Share Your Soles sends shoes around the world

January 19, 2012 3:32:39 PM PST
A pair of old running shoes could help change the world. One woman has found a way to use them to help prevent disease, provide transportation and give dignity.

Shoes, shoes and more shoes. They are organized according to size, gender and potential for usefulness.

"For instance, the Amazon in Peru, it rains 300 days out of the year there so we'll send water shoes or flip flops and flooding areas like the garbage dumps in Mexico or Ecuador, Peru, Mexico we'll send the wellie boots," Mona Purdy, founder, Share Your Soles, said.

Running shoes are in the highest demand around the world. Walking over rough terrain without shoes makes people vulnerable to an increased risk of disease. Mona Purdy started the non-profit Share Your Soles ( in 1999 after traveling to Guatemala and seeing children paint tar on their feet in lieu of shoes.

"Ninety degrees and I'm running thinking 'Oh, my gosh I have three kids. They've never gone without a thing, much less shoes. Like who doesn't have shoes?' Then I found out the way they treat an infection is they just remove the limb," Purdy said.

Share your soles also ships bikes to provide ground transportation and medical equipment like walkers and crutches. This shipment is headed to a refugee camp in northern Uganda. The next load will go to Haiti.

"If you want a life-changing experience, go with me somewhere 'cause you'll come back different. You'll have an appreciation for the water turning on. I mean a sheet . . . ice cubes," Purday said.

Groups of volunteers come in daily to process the shoes for shipping. One mother was motivated by her 10-year-old son, who donated part of his Christmas money to the cause.

"We were out here for my son's fourth grade field trip and he was inspired and has been begging to come back. So we thought today we'd come back with my older son also and help out," Kelly Haubenresider, volunteer, said.

"When I first came here, when we watched the videos, it was kind of sad to see how many people don't have shoes and that made me really happy that I can come here and spend my quality time to sort out shoes and stuff," Cole said.

Share Your Soles also provides shoes locally in the Englewood neighborhood and at some shelters. The group is currently recruiting runners and sponsors for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon in October to raise funds for their efforts.