In the state of Bihar in India we have seven shoe technicians. Six of these work in our referral centres or at established shoe units and one of the technicians works in our mobile foot care unit. This travels to 63 leprosy colonies in 24 districts of Bihar providing 3000 pairs of protective footwear in a year.

Meet Santosh. He is one of our technicians in Bihar and also provides physiotherapy. He described to us the work that goes into producing so many shoes.

Lepra shoe technician SantoshA typical day for Santosh:

  • I arrive at the workplace between 8.30 and 9am and finish any work from the previous day
  • If there are patients waiting I take their measurements and ask the person to do the self-care techniques while we prepare the footwear
  • In roughly an 1 hour and 30 minutes the shoes will be ready and we continue to make shoes and see patients throughout the day
  • If a patient lives nearby sometimes we’ll deliver the shoes to them
  • Usually, after a 9 hour day, we pack up and go home around 6pm

Santosh says it usually only takes an hour and a half to produce a pair of customised protective shoes. For those with a severe disability to their feet though, this can take a bit longer, sometimes up to three hours. But how do the technicians make such amazing shoes in so little time? Santosh talks us through the process:

  1. Put the feet in a standing position on a piece of blank paper and draw a map of the foot
  2. Cut the map to the exact foot shape and put this on 10mm of micro cellular rubber to cut to the same size
  3. Rub down the rubber on the outside to get a rough surface
  4. The client then can choose their design and colours for the upper straps and we attach these to the frameLepra shoe technician Santosh
  5. Check that the shoes fit the client before pasting them with a setting solution
  6. After waiting 10 minutes for them to dry, present them to the client and explain to them how to use the shoes and how to look after them

We asked Santosh about what kind of reaction he gets when he presents a new pair of shoes to a person affected by a disease. He says they are usually very happy and grateful to have such shoes available for free.

Many of them have mentioned that without this footwear they would struggle because of recurring ulcers and the stigma related with the diseases.

To make our patients happy, we always work to create new models and designs that look just like ordinary footwear.  We always think that if we make footwear that looks the same, it will reduce social and self-stigma.