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12-Toed Runner: 'Hurts Every Time I Put My Shoes On'

Swapna Barman prepares for Asian Games
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 9, 2014 11:41 AM CDT
12-Toed Runner: 'Hurts Every Time I Put My Shoes On'
A heptathlete from West Bengal, India, deals with an extra challenge: 12 toes.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – An 18-year-old heptathlete from West Bengal, India, is preparing for her first big international competition—and facing a challenge few competitors must address. Swapna Barman has six toes on each foot, and she hasn't been able to find a pair of shoes that works, Reuters reports. "Even after all these years, it still hurts every time I put my shoes on," she says. "It's worse during the running events. I try to adjust, but my toes curl under pressure."

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Barman has tried locally made shoes intended to help her, but "the grip was poor and the pressure points were all wrong," says her coach. And though she recently qualified for her first Asian Games, "she is not a star athlete for whom Adidas or Nike will design special shoes with precise pressure points, perfect grip, and other specifications," the coach adds. Ideally, she'd have seven good pairs of shoes for the heptathlon, but that would cost some $930, and Barman grew up underprivileged. She may have to wear cheaper versions, but Barman isn't distracted. "I don't think about the problems anymore. I have to adjust to whatever is available," she says. (Read more heptathlon stories.)

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