A woman with one foot set up a group so thousands of amputees could swap the shoes they don’t need.
Jo O’Callaghan, 49, has complex regional pain syndrome and allodynia – nerve pain – which meant wearing a show on her right foot was agony for years.
She eventually had her right foot – which she described as a “lump of meat” and “hated” – amputated.
While she still suffers with pain, her life improved, but the fashion lover was left with a wardrobe full of right shoes and boots she didn’t need.
She set up Facebook group Jo’s Odd Shoes to rehome her odd shoes.
Now it’s a network of 3,500 people who only wear one shoe, or odd shoes, due to illness of amputation, and has swapped 3,500 shoes in the last year.
Users post photos of their unwanted shoes, whether they are left or right and their size – which are then snapped up or swapped with others who have the opposite remaining foot.
Jo, from Tenterden, Kent, who can’t work due to her illness, said: “Everyone deserves to wear a shoe.
“It’s part of an outfit and we feel naked without it.
“I remember looking at this pile of odd shoes and thought it was so silly that I had them all.
“I couldn’t exactly take them to a charity shop as they weren’t a pair.
“So, I set up the page and it took off.
“There’s a man in the group who hasn’t worn a shoe in years because he didn’t see the point in buying a pair.
“Now he gets loads of odd ones off us and his grandchildren call him trendy.
“Doing this gives me something to get up for every day – even when I’m in pain.”
Jo woke up with a numbness down her right side in 2001, when her son George, 22, was just six months old.
Her pain progressed, and travelled all around her body, causing her right hand to ball up into an unmovable fist.
But doctors struggled to work out what was wrong, and it took 10 years until Jo was diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS).
“The pain got progressively worse,” she said.
“I lost the use of my right hand as it curled up into a fist.
“I had to have three operations to remove the tendons so it could be uncurled to look like a normal hand.
“It causes me no pain now, but I can’t move my fingers only my thumb.
“Eventually they were able to diagnosis me with CRPS when I saw a doctor who knew of it.
“It was a relief to get a name for it.
“People thought I was making it up.”
The pain travelled down to her right foot and caused it to stick out at a right angle.
“I had to use crutches to walk and then eventually I became reliant on a wheelchair,” Jo said.
“I hated my foot.
“The pain was unbearable and it as like a lump of meat.
“I thought about amputation for a while but my husband, Nick, 60, wasn’t sure.
“But while we were on holiday over Christmas in 2018, he told me to do it when he could see just how much pain I was in.”
Jo had her foot amputated in November 2019 and was relieved when she saw it was gone.
“Of course, there was some adjustment to having no right foot, but I didn’t have any shock that it wasn’t there,” she said.
“I knew a prosthetic wouldn’t be possible for me because of the pain.
“Because of my allodynia I can’t even get under the covers in bed because the feeling of them touching me is agony.”
Jo set up her swap page in March 2017.
“It started with me just trying to get rid of my 20 odd right shoes,” Jo said.
“Now we have so many people donating us shoes to other people who need them.
“If I wasn’t doing this, I wouldn’t be doing anything at all.
“It’s become a community.”