Have you ever tried to stuff a squirmy child’s foot into a shoe and thought there must be a better solution? Or spent too long watching your child struggle to learn to put shoes on by himself? We’ve all been there, particularly parents and caregivers of children with special needs, such as braces on their legs, ADHD, and autism.
Or maybe you’ve had to help an adult put on shoes or manage to put on your own shoes when you don’t have the full use of your body. People who suffer from paralysis, muscular dystrophy, and other diseases and disorders often struggle to use footwear. For seniors lacking dexterity and strength, shoes can also be a difficult thing to navigate.
But now there’s a solution, created by Darin Donaldson and Billy Price, the latter of which suffered a three-story fall at the age of 18 and broke his neck, resulting in the inability to move many parts of his body. Price struggled to perform daily tasks like putting his clothes on, and, while he discovered strategies for getting most articles of clothing to cooperate over time, shoes were the one item he could never quite figure out.
Together with his business partner, Price worked to create a shoe that looked good and that he could put on by himself. His goal was to create a universal design that would be functional and useful for all people, regardless of the type of special need.
Donaldson and Price’s company, BILLY Footwear, was the solution to the problem, an invention built on the “principles of inclusion and perseverance.” Their team designs and produces shoes built especially for kids and adults with special needs. Their products make life easier, both for the wearers and for the people who put their shoes on them.
These special shoes have zippers that go all the way around the top, allowing the tongue to flip up and out of the way. Then the child’s feet can be gently fitted into the shoe, and the top can be zipped up again.
“I’m so excited about these shoes I just found Laura at Nordstrom!” one mom of a child with braces on her legs wrote on Facebook. “Where have these been all my life?! Unbelievably easy to get on over braces! She got the lavender and the gray high tops. So cute too!”
This unique design makes getting ready and getting out the door faster and easier, and it also helps kids learn to put shoes on without help. This is particularly useful for children who don’t meet the “milestone” of putting on their own shoes by the time they’re in school, which is often the age when children are expected not to need daily help with their shoes anymore. Children whose strength, dexterity, or motor skills aren’t yet up to the task will have a much easier time getting used to BILLY shoes than traditional shoes.
“No more Velcro. No more stuffing your feet into shoes. Step in unobstructed, be empowered, and live your story as it is meant to be told,” the website states.
BILLY shoes are available in four attractive adult-sized styles for special needs adults and seniors, as well as 24 styles and color options for children.
You can find the kids’ designs, ranging from $45-$55, at retailers like Nordstrom, Zappos, Kids Foot Locker, and Amazon. Adult styles, ranging from $60-$90, are available through the BILLY website.
Meet Billy Price and see BILLY footwear in action in the video below.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?