If you arrived at the Salvation Army last Thursday wearing an old pair of shoes, you could exchange them for a “reconditioned” pair.  There were posters up on Vancouver’s low income Downtown Eastside announcing the event.

Some of the running shoes the Sally Ann gave away on Thursday looked new, some looked very slightly worn. There were running shoes for both men and women, and black leather shoes with thick rubber soles for men as well. There were new socks, free, for everybody.

The shoe give away seemed to be an excuse for the Sally Ann to get your foot in the door — so that medical personnel could get a look at your feet.

They had nurses inside and, according to the poster, a doctor. When people arrived, they were immediately asked if they wanted a foot bath. One woman said they cut the cankors off her feet. Another woman said they told her that he feet indicated that she might have diabetes.

If you didn’t want a foot bath, they didn’t pressure you; they let you go ahead into the free shoe section.

The poster was misleading in that it announced that people could come between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. to get the free shoes. Truth is, they didn’t have enough shoes to last anywhere near that long. At 10:20, they were telling people that there would be none left by 1 p.m. One woman went in at about 10:40 and said she got the last pair of size 9 women’s runners.

It wasn’t too hectic inside the shoe give away room which generally functions as a shelter, because they only allowed five people in the door at a time. Everybody else had to wait in a line up on the sidewalk.

A few of the women trying on running shoes looked like they were a little high. A couple of the men were talking about criminal charges they or their pals were up on. One joked with the receptionist, “Do you charge by the meter or the foot?” She laughed, and he laughed even louder at his own joke.

I didn’t see anybody leaving with major brand name running shoes on their feet, just the cheaper brands.

An older woman digging through boxes of shoes kept telling people not to dig for their own shoes, that she would do it for them. She seemed stressed.

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