01 June 2011

There was a young penguin who needed a shoe

Lucky's Teva shoe prevents sores from
developing on his feet. Photo by
Sheri Horiszny.
USA - Lucky the Humboldt penguin might have an impaired foot, but he can now walk, hop and swim like any other penguin, thanks to a customised shoe made for him by adventure-footwear company Teva.

When Lucky hatched at Santa Barbara Zoo on 15 April last year, he was examined by the zoo’s veterinarian and appeared normal and healthy. But as he grew and began to walk, the chick started to limp. Lucky was examined and x-rayed and it was found that while nothing was broken, the bones in his leg were not developing normally. The Zoo tried different treatments, including splints, but nothing corrected his leg.

The idea for the shoe came when Lucky was two months old. He had developed sores from putting pressure on the wrong parts of his foot while he hopped, so Zoo veterinarians and keepers treated the sores and began wrapping the penguin’s foot and padding the heel.

"We remembered that years ago, Teva had fashioned a special shoe for an elephant with foot issues in San Antonio," said Zoo CEO Rich Block. "Teva's headquarters is located just a few miles from our zoo and we thought, if they can make a big elephant boot, they may be able to make a little penguin one."

Teva’s design team responded immediately and volunteered hundreds of hours to design and make the shoe. Being a penguin, Lucky has several particular needs. Not only does the shoe have to cushion his foot, it has to be lightweight, provide traction, easily shed water, and above all, comfortable. There were several versions of the shoe, each one improving on the previous version with different materials, waterproof fabrics and designs.

Very generously, Teva has committed to providing shoes for Lucky for the rest of his life.  The shoes are changed daily so they can be washed.

Teva president Pete Worley said Teva were "honoured to be part of this story".

"Our product team is experienced at collaborating with athletes, and while Lucky’s challenge was certainly unique to us, his needs were not dissimilar to those of any world-class kayaker or trail runner."

"We went through a bit more trial and error due to the language barrier, but Lucky knew what he was looking for in performance footwear, and he let us know when we had it right. In Lucky, we found a new friend and the perfect Teva athlete."

UK children's book author and illustrator Sarah Aspinall is writing a book about Lucky, due to be published later in the year. Proceeds of the book sale will be used to support Lucky.


Teva collaborates with Santa Barbara Zoo to design life-saving shoe for “Lucky” the penguin, 17 May 2011, Teva
A special shoe for a "lucky" penguin, 17 May 2011, Santa Barbara Zoo

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