SAN DIEGO -- The high-top sneakers cost $215 at a San Diego boutique, but the designer is giving them away to migrants before they cross to this side of the U.S.-Mexico border.
These are no ordinary shoes.
A compass and flashlight dangle from one shoelace. The pocket in the tongue is for money or pain relievers. A rough map of the border region is printed on a removable insole.
They are red, white and green, the colors of the Mexican flag. On the back ankle, a drawing of Mexico's patron saint of migrants.
On this side of the border, the shoes sit in art collections or the closets of well-heeled sneaker connoisseurs. On the other side, in Tijuana, it's a utilitarian affair: Immigrants to be are happy to have the sturdy, lightweight shoes for the hike _ or dash _ into the United States.
Their designer is Judi Werthein, an Argentine artist who moved to New York in 1997 _ legally, she notes.
On recent evening in Tijuana, after giving away 50 pairs at a migrant shelter, Werthein waved the insole and pointed to Interstate 8, the main road between San Diego and Phoenix.
"This blue line is where you want to go," Werthein, 38, said in Spanish.
"Good luck! You're all very courageous," she told the cheering crowd of about 50 men huddled in a recreation room after dinner.
"God bless you!" several cried back.
Werthein has concluded that shoes are a border crosser's most important garment.
"The main problem that people have when they're crossing is their feet," Werthein. "If people are going to cross anyway, at least this will make it safer."