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Fashion and Foot Health Don’t Mix
Feet are something we never think about until they start
hurting. Then, we can’t stop thinking about them because
the searing pain becomes so intense.
Unfortunately, the pain in our feet is related directly to
the shoes we wear. The fact is that we’d all be better off if
we didn't wear any shoes at all.
Consider what Dr. John P. Barrett, Jr., an Air Force
orthopedic surgeon, said in a recent issue of “Modem
Medicine” about going shoeless: “With people in other
countries who don’t wear shoes, there is almost no such
thing as painful flat feet in adults. And they do get flat
feet. Painful flat feet seem confined to the shoe-wearing
population, an indication that the shoe may aggravate the
Having flat feet isn’t the only problem confronting the
shoe-wearer. There are also corns, calluses, bunions and
ingrown toenails, which are all, except for calluses,
directly related to wearing shoes. People who don’t wear
shoes do get calluses, but in that case, the hardened flesh
is actually beneficial. The calluses people get from
wearing shoes don’t help at all and are downright painful.
The reason feet wind up wracked with pain involves the
shoe’s design. A part of the body that should be free and
unfettered, the foot is squeezed, forced and pinched into a
contraption more suited to the tool box of a Medieval
torturer than to a modem wardrobe.
High-heeled shoes, for example, pitch the body forward
and throw it out of line. To keep from falling on then
faces, people who wear high heels must stand back on
To remain upright, the muscles must pull the body
back, causing a hump at the back of the neck and a hollow
in the back at the waist. This results in pain to the lower
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back and shoulders. It can also cause headaches and put
pressure on the deep blood vessels that supply the legs and
Everytime a person takes a step in high-heeled shoes,
the toes are forced forward, compressing them like a vise
and causing the formation of bunions and corns. Another
problem shoe is the new platform style, which seems to be
attracting more and more men and women. Most of the
problems of platforms revolve around the dangers of
simply walking around in the awkward things. And people
who wear platforms adopt an unnatural gait, which
throws the body into unusual contortions.
Aside from a very few exceptions, most shoes sold today
aren’t what the doctor orders. Some synthetic materials
used in shoes cause foot allergies. Since leather stretches,
the person who wears a loafer style has to curl his toes just
to keep them on, resulting in a lot of pressure on the front
of the foot.
When you’re shopping for shoes, keep in mind that the
best shoe is no shoe. Sandals are good as long as the
straps don’t rub, as are soft Indian moccasins. But the
oxford shoe is probably the best all-round shoe for general
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The barn with the roof louvers that
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Lancaster Farming, Saturday, Nov. 16,1974
Support isn't as important as most people might
believe. Some podiatrists say that support tends to ac
tually weaken the foot by hampering natural freedom and
You should buy shoes that give your foot freedom with
room for your toes to move. The heels should be low to
prevent calf muscles from shortening. If you’re already
hooked on high heels and find it painful to walk either
barefooted or in low heels, try stretching your muscles
gradually by knocking a half-inch off your heels every
month or two. Eventually, you’ll be down to a more
Like other parts of your body, feet need exercise. Each
foot contains 16 bones, 20 muscles and 33 joints. To keep
such complex mechanisms in good working order, you
have to use them.
As Dr. Barrett and others have observed, you should go
barefoot as much as possible. That is a much more
natural way of walking than wobbling along on a platform
inches above the crowd.
Besides walking barefoot whenever you can, try picking
up pencils or marbles with your toes while you’re wat
ching TV. Wiggle your toes often. Stretch them. Spread
them out wide.
If you have any foot problems at all, a podiatrist is the
person to see-if you can find one. There is a severe
shortage of foot doctors. A spokesman from the Penn
sylvania College of Podiatric Medicine reports that there
are only about 8,000 podriatrists in the entire U.S. Many
areas have no foot care available on a regular basis.
It would be much better if you never have to see a
podiatrist, and your chances of avoiding such a visit will
be better if you shop more carefully. Better care starts at
the shoe store.
Editor’s Note: The opinions appearing in “Organic
Living” are those of the author, Robert Rodale, an in
dependent columnist. Rodale’s comments do not
necessarily reflect the thinking of the Lancaster Farming
editor or anyone else on the Lancaster Farming staff.)
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