Degree Show project will combat skin disease

Protective shoes made from recycled car tyres and bottle tops

Date posted

19 May 2016


Last updated

16 July 2019

A student has created an innovative range of footwear made from recycled car tyres and plastic bottles to help prevent a debilitating disease which causes intense pain and traps African communities in poverty.

Tungiasis is an inflammatory skin disease caused by tiny ‘jigger fleas’, which live in the sand in Sub-Saharan climates. The fleas burrow deep into the feet of their victims to lay eggs and often have to be cut out with a scalpel.

Jigger fleas are particularly prevalent in rural areas of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Severe swelling leaves many sufferers unable to walk and infection can lead to amputation and even death if left untreated.

Fraser Hunter, a final year product design student at Edinburgh Napier, believes the footwear he has created could be the answer.

“Tungiasis doesn’t receive much attention in the Western world because it doesn’t tend to kill people like malaria but the disease can be crippling to African communities and the hundreds of thousands of people who are infested with jigger fleas each year,” said Fraser.

“Many people in rural East Africa are very poor and walk barefoot or wear open-toed sandals, which allows the fleas to attack their feet.

“The pain and swelling stops adults from being able to walk to work and prevents children going to school, trapping people in poverty.

“The shoes I have created, which are for wearing through the day and at night, have been made using a combination of polyester mesh, cotton, silicone and recycled car tyres and plastic bottles.

“While the day shoes can be made using traditional cobbling methods, the night mesh shoes can be put together using a simple sewing kit and could be compared to a mosquito net for feet."

Fraser is now seeking funding to take his footwear range to Africa and help local communities develop the skills they need to manufacture the shoes.

“The idea is to help people help themselves,” said the 22-year-old, from Blackhall, Edinburgh, who is a former pupil of the city’s Royal High School.

“We have tested the shoes as best we can here in Scotland. Ideally, a shoe manufacturer will help fund the project in the short-term and demonstrate the shoes work in Africa.

“In the future, the plan is for the traditional craftsmen in these communities to teach local people to make these shoes using recycled materials.”

Fraser is one of more than 200 students exhibiting their work at Edinburgh Napier’s Degree Show in and around Merchiston campus, which is open to the public from 20-29 May.