Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Native American Shoes -- Let Me Buy Shoes That Fit, Please!

Open Letter to Nike

Dear Nike,

In the world of blogs mine is a very small and unimportant one, but I hope that you will notice. I'm writing about the recent article on announcing that you have made a shoe specifically for Native Americans and will be providing them to tribal organizations, but that they will not be available to the general public.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE let me buy a shoe that fits!

I am one of about nine million Americans of mixed blood, meaning we have Native American and other ancestry. As a person of Native ancestry, I have various genetic traits common to my Native ancestors -- dark hair and big noses may be the stereotype, but as we have known in my family for generations, it's diabetes, feet, and teeth that really make the difference.

Just like your article describes, I have a wide ball of the foot and high arch. All my life I have been obliged to wear shoes that don't fit properly. I will never forget the odyssey I undertook once when I was a teenager -- My mother and sister and I visited 22 shoe stores before we finally found a shoe that fit me. What was it? A lady's platform shoe. No, this gentleman cannot wear that to work...

To get a shoe wide enough that it doesn't pinch the ball of my foot gives me a shoe that is too long and too large in the heel. The heel slops and chafes. I have a tendency to trip over the long toe. Even though it's a larger shoe, it's not tall enough for the arch of my foot so the top of my foot hurts all the time. I hate wearing shoes -- I am barefoot as I write this -- because I will only wear shoes when forced to by law, meaning at work, in stores, etc. I even go barefoot to take the trash out in the middle of winter, and I don't live in Florida. Given a choice between wading barefoot through six inches of snow to take the trash out, or wearing shoes, snow wins.

I can't buy shoes for looks. Fashion is irrelevant. Simply put, it is so hard to fit my feet that I buy the first pair that sort-of fits -- because once you've tried on a dozen or more pairs where you can't even get your foot in, or make your feet hurt before you've even laced them up, you take what you can get.

So Nike, your Air Native shoe sounds wonderful. But I don't live on a reservation and I don't have access to Indian Health Service or any other Native American agency. Please please let me buy your shoe anyhow. Please make your Native American shoe publically available. Millions of Americans of Native descent will thank you.


(Mixed blood of Scotch Irish, Cherokee, and Yamacraw descent.)

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