It’s time to take a look at your feet . . . they should have as much care as your car ever did
H. GORDON GREENMay151943
"IT'S MY FEET"
It’s time to take a look at your feet . . . they should have as much care as your car ever did
H. GORDON GREEN
THE MAN with flat feet isn’t a joke any longer. He is almost a national liability.
The Canadian Army turns down a great many more men for foot deformities than it does for heart trouble. Only one other disability, defective vision, has caused more rejections. Of each hundred men accepted, not more than two or three have really normal feet. And despite mechanization doctors believe an Army still travels on its feet as well as its stomach. The
greatest trouble with normal feet in the Army is arch strain. It takes some time to get feet in the condition required for military service.
Time lost in war factories because of workers suffering from backache, extreme fatigue, headache, lassitude or arthritis hasn’t been officially calculated but it can be counted by the thousands of working hours. These are common complaints— and they may often be directly attributable to foot ailments.
Thrust out your leg and have a look at your foot. It’ll have to take you to a lot of places before the war is over. The days of driving at ease are just about finished. Today you walk.
Your foot is a marvellously contrived piece of apparatus, steadily neglected since the invention of four wheels. You used to tinker with the engine of your car in those far days when you had gasoline to run one. How about giving at least as much time to the study of your new means of transportation?
The normal foot is constructed of twenty-six bones bound together to form an arch. This arch has greater height on the inside of the foot than on the outside. It maintains its shape partly through the structure of the bones and partly by the intricate lacing of tendons and ligaments binding them together.
The base of this arch has three points of support: the heel and two bones in the ball of your foot. To the orthopedic surgeon these two bones are known as the head of the first metatarsal, behind the big toe, and the head of the fifth metatarsal, behind the little toe.
When you stand up the weight of the body is almost entirely on the heel. When your body sways forward, as it is continually doing without you knowing it, some of the weight is taken by the two points on the ball of your foot and these push you gently back again so that your centre of gravity is again over your heels. In other words, when you are standing, there is a constant interplay of forces going on all the time in your feet to give you your proper balance.
An Additional Prize
HOW DO you know if you have normal feet?
Get up and walk around. Your weight should fall on the front half of the foot. Do you feel the jar of your heels as you walk? To maintain a proper balance do you hold yourself absolutely perpendicular, perhaps even leaning a little backward? If you do, you have abnormal feet. As a matter of fact, some medical authorities say that in the strictest sense of the word no adult in civilized countries has absolutely normal feet because feet are not used to the extent or in the manner nature intended them to be.
But if you have a springy little push to your steps and if you lean a little forward as you walk you probably are the lucky possessor of fairly normal feet. There is a nice little additional prize to holders of perfect feet; they seldom if ever develop a potbelly. A man who walks with a slight lean forward automatically maintains a tension of the abdominal muscles to keep his balance, and that in turn holds his stomach where it should be.
Abnormal feet, unfortunately, are much more common than normal ones. If the heel of your shoe is worn down more on the outside than on the inside your foot will do as well as any to illustrate what Army orthopedic surgeons mean by an imperfect foot.
Take off your shoe. Does your big toe have a definite slant toward the other toes? It shouldn’t. If you were to place a ruler alongside it, the other end should be in line with your heel. Look at the under side of your big toe. Does it have a healthy callus on it to show you have been using it? It is
probably as soft and tender as a baby’s cheek.
What has happened is that you are no longer using that bone which you can feel on the inner side of the ball of your foot. The outside of your foot is doing all the hard work. To prove it, try to balance on one foot. If you were standing on a perfect tripod it would be simple. You aren’t, so you sway and weave as you never did when you were a kid playing hopscotch in the alley.
What’s happened is that you have been wearing the wrong kinds of shoes.
Take flat feet, the most common ailment of people with foot trouble.
Except in the small number of cases where flat feet are hereditary they have been caused in childhood by improper shoes.
Even inherited flat feet could have been cured by properly built shoes. When you have flat feet your entire weight falls in the middle of thearch not neatly balanced on the tri-
pod. Quite understandably that is a jarring way of walking and would never carry you on a twentymile route march. Flat feet can cause inflamed arch bones, varicose veins, backache, headaches, even arthritis.
Then there are hammer toes. That is a common name for this condition resulting from contracted tendons—your toes may be bent almost double. This is caused by too short shoes. Bunions, which can be corrected by specially built shoes, are caused by too narrow or too pointed footwear. All these ailments are merely the initial discomforts; on their trail can follow general fatigue and illness, the more serious disabilities caused by foot breakdown.
SHOE MANUFACTURERS all recognize that a baby’s shoe must be wide enough for the foot and must be of a shape which permits the big toe to have all the room it can use to wiggle in. The available sizes for a baby range from A to F. As the age groups advance it is difficult to get a size larger than a D, although the width of a child’s foot lessens very little in proportion to its length. If Junior took an E width shoe when he was two, he should still have an E width shoe when he is five.
