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TOMS Shoes - Casual Shoes for a Cause

Updated on September 7, 2011
Women's TOMS shoes in red (my feet), Men's TOMS shoes in burlap (right)
Women's TOMS shoes in red (my feet), Men's TOMS shoes in burlap (right)

The TOMS Mission

If you haven't heard of TOMS Shoes, I'm sure you've at least seen them. The distinctive design is patterned after the Argentinian alpargata, and is instantly recognizable. The company was founded by Blake Mycoskie, who visited Argentina while competing on the second season of The Amazing Race. Returning there for a vacation in early 2006, Blake had the famous "One for One" idea -- for every pair of shoes sold, he would donate a pair to a child in need. Today, over a million pairs of shoes have been donated in more than 20 countries all over the world.

One Day Without Shoes

On April 8th, 2010, TOMS sponsored One Day Without Shoes, encouraging those of us who take footwear for granted to spread awareness about the importance of the cause. All over the world, people went barefoot and held events in support of the TOMS mission. Among them were many celebrities, including Kristin Bell, Cherlize Theron, the Jonas Brothers, Alicia Silverstone, Jason Mraz, Rachel Zoe, Heather Graham, and Jordin Sparks. Demi Moore even made a shoeless appearance on the Jay Leno Show.

While this was actually the third annual One Day Without Shoes event, 2010 is the first year that TOMS managed to capture the kind of media coverage and celebrity support to get much attention. The phrase "one day without shoes" even managed to make the top 40 hot searches on Google. With a quarter of a million people participating in the first annual event, it looks like One Day Without Shoes will continue to grow every year.

Blue Sumatra Women's TOMS
Blue Sumatra Women's TOMS

Where to Buy TOMS Shoes

If you want to get in on the action, you can buy TOMS shoes online, directly from their website, or you can try to find a better deal on eBay. Of course, you run the risk of getting a rip-off, but you'll get more of a variety of prints, since many are special-edition-only. You'll probably also get the shoes cheaper, since wholesalers pay a discounted rate and can resell individual pairs for less. If you want to try before you buy, TOMS are sold at Nordstroms, as well as many mom-and-pop local shoe stores. You can use the store locator on the TOMS website to find a shop near you.

How much do TOMS shoes cost? A brand-new pair direct from the site will set you back anywhere from $44 (for a pair of the basic alpargata-style shoes) to $98 (for their wrap boots). If this seems expensive for a pair of casual shoes, it is, but the cause is a worthy one. Unfortunately, the product is sometimes lacking.

Quality Concerns & Copycats

When I first heard about TOMS, I bought pairs for myself, my other half, my mother, and my sister. I was thrilled to support the efforts to put shoes on the feet of needy children, and I like the look. Unfortunately, within a few months, my partner's shoes had completely worn through in the sole, at the ball of the foot, and my own pair had split and frayed by the heel. TOMS was kind enough to send us a new set free of charge, with the usual excuses that this is not a representation of their product, etc. That's all well and good, but the second time around, they're doing exactly the same thing. My sister's pair split in a way similar to mine.

This leaves me wondering, are little kids running around in Honduras and Haiti with shoes that fall apart after a few months of wear? Maybe it doesn't matter as much, since they outgrow them, but wouldn't it be better to make something that lasted, and could be passed down from one child to another? I still like the TOMS model, but I'm not yet sure how much business I'll be giving them in the future.

There is a TOMS alternative, made by Skechers, called Bobs Shoes. They look almost exactly alike, and they also run a one-for-one donation campaign. I don't particularly want to support such a blatant rip-off, but I am a little curious as to whether Bobs wear better and last longer.

Do you have a pair of TOMS or Bobs? Have you had quality issues? Leave your comments below.


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    • Neville  Zhu profile image

      Neville Zhu 

      6 years ago

      The man who has made up his mind to win will never say " Impossible".

    • missolive profile image

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      6 years ago from Texas

      Hi Maddie - Great hub! I'm spotting more and more TOMS at my middle school campus. They have become very popular with the young crowd. I do like them. I might have to pick up a pair myself. They do look comfy and the styles are cute.

      Thank you for sharing

    • Storytellersrus profile image


      6 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      Maddie, my college daughter told me about these shoes last summer. She wanted a pair and we could not find them in Denver. I guess we could have gone to Nordstroms! They are or were the rage in Boston where she goes to school. I imagine they are dorm shoes now, considering the weather. She enchanted me with the concept. I love that our kids support this sort of International concept of giving. Her world is so much bigger- or perhaps smaller- than mine.

