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Ex-Clarks boss takes next step for African charity venture

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 06, 2012

Lance Clark in Africa working with the staff making shoes for Soul of Africa

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The man who was once in charge of world-renowned Somerset-based Clark’s shoes is this week launching a revolutionary new form of footwear that harks back to human origins in more ways than one.

Not only does the new “Vivo Barefoot” range hark back to primitive times when humans went shoeless – but it will also be made in an area known as the “cradle of humanity” where its manufacture will give employment to poverty-stricken Ethiopians.

Orphans in Ethiopia will also benefit from profits being fed back into special schemes.

Lance Clark, a sixth generation member of the Clark’s Shoe family, has been developing the revolutionary footwear as part of the work he does for his non-profit organisation, Soul of Africa.

“The new shoe we’re launching will be made in Ethiopia, which is one of the poorest places in Africa,” Mr Clark told the Western Morning News in an exclusive interview. “It will be very important in giving unemployed people jobs there – and the problem with orphans there is as bad as anywhere.”

Mr Clark makes this comment in light of the fact that Soul of Africa – which he helped form nine years ago – has so far helped more than 10,000 orphans in the AIDS/HIV-stricken region of KwaZulu Natal in South Africa.

As Mr Clark explains in a special feature coming in Saturday’s WMN, Soul of Africa raises funds from profits created from the sale of shoes which have been manufactured by local people in Natal.

Now the same model is to be launched in Ethiopia.

“I visited the country recently and saw orphans living in a little shack in the most appalling conditions,” he said. “I asked one girl what she wanted to do and she told me she wants to be a doctor. So, as soon as we are making funds, we are going to finance people like this girl to be a doctor.”

When it comes to the revolutionary shoe design, Mr Clark quotes recent medical research that has found that people who habitually walk barefooted suffer fewer knee, hip and foot problems.

“The human foot developed when the rain forests in Africa started to dry up and the monkeys started coming down from the trees,” says Mr Clark.

“There’s a lot of evidence which shows that people who go barefoot avoid most of the problems. When you are walking long distance or running and wear padded trainers you land on your heel, which is not the way the good Lord designed us.

“If you go barefoot you ‘forefoot-land’ which cushions the impact. Heel-landing jolts your knees and hips.”

Soul of Africa have worked with Vivo Barefoot to develop the new range of footwear that has been designed to create ultimate quality and comfort.

“The patented sole provides maximum protection, while giving all the benefits of being barefoot,” said a spokesman. “In addition to the quality and comfort Vivo Barefoot is produced sustainably using recycled materials where possible, with efficient and eco-friendly production techniques, produced in independently monitored ethical factories.”

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