The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has advised schools to not make leather shoes mandatory for students and opt for canvas shoes as part of the uniform instead.
“There is no dispute that leather comes at a huge environmental and animal welfare cost. The production of leather involves toxic chemicals, whose use can be reduced if the usage of leather shoes isn’t made mandatory in schools,” says a CBSE circular dated February 18.
Calling the move a ‘tangible step forward’, the CBSE circular makes the point that the protection of environment needs to be practiced as much as it is preached.
CBSE chairman Vineet Joshi, however, clarified CBSE was advising the schools and the ultimate decision would be left to them.
Stressing on the eco-friendly nature of canvas shoes, Joshi added, “Canvas shoes, more resistant to wear-and-tear, are anyway prescribed for sports and can be used for everyday wear, eliminating the need to maintain multiple pairs.”
The move has been enthusiastically received by schools with the principal of Delhi Public School, Bhopal Ajay Sharma saying the advisory will be implemented next session. “We will ask students to wear black canvas shoes of a good brand. Besides being comfortable, students don’t have to carry sports shoes,” he said.
Health experts, however, are divided in their opinion. While some specialists point to the disadvantages of flat-soled shoes, like those made of canvas, others say the quality of the shoe is key.
“If your shoe has a nearly paper-thin sole, it’s not suitable to absorb the shock that the back, knees or ankle may receive due to stepping on uneven surfaces. It also tends to strain your calf muscles that may turn stiff over a period of time,” said a senior orthopaedic at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences.
But other doctors think canvas shoes are safe to wear if the quality of footwear is good. “Medically there is no reason why these shoes should cause a problem if worn-out shoes are discarded quickly. The shoes are fairly stable and less slippery but the quality makes a difference since only good quality shoes have sturdy soles,” said Dr SKS Marya, chairman of the Max Institute of Orthopaedics.”
(With inputs from Rhythma Kaul)