It is estimated that roughly seventy per cent of all our countrymen suffer from some foot disorder, including clubfeet, fallen arches, ingrowing toe-nails, corns, athlete’s foot, blisters, swellings, etc.
Almost all of the present-day foot ills can be directly traced to man’s effort to force twenty-six bones and some thirty cubic inches of blood and tissue into the torturous confines of string, steel and leather called a shoe. Corns, calluses and blisters became the rule as men and women cramped healthy feet into these leather prisons. Overlapping toes, athlete’s foot and ingrowing toe-nails were the direct result of squeezing the feet into confining quarters and denying them the air and sun that would protect them.
The two worst public enemies manufactured in the shoe factories are the high-heeled shoes and the rubber and canvas affair worn by athletes. It is no accident that “athlete’s foot” takes its name by those men who spend long hours in sneakers. Footwear that permits no ventilation holds the toxic discharge of the foot tissue and creates the atmosphere necessary for the growth of fungi. In addition to this unhealthy state, the rubber-soled shoe or sneaker acts to insulate the wearer from the benefits of earth-contact. Thus, while these shoes create the conditions that contribute to decay, they also isolate the feet from one of the natural agents which would ordinarily serve to strengthen the feet against such decay.
The high-heeled shoe, as we have already mentioned, is directly responsible for many of the bodily aches and pains that pursue the modern woman. The twisting and bobbing action of a body that is forced to walk upon these wood and leather stilts creates immeasurable damage to muscle, bone and nerve from head to toe. But worst of all is the effect of these monstrous devices upon women’s feet. By bending the feet into semi-permanent positions of unnatural distortion, the high-heeled shoes succeed in destroying the natural forms and muscular strength of the feet. No false pride or fashion fetish can excuse this deliberate sabotage of bodily health.
It is quite possible, even in our present society, for the average person to spend several hours each day in barefoot walk, work and exercise. It is also a simple matter for all of us, even during the working day, to shoe our feet -in unconfining wear that will permit the skin to receive the benefit of air. Sandals, preferably wooden or leather-soled, and the perforated and woven Mexican-type shoe permit such constant benefits. When at home, in the garden or yard, make certain that your feet receive the strengthening and invigorating stimulus of barefoot exercise and earth-contact. Whenever possible, avoid the use of confining footwear.
The natural therapy for bunions, blisters and calluses is the same as that for corns. But it is important to realize that none of these conditions can be permanently alleviated without doing away with the source of irritation. Unless you are willing to carry on an endless campaign against such painful conditions, you had better eliminate the source, the improper footwear you have forced upon your innocent feet.
In addition to perverting the natural form of the foot, most shoes tend to immobilize many of the foot muscles provided by nature. This condition reduces the perfect mechanism provided for us at birth to a condition of degeneration through disuse. Without proper exercise the muscles that support a healthy foot fall into a decline that brings with it foot fatigue, pain and a loss of stability. Realizing this, I have created an effective programme for returning aching and weakened feet to a condition of natural health. This consisted of hot baths, cold-water rubs, massage and, most important of all, exercise. These were developed not only to strengthen the muscles of the feet but those of the legs and back which support our daily foot work, thus helping to eliminate the leg and back pains that often originate in the feet. It is important to remember in these, as in all exercises, that the patient’s capacity for such stimulation was always ascertained before the exact programme of exercise was provided. Never guide yourself according to the abilities or constitution of others, but provide for yourself what you can best afford and by which you will most benefit. To each his own.
- The first exercise is performed from a face-up reclining position. The arms are outstretched and with the palms of the hands and the toes of the feet the body is raised. From this position, the body is moved slowly forwards and backwards from a tip-toe position to a point at which the heels almost touch the ground. This is repeated some ten or fifteen times.
- Fingers touching the ground and one leg extended well behind the other in the position of a track runner, the balance of the body is moved first from the toes of one foot to the toes of the other. This shifting is repeated another ten to fifteen times. Both of these first two exercises are extremely beneficial to feet and legs, and to back muscles.
- Taking a book or a strong box no more than three inches thick, the patient stands upon it so that the front half of the foot extends over the edge. Now, moving slowly forward and then backward, the toes are made to touch the ground and then return.
- Now the position is reversed, with the heels extending over the edge and the swaying repeated. This time the heels are made to touch the ground and return. Both of these exercises will help to strengthen the arches and calf muscles.
- Holding on to a chair or table for balance, the body is supported upon the toes of one foot. In the fashion of a ballet dancer, the raised leg is moved first forward and then backward to the highest degree obtainable. The true feeling of ballet grace can be attained if the free leg is swung in a slow and wide arc front to back. The legs are to be alternated during the exercise.
- Standing upon the toes of both feet, the body is revolved slowly.
- Lying flat on the back, the legs are raised one at a time and the toes and ankles stretched as far forward as possible. If the patient is particularly eager and relatively well toned, he or she may attempt to raise both legs simultaneously without bending the knees and then perform the exercise. This is no small feat, but well worth the effort.
- Standing upon the outer rim of the feet, the patient walks briskly about. Following this, the position is shifted to the inner rim of the feet and the brisk walk repeated.
These are all the exercises provided in the Foot Health programme. You will notice that no pencil-lifting or marble-rolling or the like is included. Oddly enough, many so-called experts have concocted exercises which a normally healthy foot would find difficult to perform, and then demanded that sore and suffering feet run through them without faltering. What these people fail to realize is that the patient would not turn to them for assistance if he could perform such herculean feats of callisthenics. Exercises that are beyond the immediate ability of the patient always tend to discourage him or her and in the end defeat the original purpose. The success or failure of a programme of exercise is decided by the regularity with which the programme is practiced. Anything that tends to discourage regular practice is undesirable no matter how beneficial its final effects might promise to be.