TOMS Shoes - Casual Shoes for a Cause
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.
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.