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Sore Feet: one day without shoes.

It's 1977, I’m seven years old, and I'm hopping barefoot across the hot concrete of Brighton Prom heading for the loos. I get there with seconds to spare, struggle out of my swimsuit, put my bottom on the cool seat and breathe a sigh of relief. Then I gingerly pick my way back across the pebbles ‘ouching’ and ‘owwing’ to my mum, who’s lying on a towel reading. Five minutes later, I need the loo again. This time, I pee in the sea.

Easter 2012, I take the campervan to the Welsh coast: I unpack the buckets and spades, I set up the swing ball, and I hammer in the windbreak. I spread out my towel as my mum did; I get out my specs as my mum did; I keep the lunch bag zipped against sand (as my mum didn’t) and I lean back and open my book.

A shadow falls across the page.

'Mum, I need a wee.'

I squint up at the little face. Another appears beside it.

'So do I.'

I sigh as my mum did; I replace my bookmark as my mum did; and I say ‘don’t bother with shoes’ as my mum did. Ten minutes later, I’m tending a seven year old's bleeding toe. Thankfully, I’ve got a first aid kit in the van and I fix up the injured digit with antiseptic and a plaster in no time at all.

The following week I participate in One Day Without Shoes. I walk barefoot around Telford International Centre – where I’m manning the Liberti stall – eliciting strange looks from delegates; I carry boxes of magazines across the gritty car park ‘ouching’ and ‘owwing’ in a manner reminiscent of 1977; it starts to hail and there’s broken glass on the pavement, but I’ve come in the van so I’ve got my first aid kit ready. Amazingly, I get through the day without needing it.

Shoes are on my mind: my faithful Converse All Stars have finally died; I need to recycle them satisfactorily and purchase more ethical replacements. I've been green-googling.

I discover the Variety Club sends repairable shoes (I’m not sure my Cons come under this heading) to African cobblers to repair and sell at market, providing the cobblers with income, and their customers with cheap shoes. You'll find Variety Club shoe drop-off boxes in car parks at big supermarkets.

I also discover Ethletic trainers by Fair Corp: they look just like Cons, but they’re made from Fairtrade organic cotton, FSC fairly traded rubber and are constructed under a fair trade project in Pakistan. They cost the same as my All Stars.

And if you’re used to ‘cheapies’ consider this: the workers harvesting the cotton and rubber for cheap trainers are inevitably those who are struggling to buy shoes for themselves and who don’t have access to a handy first aid kit when they find themselves with foot injuries; injuries that without proper care could lead to foot amputation and life-threatening illness.

Read last month's post: gangster cows and bramble jelly

Emma is a columnist and feature writer for Liberti Magazine.

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