Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

23 June 2011

Sandals limit our daughters ability to be in the world

Dear Target, Payless and other sellers of shoes,

As the mother of an active seven-almost-eight-year-old girl, I am asking you to please, please, please stop selling a zillion types of sandals for summer and only a limited types of actual shoes, especially sneakers.

Here is a what the Target girls shoes site looks like:

Note that there are *85* different types of sandals and only 15 different types of sneakers. Yet the best sellers include a boot, a sneaker and an active sandal/shoe. The Payless site looks to have the same representation of sandal versus real shoe. We stick to the lower end of shoes because well, when you have a girl who tears through shoes faster than her foot is growing out of them, you don't want to invest a lot of cash into shoes.But even at Nordstrom there are three times more sandals compared to athletic shoes. OK, some of their sandals are actually functional...

Over the last few years the different type of sandals for girls has escalated and it is maddening. Why? Because outside of a few sturdy sandal styles, like the one pictured above, you can't do much in a sandal. Oh, sure your feet might look cute in them, but ever tried climbing a ladder in sandals? Or running in a race? The summer is the one time of the year when kids should be able to be kids. Running around like crazy! How are our girls supposed to know how awesome their bodies are, can be if they are restricted by their footwear?

The kid knows I have one big rule about shoes: No flip flops to school. Why? Just in case they get outside (her school doesn't have a consistent recess schedule), I don't want her running around the playground in flip flops. I remember what that was like. And since we're in Chicago, you can't always count on the playground being glass shard-free.

Just as some believe that stilettos are backlash against women's progress, I believe the influx of sandals is a way to keep girls immobilized during the summer.

It's not a big conspiracy in the conventional way, but it is happening because "being pretty" has become more and more important to younger and younger girls. And while flip flops have a function, a lot of pretty sandals don't. I'm not saying being pretty shouldn't be a factor for girls. But by the shear number of sandals versus functional summer shoes leads me to believe that shoe makers think girls (or their parents) want them to be pretty versus active.

Then again, maybe all these girls in their pretty sandals will just end up like me. Discovering the joy of running barefoot in the grass when the sandals just don't keep up with my life.

9 comments:

Some people look for conspiracy everywhere. I assume it doesnt get hot in the Summer where you live or do you think girl's feet don't get hot? My daughter has mild cerebral palsy and needed supportive shoes but socks and runners were not practical at daycamp in summer going to,the,beach, pool or waterpark. Kids are in a hurry, they don't dry their feet or lose their socks. I bought birkenstock type for my daughter, supportive and with straps to keep them on. Bare feet in runners smell awful. You know they make sandals for boys too and most boys here wear them. How does that fit with your theory?

I never said girls shouldn't wear sandals, merely pointing out that the shear number of sandals WAY out numbers the number active shoes. Of course sandals are appropriate for beach & pool time.

And have you ever seen boy sandals? Outside of flip flops, they are made for the child to be active, to run.

My point is that for girls to be active & discover their true body power, they need shoes that will keep up with them. Most sandals do not fit that description.

I've had a hard time finding appropriate sandals for my VERY active 5yo who hasn't mastered flip flops yet. She mostly wears sneakers and rainboots (whether or not it is raining).

Girls should be wearing shoes that accomodate an active life of play and physical activity. Fancy sandals are fun for dress up and special occasions, but the heels and delicate sandals found in most girls footwear departments are ridiculous and impede the natural right of the child to the freedom of play.

As someone who was raised in the Deep South, I'm with sreno7 on this.

Sandals *are* active shoes. Any shoes which lack the airflow of sandals are, in summer, heat-stroke shoes.

When I was an active kid, I had to be active in 95F days with 75%+ humidity, not to mention more than 150% the solar heat input (measured in W/m2) of northern areas. Trust me when I say that if I spent a day outside wearing shoes, my feet were more soaked in sweat than they'd be with water if I was swimming in them.

Yes, shoes may be nice for cluttered cities where it never gets warm even in the summer and there's 30+ discarded hypodermic needles per square foot, but for large sections of the US, they're simply not a realistic option during the heat of summer.

Maybelle wears sneakers for exactly the reasons you outline here. We live in Charleston, SC. Yep, her feet are hot, but I can't afford Chacos for her (I myself wear them literally all summer, every single day, but my feet aren't growing any more, so I've had the same pair for three years).

The whole world of girls' shoes, and girls' clothing in general, can make me outraged incredibly quickly. The double standards are infuriating!

@mokele--

*Some* sandals are active shoes but not all of them (by a long shot.) I followed the link provided to the Target Girls Shoes site and filtered for just sandals. There were 87 different pairs of sandals for sale. I saw 3 pair that looked like something that would be safe for a girl to run and climb in, and one of them was a bit iffy because there were decorative bits attached to the upper that could catch on things.

That is an interesting look at how many sandals vs. other kinds of shoes for girls. My daughter is 2 and I have found it hard to find affordable shoes that will protect her toes in the summer. Sandals are fine, but I don't want her toes exposed when she's running and climbing and most of the sandals don't cover the toes. I ended up with a pair of "boys" sandals similar to the girls' sandals pictured from target.

This comment has been removed by the author.

thanks for ALL the comments. This is what I was hoping for with this post. A conversation about sandals, what our girls can or can't do in them, and why we can't get more active shoes in the stores.