Developing the Sports Shoe

September 30, 2013 by TOMS


This Fall, we are so excited to introduce our latest Giving Shoe offering, the Sports Shoe. Our Giving and Product Development teams combined forces to make this shoe come to life for TOMS Giving in urban areas in the United States and sports programs abroad. To tell the story of the Sports Shoe, we had a chat with Gloria, our Impact and Innovation Specialist, and Ryan in Product Development. 

How did the idea for a Sports Shoe come about?

Ryan: The idea for a goes back quite a while, before we even had a Chief Giving Officer. We saw certain holes and needs [in the types of shoes we were giving], but not a lot of concrete data to base things on. At TOMS, we wanted to go out and find a bunch of different types of shoes that could meet the needs of various climates and terrains. One was the Winter Boot, and one was the Sports Shoe.

How was the shoe developed?

Gloria: We did have some feedback surveys that asked Giving Partners for input on the durability of the Canvas Giving Shoe in the terrains and climates where our partners were distributing. They often came back showing needs beyond just the canvas shoe. Giving Partners are integrating shoes in sports programs and working in a multitude of climates and environments, so we [learned that we] should be giving shoes to match those.

Ryan: We approached developing the shoe by visiting various factories and discovering what existed. We collected a lot of shoes—an overwhelming number of shoes—to see what would be best to give the children we serve.

Gloria: When we settled on a model, we did testing with kids in the United States and Swaziland. When testing, there are certain things we always want to measure for on the Giving Team: durability, comfort and if a child likes it (for cultural sensitivities).

Ryan: And for us on the Product Development and Production side, we conducted lab testing. The lab told us exactly what the durability is and where it will wear down over time, but there’s only so much you can learn in a lab. Field testing is important because when you get the shoe in the field, it could be completely different.

What did you learn during testing of the Sports Shoe? Did you make any modifications after the results?

Gloria: First, we learned that this sports shoe really was durable and kids liked it. Also, while we were originally only going to offer a black sports shoe, we learned through feedback that girls didn’t want to wear black shoes! So, we rolled out a white version of the sports shoe. We also learned older kids didn’t want a shoe with adjustable straps, so we now have some styles with Velcro straps and others with laces.

Save The Children

What were some of the challenges you faced during development?

Gloria: Clearing customs is always a challenge in some countries. During testing, it took us almost three months to clear customs. This ending up pushing back all of our deadlines for testing and rollout.

Ryan: We are always learning. Implementing processes and getting everyone on the same page was challenging. We’re not lying when we say, “Giving is hard.” But ultimately, testing proves to our Giving Partners that we take giving seriously and that we’re committed to giving the best shoe we can.

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What are you most proud of about the Sports Shoe?

Ryan: I hadn’t really thought of it until I saw the U.S. Giving video and Joey’s story for the first time. I had a “holy sh*t - we did THAT” moment. We reached the goals we had, and ones we didn’t know we had.

What does the Sports Shoe mean for U.S. Giving?

Gloria: As we looked to expand the U.S. strategy, the Sports Shoe allowed us to focus on more urban areas in the United States.

Ryan: This is the first time we’re really focused on giving more at home. The Sports Shoe is a game-changer for us. It opens doors to showcase that we’re giving — and giving well — in our own country. We can help those in our own backyard.

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To learn more about TOMS U.S. Giving, visit