Listen To Your Feet And Respect Them.

For more years than I care to remember, my feet had safely carried me everywhere. As a child they caused me embarrassment because of their length. It was almost traumatising to have ever helpful shop attends exclaim “Oh Your feet couldn’t be THAT big!” To this day I dread entering shoe shops knowing it’s unlikely they will have my choice of footwear in the right size. To me, my feet were a necessary evil to be ignored as much as possible.
All of that changed the day I agreed to join a friend walking the Camino. We were both pretty fit and acted fairly impulsively, leaving little time for preparation beyond learning what we needed to take.
The short time I spent researching what I had just committed to continually threw up horror stories of Pilgrims with ‘broken feet’. Suddenly I was all consumed by finding the best way to look after my feet – I didn’t want them dry, cracked, blistered, strained and the list seemed endless. It was from this experience that the business of Wool-it evolved – but that’s a whole other story!
What frightened me the most was reflecting on all the years I had done very little to care for my feet beyond cleaning , drying and trimming toe nails. Add to that the challenges I had imposed on them – jamming them into shoes a little on the small side, tight nylon pantihose and high heels that elevated and distorted them into unnatural positions, bare feet and jandals through whole summers and my passion for running and long walks that meant encasing them for extended periods in sweaty socks . Ugh! Who would want to be a foot?

Our feet are complicated! Each ankle and foot complex comprises of 26 bones, 33 joints and over 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments. They make up just 2% of our body mass and we expect them to haul us around like a couple of undernourished workhorses. When we gain extra weight we might think of our knees and hips and the added strain, but seldom do we consider the effects on our feet.
These appendages are the shock absorbers for our bodies for life. They are the very foundation of our ability to move and enable almost everything we do. On a daily basis we subject them to steady pounding and consequently they are one of the most likely body parts to suffer injuries.
Reflexologists will tell you, your feet reflect your whole body and in turn, can also help heal your entire body.

A crude example of reflexology foot map.

The various parts of the foot can be mapped to a specific body part and massaging the feet can help address issues in an individual’s body.

Day to day care of your feet:

Cleanliness: It’s not enough to just hose your feet while showering. Your feet just like any other part of your body, will appreciate a good soapy wash and massage. Get in between those toes, round the heels and across the ankles. Dry your feet completely, again make sure you dry between the toes and this will help reduce problems like athlete’s foot, odour, bacteria and fungus.
Treat yourself to a foot soak – avoid adding elements that will dry out the skin. Instead, a simple skin softener – even a liquid soap like dishwashing detergent can help.
Follow up with a moisturiser – especially if you’re suffering from either winter time skin dryness or too much barefoot summer time. Again you don’t need fancy creams – a basic moisturising lotion will help and you can check your feet for minor cuts and abrasions while you’re at it.
Care for your toenails by trimming them regularly – and carefully.
A foot massage will benefit your feet in much the same way as a shoulder massage relieves stress and tension. Your feet have a myriad of nerve endings and stimulating them aids relaxation.
The shoes: Most of us have one foot a little larger than the other. Be sure to try on both the left and right shoes when you are buying them. Always cater to the slightly larger foot – don’t rely on any shoe to stretch or relax with a bit of time ‘breaking them in’. There’s a good chance they aren’t going to get any roomier.
If you are an habitual wearer of flat sandals or jandals (flip flops!), invest in ones that offer a built-in arch support. Women are particularly prone to developing flat feet and this can predispose you to other foot problems later in life
Wearing ‘bad shoes’ will usually result in corns, calluses, blister, ingrown toenails and a variety of other sources of annoyance.
Things that change through life: Pregnancy, aging and diabetes can all impact on your feet . This is the time to ensure that your shoes are still the right size as your feet may well have changed. In pregnancy, as you gain weight your shoes need to offer a broad low heel, arch support and good shock absorbency. Aging will also often change the shape of your feet and women lose some of the cushioning fat on the balls of their feet. Diabetics are particularly prone to damaging foot issues and over and above the daily care, should seek professional advice for any concerns.
Tired feet?
Your feet should not be uncomfortable or painful because you have been on them all day. That’s not to say that you won’t be ‘feeling ‘ the effects of a long day and this can be a by=product of aching lower legs. For simplicity try the ‘Legs up the Wall’ technique – I have vivid memories as a young nurse , coming home to the flat where several of us would lie around like this for an hour or to aid recovery. An internet search will offer you numerous options for this as well as other Yoga for Feet videos.
A list of Do Nots:
Do not wear shoes that are too tight
Do not share shoes
Do not wear the same shoes every day – rotating them s important.
Do not wear the same socks more than once before washing.
Do not share pedicure tools like files clippers etc
Do not hide discoloured or damaged nails with nail polish. Let them breathe and seek professional advice on the cause.
Do not try to treat your own calluses or ingrown toenails – you may cause more problems than you will cure.

How did we manage to walk 680kms across Spain without getting broken feet?
To start with we ditched any facial makeup and settled merely for cleanliness, suncream and moisturiser. All other effort – and I’m talking a good 20 minutes plus, each morning, went into foot preparation.
Feet were well cleaned and dried before wiping over every centimetre with Tea Tree Oil. A thorough spread of vaseline around the heels, balls of feet and between the toes followed. Wool-it was then applied to any known potential hotspot and a pair of fresh ‘technical socks’ were worn These socks varied including Life Socks and Injinji toe socks. The real key however was to STOP during the day the moment a hotspot was felt and apply Wool-it to that area. We used no other forms of treatment or blister products as unlike our fellow pilgrims, we didn’t get blisters which would have resulted in broken feet.

Our feet are the body parts that are furthest from our brains. By doing things like running, hiking, and regular walks you can improve your overall brain health too. Any exercise is important to overall good health and your feet are a very important part of that.

Listen to your feet – they are the only pair you are likely to ever have!


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