Shoes that Grow With a Child

Because International has made shoes that can grow up to five sizes in five years, so no child has to go without.

When you have a growing kid, be prepared to factor new shoes into the budget every so often. It's a fact of life for parents in the United States, but some families don't have the luxury of such considerations — new shoes aren't even an option every few months or every year.


Li Zhou from The Smithsonian recently wrote up an inspirational story of innovation about a shoe that grows. The story begins with a man named Kenton Lee. He was volunteering at an orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya, when he noticed a little girl had outgrown her shoes. She had cut them open, just to have something on her feet, but even so, her toes were curled over the edges. It was then, Lee recalled to Zhou, that he began thinking:

“Wouldn’t it be nice to have a pair of shoes that could adjust and expand? That would make a lot of sense for these kids.”

He founded the nonprofit Because International with the simple idea of "making things better by making better things."

He began brainstorming ideas for shoes with the aims of creating “a pair of shoes that can grow as much as possible and last as long as possible, while costing as little as possible.” It's a tough goal, especially considering Lee had no prior experience designing shoes. So, he went to the experts for help.

“We started by contacting all the big companies — Nike, Adidas, Crocs, Toms — to see if they’d like to take the idea and make it happen. Nobody was interested.”

Julie Sunderland, director of program-related investments for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, wouldn't be surprised by this interaction. Big companies like to know their markets before they go in and know how they can benefit.

The good news is, eventually, his organization was able to connect with another nonprofit called Proof of Concept, which had some designers with experience with footwear. It was able to come up with a working prototype, which became the rugged sandal Because International has now. It has compressed rubber soles and adjustable rubber straps that can increase the length and width of the sandal, allowing them to last for four to five years if need be.

"My biggest motivation is that I want kids to be in the best possible position to succeed and to keep them a little bit happier and healthier. To see them lose some of these chances because of something as simple as a pair of shoes really breaks my heart."

To read more about Lee's story of innovation, check out the full story on The Smithsonian.

Photo Credit: Demilked

Related Articles

Human skeletal stem cells isolated in breakthrough discovery

It's a development that could one day lead to much better treatments for osteoporosis, joint damage, and bone fractures.

Image: Nissim Benvenisty
Surprising Science
  • Scientists have isolated skeletal stem cells in adult and fetal bones for the first time.
  • These cells could one day help treat damaged bone and cartilage.
  • The team was able to grow skeletal stem cells from cells found within liposuctioned fat.
Keep reading Show less

How exercise helps your gut bacteria

Gut bacteria play an important role in how you feel and think and how well your body fights off disease. New research shows that exercise can give your gut bacteria a boost.

National Institutes of Health
Surprising Science
  • Two studies from the University of Illinois show that gut bacteria can be changed by exercise alone.
  • Our understanding of how gut bacteria impacts our overall health is an emerging field, and this research sheds light on the many different ways exercise affects your body.
  • Exercising to improve your gut bacteria will prevent diseases and encourage brain health.
Keep reading Show less

Giving octopuses ecstasy reveals surprising link to humans

A groundbreaking new study shows that octopuses seemed to exhibit uncharacteristically social behavior when given MDMA, the psychedelic drug commonly known as ecstasy.

Image: damn_unique via Flickr
Surprising Science
  • Octopuses, like humans, have genes that seem to code for serotonin transporters.
  • Scientists gave MDMA to octopuses to see whether those genes translated into a binding site for serotonin, which regulates emotions and behavior in humans
  • Octopuses, which are typically asocial creatures, seem to get friendlier while on MDMA, suggesting humans have more in common with the strange invertebrates than previously thought
Keep reading Show less