It’s a stereotype that ladies love their shoes, but in every stereotype there’s a tiny grain of truth. You can see this in the wide array of shoes that trek across Toyon Meadow.
Shoes like the favored Birkenstocks, Manolo Blahniks, Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars, sometimes even bare feet are sported by students. Shoes, though, are not just a fashion accessory.
“Improper support can lead to very serious conditions that don’t really happen from an ill-fitting t-shirt,” said Travis Haley, assistant manager of La Foot, a sports health and wellness center that specializes in the lower extremities. Haley has a degree in kinesiology and work experience in various physical therapy clinic.
La Foot offers shoe fittings, custom orthotics, sports medicine equipment, shoe testing and physical therapy.
Senior Jessica Dewey-Hoffman has “very flat feet” that she inherited from her father. She wears “everything from Birkenstocks to Tevas,” owns a pair of Chucks, a pair of Adidas cross-trainers, and a growing collection of heels and “fancy shoes.”
“When I was in high school, I had severe lower back pain. I went to a chiropractor and he basically said I was wearing shoes that did not support my feet and I should not be wearing Converse because they don’t have a good enough sole,” Dewey-Hoffman said.
“If people are going to pay attention to any apparel item, the most important would be their footwear, because there are a lot of problems that stem from the foot,” Haley said.
“The foot is the basis for postural balance. Without proper postural balance, we cannot adequately move around or function in our environment,” said Dr. John Hohner. Hohner is a doctor of osteopathy and an associate professor at the department of osteopathic medicine at Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine and lectures on musculoskeletal topics on the national circuit.
According to Hohner, when the foot is strong, it balances on a tripod support system consisting of the heel, the base of the big toe and the base of the smallest toe. When the arches become lax or fall, postural balance and function decrease.
“The proper spinal mechanics to stand upright and move around without strain is initiated by the back staying upright while we move,” said Hohner. “If the arches are fallen, then the musculature of the core of the body is strained trying to hold the person upright.”
“Specially designed shoes can reinforce and help hold up the arches,” Hohner said.
The fit of the shoe is one of the most important things to keep in mind, said Haley. “Function is valid, but if the shoe doesn’t fit right, then …”
“Specially designed shoes are important if they happen to be the right design for you,” Hohner said.
“Every ‘specially designed’ shoe is not perfect for everyone,” he said.
There are some shoes that experts agree are worse than others. “High heels were probably designed by people who hate women,” Hohner said.
“It tilts the pelvis and puts unnecessary strain on the spine,” Haley said. Heels also place a lot of pressure on the forefoot, which can cause or worsen forefoot issues such as bunions, Haley said. Bunions are a structural deformity of the bones and the joint between the foot and big toe.
Hohner warns against “stylish, narrow shoes.” “When the toebox of the shoe is not wide enough, it causes continual compression of the attachments of the toes to the foot.”
Over time, the continual rubbing results in bunions. “‘Sensible’ shoes with a wider toebox may not be fashionable or pretty, but will probably save you painful foot surgeries later in life,” he said.
“Chucks” are, though a popular shoe, “flimsy and unstructured,” Haley said. They do not offer much in the way of cushion, support, and the stability of the whole shoe.
Some people can wear them without a problem, Haley said, but most people don’t have the right kind of foot pattern.
“Good shoes are essential for people who are born with some slight deformity or imbalance of the lower extremities or spine,” Hohner. “They’re helpful for everyone else.”