Charm School: The World Bows at Her Feet

Now that we've discussed our hands, it's time to think about our feet.  How are yours?

For years now I've kept my toenails polished.  If my fingers bear the brunt of work my feet tend to stay rather nicely kept at all times...despite many broken, bruised toes due to carelessness.  If I failed in any other part of self-care, I did keep my feet looking nice.

Feet can be lovely or ugly.  Toes, like fingers are short, long, crooked, straight.  Considering that feet literally bear the weight of all our world (our whole body!) and are responsible in part for helping us balance (the rest of our skeleton and muscles do play a role as well) and definitely keep us moving through life, we really can't afford to ignore this body part at all.

A strong foot will support you all your life.  A flexible foot will make that support that much more strong.  How do you keep feet flexible?  Try rolling a tennis ball with the sole of you feet.  Pick up small items with your toes.  Can't do it?  Practice until you can.  Twirl your foot at the ankle in first one direction then another.  Flex and arch your feet.  Stretch the muscles in the foot by pointing toes upwards, then down.  This will also work the Achilles heel and stretch the fascia of the sole of the foot.  Spread your toes.  Turn them under.  Stretch them up.  Exercise that foot.  Also remember those foot massage things that look a bit like an abacus like this one

First let us address shoes, because that is the 'clothing' of our feet and really does need to be addressed.  I live in the South.  That means that except on the most frigid of days, typically I am barefoot indoors.  This is not necessarily a good thing.  Aside from the accidental breaking of toes, it means that the soles of my feet are not soft and tender.  Do shoes keep feet soft?  Yes, oddly enough, they do, but they do far more than that.  A shoe that fits properly can prevent a world of maladies and will support the arch of the foot.  A shoe that fits properly will not only improve your balance, but your posture and will help align ankle, knee and hip.

Most women should be wearing a low supportive shoe most of the day.  Not heels but a good shoe with a natural fit and arch support, etc.  I don't know if any of us can find a store where they actually have staff to measure the foot anymore, but it's best to measure the foot each time you are out shopping for shoes.  And know this: gaining or losing weight will increase or decrease your foot size!  I started out adult life with a size 7 shoe but as the years and pounds went on, I was up to an 8.5.   After losing weight two years ago I am now in a size 7 as a rule.  As with all things fashionable though don't be a stickler for size.  If a shoe is too tight try the next half size up.  If it's too big, go down a half size. 

When trying on shoes, you really should try them on in the afternoon.  Go walking in them in the store.  Not just two or three steps but a turn about the store.  Does the shoe support the arch?  Is the width of the heel right for your foot?  Does one shoe fit better than the other?  Is the box of the toe wide enough or narrow enough?  For years, my mother and grandmother insisted I had a wide foot.  The older I get the more aware I am that this was fallacy.  My foot is medium width.  The average shoe these days is wider width and does not fit me at all in the toe area.  My foot slips and moves and the toes spread wide and I find myself clinching my toes trying to keep my foot in place.  Not a good shoe for me when I must do that.  So yes, walk in the shoe.  Sit in the shoe and concentrate on how well it fits your foot. 

We women are funny creatures.  Not a woman among us enjoys pain but we'll suffer for the sake of a pretty pair of shoes.  If we chose husbands as poorly as we chose shoes ( based on looks and not at all on merit) we'd be forever cast down.  Did you know that painful feet show all over your face?  Oh yes, indeed  it does!  That's why it's recommended that a woman spend most of her day in low heeled shoes.  High heels are attractive, I agree.   I used to wear them myself and I assure you my feet ached horribly those days I had to walk blocks in town or was on my feet most of the day at work.  Was it worth it?  No, truly it wasn't.

So buy shoes that fit and fit properly and based on merit as well as looks.  Yes, it does mean you might well not have every single pair of shoes you think are lovely, but why do you need them all anyway?  You may choose a nice moderate heel for wear if you aren't going to be on your feet all day long or if you're going out for dinner.  Save the really high heels for those rare occasions when you at certain to be seated most of the evening.

