Stepping into Support at Island Feet

March 1, 2016, 5:55 AM HST · Updated February 29, 11:42 PM
Kiaora Bohlool · 0 Comments
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“Happy feet!”

It’s a phrase you hear often at Island Feet specialty shoe store in Kahului, every time another contented customer — and their feet — walk out the door. And many weren’t so happy when they walked in: they were in serious pain.

“Plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, sciatica, alignment, diabetic people with circulation issues,” says Island Feet’s Ty Seitz, running down the long list of potential concerns. “Anywhere from a flat foot to a high arch, we all need support, we need to align our bodies.”

Island Feet features running shoes, rubber slippers, house slippers and even high heels, all with alignment and arch support in mind. Taking it a step further, the store will also create a custom support known as an orthotic, which is measured to your individual footprint and can be taken in and out of different shoes.

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“You can fit walking shoes, heels, wedges, pumps, any type of shoe, slippers; you can put a support in there and get something to help,” says Seitz.

A popular voice of local radio, morning deejay Ed Kanoi, has used crutches almost his entire life, from the effects of polio as a baby.

“There’s no real muscles in my left leg and it’s about an inch shorter than my right side,” says Kanoi, who co-hosts the morning show on 99.9 KISS-FM. “You learn to live with, for me, it’s a major limp, so you learn to live with the back pain and my right leg takes a lot of the weight of my body, so it’s just worn out.”

He recently started wearing supportive shoes from Island Feet, and put the custom orthotics to the test. His cowboy-boot test.

“Whenever I go out I like to wear a pair of cowboy boots, it’s something I do, but for me they’re slightly uncomfortable walking around a lot,” explains Kanoi. “I went to a concert the other night, and put the orthotics in the boots, and went out, enjoyed the concert, got home and I go, ‘Wow, that was really cool!’ I was comfortable, my legs didn’t hurt like they normally would after an evening out and it was just fantastic.”

Island Feet opened on Maui in November 2014. The owners have two similar orthopedic shoe stores, Step Ahead, on Oʻahu. They stock top-quality brands like Vionic, made by a podiatrist, and Oofos, which Seitz says are similar to Crocs but with different styling, softness and support.

“This is what they called recovery footwear,” he explains. “At the end of the 10-hour day on your feet, the end of your marathon run, you want to release the pressure, absorb that pressure, but you still want to maintain the arches in your foot.”

Seitz also says at Island Feet, Hawaiʻi’s ever-popular rubber slipper can provide support.

“You don’t have to be in a shoe all the time,” Seitz explains, and says softening the impact of your sole on hard ground can help prevent future pain. Meaning? Wear house slippers if you have hardwood, cement or tile floors “so you’re not walking barefoot around the house, which is the worst thing for us; to walk on those hard surfaces.”

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    A wall of shoes at Island Feet, an orthopedic shoe store on Dairy Road. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

    A wall of shoes at Island Feet, an orthopedic shoe store on Dairy Road. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

    Ed Kanoi, morning radio personality at 99.9 KISS-FM. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

    Ed Kanoi, morning radio personality at 99.9 KISS-FM. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

    Common foot ailments. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

    Common foot ailments. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

    Slipper wall at Island Feet in Kahului. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

    Slipper wall at Island Feet in Kahului. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

    Shoes at Island Feet in Kahului. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

    Shoes at Island Feet in Kahului. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

    Ty Seitz of Island Feet in Kahului. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

    Ty Seitz of Island Feet in Kahului. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

    Shoes at Island Feet. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

    Shoes at Island Feet. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

    Jamie Dicenzo, first-time customer at Island Feet. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

    Jamie Dicenzo, first-time customer at Island Feet. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

    Supportive slippers for sale at Island Feet. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

    Supportive slippers for sale at Island Feet. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

    Steve Seitz with Island Feet helps customers. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

    Steve Seitz with Island Feet helps customers. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

    Supportive shoes at Island Feet. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

    Supportive shoes at Island Feet. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

    Karen Rhodes, repeat customer at Island Feet. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

    Karen Rhodes, repeat customer at Island Feet. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

    Compression socks for athletes and patients, for sale at Island Feet. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

    Compression socks for athletes and patients, for sale at Island Feet. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

    Seitz says often, new customers become repeat customers.

    Like Karen Rhodes of Kula, who was in looking for slippers. She bought three pairs of supportive athletic shoes a few months back, after all the bones disintegrated in the top of her right foot.

    “It’s been tremendous,” she says. “I had my right foot reconstructed, and these are the only shoes I can put on my feet, basically.”

    Kathleen Barker works just a few doors down at Maui’s Quality Dry Cleaning. Barker says she doesn’t have any specific foot problems, except that she’s standing on her feet all day long. After trying on a pair of slippers from Island Feet, she says it was like “standing on marshmallows,” compared to “walking on cardboard” with her old thicker slippers. Now she tells everyone about the shoe store.

    Jamie Dicenzo from upcountry had never been to Island Feet before, but needed help with foot pain. She says she got it, immediately after slipping on a pair of supportive sandals.

    “It did make a difference as soon as I put the shoe on, I could just feel that support under my arch and everything,” she says. “To put these on and feel that relief, it was a bit difference. It was right away!”

    At the family-run business, Seitz says they truly enjoy what they do, and consider it “more of a community service” than a store, helping people who might otherwise miss a day of work, or a day or play with family, because of pain and mobility problems.

    “When you get someone walking in with canes and walkers and they leave dancing, forgetting their canes, it’s a big goosebump thing,” he explains. “It makes you feel amazing; you’re helping people in the community where they can live their lives now. Some people, they can’t live because they gotta go home and sit, they can’t play with their kids, they can’t do anything. So now they can go out and enjoy Maui, and enjoy the good stuff.”

    In other words? Happy feet. New, contented customer Dicenzo sums up it up simply.

    “When your feet feel good, you feel good,” she smiles.

    Kiaora Bohlool
    Kiaora Bohlool has been a journalist since 1998. With chefs in her family, she has a lifelong appreciation for food...

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