In her shoes

For International Women's Day, strong, proud and passionate athletic girls tell us why their shoes help define who they are.

As a mom of two girls who dabble in Instagram and Snapchat, I am constantly looking over their annoyed shoulders narrating their feeds like a crazed color commentator. "Photoshopped!" "Filtered!" "No one's skin looks like that!"

My feed, as I imagine is yours, is chock full of perfect bodies, smiles, skin, hair and clothes. Everyone is always having "#TheBestTimeEver." Even at 42, I have trouble remembering that none of the perfection is real.

The unrealistic perfection that girls see every time they check their phones ... well, often that's what they think they want to do or be or look like. They aspire to achieve something that isn't even real. Perfect, hairless, poreless, smiling women selling tummy teas for flatter stomachs. The influencers are influencing.

I am on a mission to show girls an alternate view. To elevate strength instead of beauty. To show real girls doing real things in real ways. "In Her Shoes" does exactly this.

From expert climbers to high school wrestlers to soccer players, their shoes and stories are all so varied, but at their core -- the same. Girls who are strong, proud and passionate about their sports. Girls who use their voices. Girls who are changing our views and the conversation.

Emily, 16, Running

An athlete for most of her life, this cross country runner and track sprinter says when she laces up her training shoes, she feels the most comfortable. And as cliché as it sounds, the high school competitor, who runs the 1,600 and 3,200, says she's even faster in her spikes. "I'm actually a very nervous person so once I go out there and train, I just clear my mind."

Catherine, 16, Wrestling

Her brothers were wrestlers, so she wanted to wrestle too. She enjoys the sport because competitors are able to test what they can do. Whenever she hears the words -- I'm not gonna wrestle her -- she becomes mad. CG, as she prefers to be called, just placed fourth in Georgia among girls and boys. "I really like this sport. You know, if you put in a lot of hard work, that's what you get."

Milan, 16, Track & Field

Milan says her feet allow her to do what she loves. In fact, her feet are going to make all her dreams come true. And whenever her powerful feet step onto the track, she feels unstoppable and proud and dedicated. "When I put on my spikes, everything in that moment goes quiet and it feels like time has stopped."

McLain, 18, Paralympic Swimming

After losing her eyesight at 8, McLain had to switch her focus from the Olympics to the Paralympics. Since then, she has been self-driven to accomplish her goals of competing in the Paralympic Games, which she did in Rio 2016. Today, she is working toward another goal -- winning a gold medal at Tokyo's 2020 Games. "These shoes are faithful. I choose to swim by faith and not by sight."
“I am a fighter in my everyday life as well as in the pool. I fight for the win.”

Ella Hart, 11, Soccer

The soccer newbie doesn't have any negative thoughts about trying the sport. Her pep talk to herself: "I am just gonna be great and I'm gonna do my best." Once she slips on her cleats, she's totally thinking "I'm gonna nail it."

Amelia, 12, Climbing

"What sports do you do?" is a common question people ask Amelia. When she says, "I climb," they respond with two letters: "Oh." Here's the thing ... she's unbothered by the reaction and isn't afraid to take chances while climbing. "My style for climbing is sort of dynamic and big, hard moves."

Kathryn, 14, Mountain Biking

Nope, Kathryn hasn't received any negative vibes because she's a female competitor in a sport typically dominated by guys. "They actually respect me even more for mountain biking and being a girl because, it's such an intense sport and I have to not be scared of getting dirty, they respect you even more because of it."

Maren, 8, Softball

Two things you should know about Maren. She plays hard and likes hitting the ball. If she had to select one word to describe her softball cleats -- irreplaceable. "Jennie Finch is my hero because she used to play softball, and she was like one of the best in the league, but she retired."

Sam, 15, Running

Sam always wanted to participate in sports and be active. It was the competition and social aspect that intensified her interest. So, at 8, she received her first running leg to play tennis and soccer. "When I was 12, I got one with a bendable knee and it helped me a lot. It was tough to learn to run with it, but it did not take long. I could run forever."

Nathalie, 18, Skateboarding

"I watched someone fly down a hill on a board. I witnessed their pure joy. I also witnessed them fall hard and ungracefully. But an essential part of the culture around this sport is about getting up, no matter how many times you fall. I decided that kind of resiliency, strength and joy was something I wanted to bring into my life," she says.
“When I'm wearing my beat-up, black high-top Vans, I feel like not even the steepest hill can intimidate me.”

Regan, 14, Ballet

"My shoes get really kind of weird. They get squishy at the top because you're hitting them so many times. There's a little block inside of it, and it gets worn out as you dance on it. If you use it for too long then you have to replace them. And your feet grow too. And they don't go normal sizes. I'm a size 10 and these are a size 6. So, they're narrower. The toe part is just the size. The part that you stand on, that's what they measure it off of."

Daniela, 10, Soccer

She's one of the shortest girls in her class, but also one of the fastest. Blame her soccer cleats, which she says give her a special superpower whenever she runs. Like the time she played indoor soccer, took a shot and the black-and-white ball soared over everyone like an eagle and went in. "I really want to get into the big leagues, like [be] famous."

Kya Elon, 12, Softball

One time, Kya slipped while competing, and should have sprained her ankle. Since her shoes were high-tops they protected her, she said. Reflecting on all her athletic sneakers, she concluded: "I don't think the shoes give you a superpower. I think it's just the way you feel, the confidence you have."

Sariah, 13, Volleyball

"I want my next pair of shoes to take me to college because I want to get a scholarship and play volleyball when I'm in college."

Ella, 10, Competitive Cheer

She saves all her cheer shoes, even the ones with stains. Each shoe holds a specific memory, Ella says. "When I'm competing in these shoes, I feel ready to go."

Maddy, 17, Modern Dance

"I stutter sometimes. I have a hard time. But when I dance, especially contemporary, since it is so interpretive, it's almost acting. My solo, I have like a whole 10 seconds where I'm just standing and I'm looking into the crowd, and all you're looking at is my face. I feel like when I dance, it's just so much easier for that to explain how I feel rather than me like verbally explain it."

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