Can a shoe grow with a child? Christchurch construction worker designs stretch shoes and is now seeking government funding

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Daniel Winter, a daytime construction worker, has designed a stretch shoe that he hopes will save families on clothing costs. Callaghan Innovation has expressed interest. Photo/George Heard

It’s a costly problem that plagues parents: small children change shoe sizes every few months.

But a young Christchurch entrepreneur thinks he has a solution.

Daniel Winter, 25, has designed a pair of shoes for preschoolers that can grow up to five sizes with the child – an innovation he hopes will relieve the budget of low-income families .

It’s an ambitious project, and Winter has an unlikely background as a construction worker without a design background.

But he caught the eye of the government agency Callaghan Innovation, who encouraged him to develop a prototype stretch shoe.

Winter said he got the idea when he saw young children of friends and families churning shoes before they were worn out.

“I also remember how many shoes me and my siblings grew when we were younger. When I walked past a pair of my dad’s sheep shearing moccasins, I put two and two together and I started developing the idea from there.”

A digital mock-up of a stretch shoe designed by Daniel Winter, a construction worker in Christchurch.  He hopes to create a shoe that can go up to five sizes and save families money.  Photo / Provided
A digital mock-up of a stretch shoe designed by Daniel Winter, a construction worker in Christchurch. He hopes to create a shoe that can go up to five sizes and save families money. Photo / Provided

He was alarmed by child poverty rates in New Zealand and reports of children having to walk barefoot in a first-world country. About 126,000 New Zealand children, or 11%, live in

material difficulties

meaning their families cannot afford essentials like a new pair of shoes.

Winter’s preliminary design is a shoe made of rubber and a type of foam, with stretchy components that open up as the child grows.

“Imagine a top-down view of a rose growing from a bud and how the petals overlap as they grow,” he said.

For now, the idea is still a 3D computer model. The next step, Winter said, was to research materials and create a working prototype.

“From there, we can do some durability testing and fine tune the minimum/maximum age range, but it will be mostly shoes for younger kids when their feet are growing the fastest.”

Winter has big dreams, hoping to one day work with governments and charities to help children living in poverty and low-income families struggling to keep their children’s shoes on. This forced him to work part-time in his construction job to focus more on his design business, Acorn Shoe Company.

An alternative design for the stretch shoe.  Photo / Provided
An alternative design for the stretch shoe. Photo / Provided

He pitched his design directly to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s office – which is responsible for child poverty reduction – and was referred to the Department of Business, Innovation and Development’s Department of Science and Innovation. Employment.

A spokeswoman for Callaghan Innovation said the agency had initial discussions with Winter about its product design and recommended some next steps.

“We can’t wait to see how Acorn Shoe Products grows,” she said.

Winter said he hasn’t received funding but is aiming for a Get Started grant, which covers 40% of R&D costs up to $5,000 and includes a one-time payment when a project is complete.

Entrepreneurs experimented with stretch shoes overseas, but they were mostly targeted at third world countries.

The Shoe That Grows, an adjustable strappy sandal, was launched in Portland, Oregon in 2014 and sells for around US$20 through a system in which people donate to have them shipped to children in the poorest countries. poorer.

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