. Our photographers share some of the worst shoes you wouldn’t want to run or walk in.

 

Athletes research the best running shoes to enhance their performance. But in many places, children walk for water, to school, and play in bare feet or terrible shoes.
Children in Zambia play soccer barefoot. Children living in poverty often don’t have shoes or proper shoes to protect their feet. (©2017 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren)
Athletes research the best running shoes to enhance their performance. But in many places, children walk for water, to school, and play in bare feet or terrible shoes.
Ten-year-old Agnes collects water from a polluted swamp in Uganda. The swamp also contains worms, which entered her body through her feet one day when she was gathering water. She had to be taken to the hospital to have them removed, and in the process, her toe became deformed. (©2017 World Vision/photos by Jon Warren)
Athletes research the best running shoes to enhance their performance. But in many places, children walk for water, to school, and play in bare feet or terrible shoes.
Ten-year-old Agnes collects water from a polluted swamp in Uganda. The swamp also contains worms, which entered her body through her feet one day when she was gathering water. She had to be taken to the hospital to have them removed, and in the process, her toe became deformed. (©2017 World Vision/photos by Jon Warren)
Athletes research the best running shoes to enhance their performance. But in many places, children walk for water, to school, and play in bare feet or terrible shoes.
Tarikul Islam, 14, works at an auto shop in Bangladesh wearing only flip-flops. He wishes he could attend school, but because his family earns so little money. Instead, he works 12- to 14-hour days in dangerous conditions for about $25 a month to support his family. (©2017 World Vision/photo by Laura Reinhardt)
Athletes research the best running shoes to enhance their performance. But in many places, children walk for water, to school, and play in bare feet or terrible shoes.
Orphan Jeanette Ingabira, 14, wears the plastic sandals she received a year ago — her first pair of shoes. Jeanette has been an orphan since she was a baby, is HIV positive, and gets worms about five times a year. The worms enter her body through her feet, so the shoes are an incredible gift. She says, “Shoes protect me from stones that harm me. And also in the rainy season, shoes protect me from the worms that get me.” (©2007 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren)
Athletes research the best running shoes to enhance their performance. But in many places, children walk for water, to school, and play in bare feet or terrible shoes.
Seventeen-year-old Wayand displays his shoes with their crushed heels and ground-in dirt. These shoes made a long journey from Afghanistan to Serbia as he fled his country. (©2015 World Vision/photo by Laura Reinhardt)
Athletes research the best running shoes to enhance their performance. But in many places, children walk for water, to school, and play in bare feet or terrible shoes.
These slippers are the only shoes Syrian refugee boys have to brave the cold weather. Here, they gather at a World Vision blanket distribution in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. (©2014 World Vision/photo by Ralph Baydoun)
Athletes research the best running shoes to enhance their performance. But in many places, children walk for water, to school, and play in bare feet or terrible shoes.
Mursheda loves to jump rope — even if she’s barefoot. She lives in Bangladesh and works doing domestic labor for another family to help support her grandma because her parents have both left. (©2017 World Vision/photo by Laura Reinhardt)
Athletes research the best running shoes to enhance their performance. But in many places, children walk for water, to school, and play in bare feet or terrible shoes.
These shoes carry John, 74, each day as he cares for his seven grandchildren alongside his wife, 64-year-old Belita, in Zambia. (©2017 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren)
Athletes research the best running shoes to enhance their performance. But in many places, children walk for water, to school, and play in bare feet or terrible shoes.
Kakule Lavie, 5, shows his tattered shoes that partially protect his feet from the lava on the streets in Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Mount Nyiragongo towers above the city, and when it has erupted, the streets become dangerous for people, especially children, to pass on. Without shoes, the children have to walk barefoot across the rough lava fields. (©2007 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren)
Athletes research the best running shoes to enhance their performance. But in many places, children walk for water, to school, and play in bare feet or terrible shoes.
Other children show their shoes in Goma, DRC, as well. (©2007 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren)
Athletes research the best running shoes to enhance their performance. But in many places, children walk for water, to school, and play in bare feet or terrible shoes.
One Syrian refugee at an informal tented settlement in Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, doesn’t have matching shoes. (©2016 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren)
Athletes research the best running shoes to enhance their performance. But in many places, children walk for water, to school, and play in bare feet or terrible shoes.
A student in Zambia wears holey shoes to school this day. (©2013 World Vision/photo by Laura Reinhardt)

On average, women and children walk 6 kilometers every day to gather water that isn’t even safe to drink, many of them in poor — or no — footwear. But the state of their shoes or lack of them is often quite low on their list of concerns. This water makes them and their families sick, the children spend their time walking for water rather than going to school, and there are dangers along many of these routes: animals, difficult terrain, and people with evil intent.

On May 19, tens of thousands of people will come together for World Vision’s Global 6K for Water to change this! Every step we take is one they won’t have to, so start your walk for clean water today.

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