What is even more important, that slight outward bend of Junior’s first perfect shoe which accommodated the big toe becomes straight in the footgear fashioned for five-year-olds. A year or two later the shoe even begins to pinch toward the centre of the foot just as the pair you have on right now are doing. The big toe is
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cramped to conform with the fashionable shape of the shoe.
This altered shape is bad enough, but if, in addition, the shoe happens to be too short the deformity is made more extensive. Unfortunately, there is generally very little pain to this distortion of a child’s foot, so it goes on without complaint.
When Junior is grown he will wear shoes like yours, made to fit his distorted feet. His big toe no longer points outward, away from the foot, as it should. In its new unnatural position of pointing inward, it has altered the original tripod arrangement of the foot. The head of the first metatarsal is no longer the point of support it should be. The natural arch of the foot is altered or even broken down.
If you feel great fatigue, or are subject to inexplainable backaches, you may quite possibly have lost the function of the inner half of your forefoot entirely. Balancing, as you then are, on only two points of the tripod there will be continuous muscular strain. The weight of your body falls on muscles of the foot and leg which were never meant to handle it.
Foot specialists maintain that a perfectly balanced foot will never suffer strain no matter how many hours of the day it is in action. One of them declares that all foot ailments except those due to injury or congenital deformities are the direct result of the foolish fad our modern civilization has for abhorring the natural shape of our feet and substituting for it a stylish shape of its own design.
Nature Takes Its Course
IS THERE anything that can be done about it?
Regrettably, nothing very much in the way of a cure if you are over I thirty-five. But you can get relief if you will keep in mind what shape nature intended for your feet and wear shoes which will allow nature to take its course.
The ideal state would be to go barefoot. Investigations have long shown that foot fatigue is unknown among barefoot native tribes or primitive Indians. In the summers let Junior go barefoot. It doesn’t matter if he stubs his toe—he’ll still have healthier feet than you ever had.
When you buy shoes—buy them large enough.
Even soldiers are vain. Canadian Army officials declare that most men want a shoe a full size or a size and a half smaller than they should have for a proper fit. Women always want a shoe to fit snugly and without wrinkles. Yet a shoe to be the right size for your foot should not bind in any place.
The presence of a new corn simply means that your shoe didn’t fit. Try it out and see. Place a felt over the corn and then have the shoe stretched so that it no longer rubs over that spot. The corn will disappear.
Generally speaking, it should be possible for you to insert a finger between the heel and the back of the shoe. Throw away that shoe horn. You should never wear a shoe small enough to have to use it. It will someday take its rightful place alongside the medieval thumbscrew as an instrument of torture.
Remember that any type of heel is undesirable so that if you have to have a heel on your shoe to meet the whims of Dame Fashion, have it as low as possible.
Women warworkers should never “wear their shoes out” at work. Castoffs and run-down shoes do not give the proper support to the foot.
Foot exercises are of the greatest value to those under thirty-five. The best exercise is, of course, walking barefooted on the sand or in the grass. A rubber pad worn between the big toe and the one next to it is now recognized as being of definite value, and especially designed pads for this purpose are now on the market. Arch supports may give help in some cases but they are never a cure.
Flat-footed people usually toe in. If they were to toe out or directly ahead that would lengthen the inside support of their feet and tighten up the muscles. Well-known exercises to limber up tired or abnormal feet are rolling a bottle under the arch or picking up small objects with the toes.
The Canadian Army Medical Corps now have a unit overseas devoted entirely to orthopedic work. It is easy to understand why our Army doctors should be so concerned with foot ailments. Even in this age of mechanized war twenty-mile route marches are no rarity and on them there is no place for a soldier with faulty feet. The Army knows what it is doing. It knows that these so-called minor ailments will rapidly become major disabilities under the increased strain of Army life.
Take Care of Your Feet
SOME OF the advice given by the medical officers will be of undoubted value to the civilians thrown on their own feet for the first time in decades. Here is seine simple advice to the men and women who stand all day in war plants, to A.R.P. wardens and civilian patrols and to Johnny Smiths who now have to walk to work.
Wherever possible, let your foot become gradually accustomed to the increased work it must do for you.
Keep your feet dry at all times. If your feet perspire too easily change your socks at midday and use a dusting powder.
Tired and aching feet should be bathed in cold water, but where the skin has become tender or irritated warm water containing a little common salt or alum should be used.
Open blisters with a sterile needle and circle them with adhesive tape to lessen pressure.
These measures are obviously to alleviate rather than to cure. If there were really any way to rebuild a broken foot, the Army would be the first to make use of it. The tragic fact stands that once a foot has lost its original balance there is little that can be done about it. That’s why doctors are turning their attention to the younger generation.
Footwear styles are likely to change drastically in the next few years. Our children won’t be stepping into our shoes. They’ll probably have a newer and a more scientific boot to fill with a healthier foot.
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