Thursday, 06 September 2012
By Johna Ferguson
Have you ever thought much about feet? Lately I’ve noticed how people walk. Many walk with a grimace on their face like their feet are sore or hurt and I began to wonder why. We were born hopefully with two feet with ten toes that were made to propel us through our lifetime.
There are 26 bones in one foot plus joints, muscles and soft tissues. Our feet must bear our weight from when we took our first steps until we die. Of course we are born barefoot and most of our early ancestors probably walked without any foot coverings.
When our primitive ancestors had a need for foot coverings to protect their feet from jagged rocks, burning sand, snow and other rough terrain, they used just a simple piece of plaited grass or rawhide which was strapped to the foot.
Over time those simple coverings became hand sewn like the native American Indians moccasins or the espadrilles (sandals) worn in warm countries all over the world. The oldest intact shoe goes back to 9,000 BC in California but anthropologist Erik Trinkaus found evidence of shoes dating back to 40,000 to 25,000 years ago.
The invention of machine-sewed shoes with an attached sole began in the 17th century. Until about 1850 all shoes were made on straight lasts; there was no difference between the right or left shoe. Comfort and style obviously were not that important at that time.
So what causes all the feet problems? Wearing shoes is the answer.
“Non-shoe wearers have better flexibility and mobility, stronger feet and fewer deformities.” [New York Times – 8/14/1991]
Many doctors have done research on this subject and most find that walking barefoot at least part of each day will help strengthen feet.
Shoes take a lot of the blame for bunions, flat feet, ingrown toenails, corns, wider and overriding toes and heel spurs. There are also lots of foot problems perhaps not caused by ill-fitting shoes like gout, athlete’s foot, diabetic foot infection and swollen feet.
Besides going barefoot there are other foot treatments: orthotics, physical therapy, pain medicines, surgery, antibiotics and cortisone. But were all these problems caused by us not wearing correctly fitted shoes?
When in the trenches of France during WWI, did soldiers ever wonder if their shoes fit correctly or were they just glad to have a pair even if off a dead enemy’s feet?
How about during the Depression in the 30s; many families just handed shoes down from child to child for there was no extra money to buy any new fitting ones.
And now, what with style being so important, how many are almost deliberately hurting their feet with the new modern shoes - high heels, pointed toes, etc. It’s no wonder when I look around at the population passing in front of my co-op window that so many have a pained look or are limping or walking with an abnormal gait.
At my age style isn’t that important but I do understand the young girls who want to keep up with the trends and join the group for I was one of them once. Now at our age our feet are fine or deformed. I guess all we can do now is live with them as they are, take pain medicine if it helps and wear our comfortable slippers or go barefoot instead of wearing ill-fitting shoes.
Thankfully my feet are fine. I hope yours are the same so you’ll have a smile on your face when passing my window as you go for your afternoon stroll.
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