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Sneakerheads, lovers of those red bottom shoes, chaco-holics. You can learn a lot about somebody from the shoes they wear.  Yes, shoes protect our feet from the elements, saving us from scrapes and bruises. But shoes aren’t just practical; shoes are a form of self expression and a celebration of fashion.

The students at U of M take their shoes very seriously. Whether they’re hurrying to class in a pair of Nike Air Force 1s or chilling on the Diag in a pair of Chacos, Michigan students take pride in their shoes.

When I set out to photograph the shoes of students, I expected sneakers to be the most popular shoe. As one might expect, athletic shoes are students’ go-to for physical activity and exercise. “I got my sneakers in Miami because I wanted to go on a run and I forgot my running shoes at home,” School of Information Sophomore Annabelle Phillips said.

While athletic shoes are designed to give you adequate comfort and support during exercise, they have also revolutionized the fashion industry. Converse were originally released as a basketball shoe in 1917, but have since become a staple fashion item.  “These are the Earth Day shoes by Converse that dropped on Earth Day,” School of Public Health Senior Mariyah Kapuswal said.

At Ross, MBA student Becky Epstein was showing off her bubble-gum pink high tops. “These shoes are really special to me! I really like basketball shoes and I feel my best when I am wearing them,” Epstein said.

Shoes allow individuals to show off their personalities. “These have bees on them with flowers. I thought they were really pretty,” Ross Freshman Daniel Newbold said. The fun design adds a splash of personality to the everyday sneaker.

Furthermore, shoes allow individuals to be a part of subcultures and identities. “These are a great way to rep Michigan maize and blue,” SMTD and LSA Senior Jackson Roth said. His Nike Dunk Lows ‘Michigan’ make him feel like a Michigan Wolverine.

Talking about shoes would not be complete without addressing fashion and trends. Footwear can make or break one’s outfit, and students go to great lengths to style their shoes. “These are the most painful shoes to break in of any shoes I’ve ever owned,” Third year Law student Alora Fleenary said. Sometimes, fashion comes before practicality.

Many students go for timeless and established aesthetics. From what I’ve observed, the most commonly worn brand by students was Nike, which offers a classic and clean look that can be paired with any outfit. 

You can find just about any brand and style of shoe on campus. Shoes are not just a way to keep our feet safe; they are also a means of self-expression.

Just look down and see for yourself what the shoes of students on campus are telling you.

Staff Photographer José Brenes can be reached at