April showers are gone and the sun is shining. The ground is dry and the skies are a clear vibrant blue. It’s that time again: flip-flop season.
While footwear choices are as diverse as the student population at UC Santa Cruz, this summer staple is criticized as the cause of many health problems such as poor posture, joint aches and overall health. These consequences cause some students to reevaluate their sandal choices.
Some students embrace the stereotype of UCSC’s hippie style with tie-dye and Birkenstocks, while others step out in the latest sandal trends like the gladiator sandals, so flat they are simply a barrier between the sole of the foot and the ground.
Sonja Giordani, a first-year Stevenson student and anthropology major, chooses to wear gladiator sandals despite health concerns. Dancing ballet for seven years and running track for three, Giordani wore these strappy sandals while taking into consideration the hills on campus and the stress they put on her ankles and arches.
“[The sandals] are just another form of flip-flops, but more comfortable and unique,” Giordani said. “I’ll wear them probably only three a week or so, but I’m happier with cuter shoes.”
According to Eric McDougald, an employee at O’My Sole, a shoe store in downtown Santa Cruz, the best types of shoes are the ones with a wide toe-box, shaped more like a foot, so that it won’t put more pressure on the toes.
“Well technically, we were born without shoes so they aren’t really necessary,” McDougald said. “I get about a 50 percent split of the people who shop in here that need arch support for their high arches and those who can walk around with flip-flops all day without any problems.”
Wearing shoes that are too small can cause problems such as ingrown toenails or bunions, a painful bump at the joint of the big toe that angles toes outward. McDougald explained that a bunion is a build-up of calcium on joints due to nerves in the foot constantly being bumped and having no arch support.
Concept shoes, or orthopedic footwear technology that are designed to support high arches or cushion certain areas, are best for those who need extra care for their heel plates and toe joints.
A lack of arch support for people with high arches can result in plantar-fasciitis (deterioration of the arch) or Morton’s neuroma (pain in the heel and foot when removing footwear). Manufacturers such as Earth, Arcopedico and Birkenstocks are some of the more popular and recognized brands for arch-support care.
“Birkenstocks are popular with those who already a fan of them,” McDougald said. “Some people are afraid to try them, or they’ll tell me they have been looking for them for years. It’s a more of a style thing.”
Julie Kimball, a UCSC yoga instructor, said is usually confronted with questions about aches from injuries and stress in her classes explained that a lack of foot-care can affect our brain’s processing abilities to learn.
“We use our arches like architecture, we support and balance other parts of our body [with our feet] to support our brain,” said Kimball.
When asked what she thought were the best shoes, Kimball said it’s whatever makes you happy. “Fashion is a tool for confidence” she said. “If it helps you, go for it.”