      I appreciate that you do not accept Toms Shoes without raising the question of their value. Too often we leap into causes- okay, I leap into causes that on the surface are so amazing, only to discover that the donated milk powder is being added to polluted water in Africa, for example. This short-sightedness does not help and can even hurt children. Discernment is a huge issue.

      Thanks for sensitizing me to the value and the reality of Toms. I have not tried Toms or Bobs. Is there a Carols? (lol)

    • Maddie Ruud profile imageAUTHOR

      Maddie Ruud 

      6 years ago from Oakland, CA

      Interesting, earthybirthymama! I hadn't heard of them. Thanks for sharing.

    • earthybirthymama profile image


      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Hi Maddie,

      Have you heard of Oliberté Footwear? They were on Dragons Den a few years ago looking for funding, they lost, not due to having an inferior product, but because the company's ethical stand, and commitment to manufacturing in Africa although commendable, was not seen a s profitable. Here's a link

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      7 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you for your informative hub and very detailed introduction.

    • livelonger profile image

      Jason Menayan 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      My thoughts exactly. But, the company's premise is still sound and it does a very good thing for so many people in need.

    • Maddie Ruud profile imageAUTHOR

      Maddie Ruud 

      7 years ago from Oakland, CA

      @livelonger: Geez. I'm not sure how anyone who calls themselves an "activist" could avoid knowing FOTF's stance. Not to mention how you could accept a speaking engagement without doing your homework.

    • livelonger profile image

      Jason Menayan 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      @Maddie: Mycoskie spoke at a Focus on the Family, an anti-gay hate group, event. After googling this, I found this update:

    • franciaonline profile image


      7 years ago from Philippines

      This is the first time I've heard about TOMS shoes. The cause behind the TOMS business is a very noble one. Whoever thought of the idea "One Day Without Shoes" which was sponsored by TOMS must be somebody with a vision for society. Great hub!

    • Eiddwen profile image


      7 years ago from Wales

      a very interesting and useful hub.

      Thanks for sharing.

    • Maddie Ruud profile imageAUTHOR

      Maddie Ruud 

      7 years ago from Oakland, CA


      Wow, what group? Definitely hadn't heard about that.

    • profile image

      Earth Angel 

      7 years ago

      GREAT Hub Maddie!

      I LOVE the Tom's business model; alas the quality of their shoes is going to have to catch up!

      I hope more corporations follow his lead ~ it will take this kind of forward thinking to help turn the tide against the greed-creed!

      Blessings Always, Earth Angel!

    • livelonger profile image

      Jason Menayan 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      I had just read about these, too, but read that the founder had partnered with some anti-gay Christian fundamentalist group. He might have had the best of intentions, but partnering with a group like that was a little off-putting for me.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      This is great! Someone was just telling me about TOMS earlier this week and I was unfamiliar with the brand. It's nice to read more about it! What a fabulous thing they're doing.

    • Pinkchic18 profile image

      Sarah Carlsley 

      7 years ago from Minnesota

      I think TOMS has a great approach. I applaud their efforts to give back to the community.

    • PiaC profile image


      7 years ago from Oakland, CA

      I've seen quite a few people in SF walking around in ripped Toms. They seem to tear the easiest from the area around the big toe, which is not a good look for anyone. To be honest, this was the main reason why I've stayed away from this brand. I like the branding, but I think that the product has not caught up yet.

    • Maddie Ruud profile imageAUTHOR

      Maddie Ruud 

      7 years ago from Oakland, CA

      They are really comfortable, and versatile, which is why I'm torn.

      You also bring up a good point about donating money directly. Actually, Blake, the founder of TOMS, started a for-profit business because he thought it would last longer and result in more "donations" than a charity... and I think, in our consumer-based society, he's probably right.

    • ComfortB profile image

      Comfort Babatola 

      7 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

      From the look of these shoes, they must be really comfortable. Though I'm all for comfort, I'm not one to walk around in flat shoes. And especially one that's bound to rip.

      The $98 will do much more if sent directly to one of the Help Haiti's foundation.

      Nice shoes. Great hub!

    • supplies expert profile image

      supplies expert 

      7 years ago

      I have two pairs of TOMS, they're really comfortable to me, but I guess I could agree they're a lot of money for not so much quality/quantity. The shoes themselves must not cost all that much to manufacture at all. But I enjoy helping out people as well and I can't say I don't enjoy buying a pair of new shoes here and there ha, so yeah I figure might as well help out the shoeless populations of the world.

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 

      7 years ago from Jamaica

      I like the look but after you mini review I don't think I will be buying one, more over the price is out of my budget. If I am going to spend that kind of money on shoes I have to know they will last a while. $98 US is over $8000 JA, so that closes my case.


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