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  • Jo-Anne Ebensteiner

New Shoes Create Higher Self-Confidence for Lower Income Students

The Foundation is Raising Funds for 2500 Pairs of Shoes

For students from low-income backgrounds, the path to academic and social success can be an uphill battle. Poverty, lack of resources, and societal stereotypes can all chip away at a child's self-confidence and belief in their own abilities. And, the behaviors of individuals, whether positive or negative, are significantly influenced by social constructs and social context. However, an innovative study at Texas Christian University led by Dr. Sam Sayed has demonstrated one simple way to help boost self-efficacy in low socioeconomic youth: a pair of new shoes.


Self-efficacy is a person's self-confidence, their belief in their abilities to achieve and accomplish goalsSayed studied the effect of receiving a new pair of athletic shoes on self-efficacy with underprivileged youth; the results showed significant increases in students' academic, athletic, and social engagement. Both a pre- and post- new shoes assessment looked at areas of academic perseverance, learning difficulty, and future life aspirations, specifically digging into details of academic achievement, sports engagement, social interactions, and self-perceptions, like self-confidence. 

Within just weeks of having new shoes, the research team measured student self-efficacy scores, and they soared: 21% increase in academic confidence; 45% increase in social engagement and interaction; 26% increase in athletic confidence

After having new shoes,100% of the children in Sayed's study believed in their ability to overcome challenges, even if the work is hard. While pre-new shoes, only 35% of the students felt confident in expressing their opinions when faced with disagreement among classmates while in post-new shoe assessments, 100% felt confident in their abilities to express disagreement with classmates. These markers of academic perseverance and self-confidence in social scenarios are profound. They point to a sense of assertiveness and communication efficacy essential for future success.

Armed with healthy self-esteem, students who receive new shoes actively engage in extracurricular activities, join school clubs, and forge supportive friendships – all factors that research shows contribute to long-term success and wellbeing.

“I used to be so shy and worried about having a best friend," admits Jasmine, a middle school student. "But I got some cool shoes, then a girl invited me if I wanted to join her book club at school. I was scared, but I did it! Now, I love to read, and we hang out and talk about books. I even started writing a story for my baby sister.”

"When you grow up facing economic hardship, it's easy to start doubting yourself and feeling like the deck is stacked against you," explains Ellen Goodman, Director of The Foundation for PSUSD, a nonprofit that incubates innovative ideas and creative initiatives to help open doors, minds, and opportunities for students to flourish and prosper. This year marks the third year The Foundation is raising funds for 2500 pairs of shoes in their Shoes for Students program.

"At the end of the day, confidence is one of the most valuable resources we can provide to these kids," said Goodman. "By giving new shoes, students get a chance to develop genuine confidence in their talents and capabilities, we're giving them a tool to write their own success stories."

Self-confidence is one of the strongest predictors of positive social and academic outcomes. With simple strategies like providing new shoes to students in poverty, we can help improve self-confidence and self-efficacy. 

In neighborhoods where external circumstances might breed insecurity, the work of rebuilding self-confidence and self-efficacy is planting the seeds for a brighter, more equitable future, empowering low-income students to overcome obstacles and unlock their full potential. Because when we believe in ourselves, suddenly a world of opportunities opens up – both academically and socially. It's a small investment that yields incredible returns.


References: Sayed, S. The effect of material capital (name brand shoes) plus interpersonal capital (mentorship) versus material capital alone on academic, athletic, and social self-efficacy in children in low socioeconomic communities: a randomized controlled study. 2024. 2-8;19.


The Foundation for PSUSD is a 501(c)(3) that funds innovative educational initiatives not covered by tax dollars to create pathways for students to realize their potential, flourish and prosper. The Foundation and our partners support a dozen initiatives, ranging from robotics and FAA student drone training to arts education where students perform with Broadway musical artists, from college readiness mentoring and college tours to building wellness centers in schools, all aimed at increasing achievement, opening minds and possibilities for student futures. Learn more at:


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