And for goodness sake, when you do choose a heel be sure you can walk in them correctly and aren't clomping about like a horse.  You know just what I mean.  We've all seen those models on catwalks who are lifting the entire leg and putting the whole foot down at once rather than allowing the foot to bend and flex as it ought.   But I'm jumping ahead of myself here.  We aren't quite ready to walk...

Let me just say this about shoes.  I've found that certain brands fit my foot better than others.  Naturalizer and Aerosoles both tend to be very comfortable and supportive.  And expensive.  I get around my need to spend less by routinely looking for sales at department stores or visiting stores like Ross, TJ Maxx and Marshalls.  I seldom spend more than $40 on a pair of shoes which might seem high to you but I'll get years of wear from my shoes for that price.  However, I try each pair on.  I never assume that because it's my size it's going to fit.

Try on your shoes and walk about in them. Stand before a mirror and look at them from the front, and from the sides.  See what someone else will see when looking at you.  Look down at them so that you can see what you see.  Is it attractive?  Is the right style for you?  There are myriad styles in shoes and not all of them are for every one of us. In fact, I daresay that only some of them are for some of us! 

If your ankles are thick and heavy then you're likely not going to want to draw attention their way by wearing a Gladiator or ballet tie espadrille.  You might not even want an ankle strap shoe at all nor yet, one of those sorts that are cut away at the arch side and solid on the outside. 

If your legs are heavy you might well find that t-straps and ankle straps only make you look cut in two.

If you have very large feet you'll likely not want a shoe that is made up of thin straps nor yet a delicate looking shoe.  That is not to say that only orthopedic or athletic shoes are your options, just  that you need to try other styles.  Look at heels on shoes as well if you are a large woman.  A stiletto often looks well on those with apple body shapes because they tend to have shapely slender legs.  If however, you are a pear shape then stilletos will only make you appear a marshmallow on toothpicks.  A square heel which is increasingly popular once more or a rectangular high heel might well be your answer to a higher heel.

If you are short, a rounded or square toed shoe is only going to make you look that much more short.  A shoe that tapers, not necessarily into a sharp point although many of those work quite well, will elongate the leg and make you appear taller.  If you are very tall, the round toed flat or ankle strap shoe is just the shoe you want.  Read more about choosing the proper shoe for your body type and height here and here.  We will mention body types in our next lesson so stay tuned for that.  In the meantime, if you know your body shape, then study the types of shoes meant for you.  If you don't then bookmark these links so that you can study them further when you do know more.

I would be remiss not to discuss stockings and socks. Both should be a little bit too long for the foot, as opposed to being too short.   Most packages of socks address foot size but stockings seldom do.  You're really on your own with those but I suggest once your find a brand that fits you well all over from toe to hip that you stick with that brand!  A pair of socks or stockings that are too short will only cramp your toes and cause some very real pain as it cramps the other muscles and scrunches up bones.  Be sure you have the right sock for your foot size. 

 I like a good pair of cotton socks to wear about the house in winter when it is really cold.  You'll want to be sure you have several pairs of varying thickness so that you can wear them with your other shoes (not with sandals, please, and most absolutely not with thong sandals!).  I once knew a lovely willowy blonde who adored the Dorothy right out of Kansas look and she wore thin ankle socks with all her shoes when she wore a dress.  Adorable on Dorothy and upon her since she was barely twenty one but not for us older women.

Now let us briefly discuss maladies of the foot.  Ingrown toenails are super painful infections and can be the most misery causing foot ailment.  Often this is due to nails that not properly clipped and filed and shoes which place too much pressure on the toe, especially pointed toe shoes.  As painful as it is you can gently lift the ingrown section of nail with an orangewood stick and put a little bit of cotton which has been dabbed with antibiotic ointment under the nail.  This lifting of the corner will be painful but helpful and will relieve pressure considerably.  Replace the cotton three or four times a day.  You should have some relief and improvement.  If however, the toe is red, badly swollen and throbbing take yourself off to the doctor.  Infections are nothing to mess about with!

Corns and calluses are often caused by poor shoe fit.  Corn pads do help and you can place them on some calluses for help as well. Pumice stones can smooth rough spots and wear down a callus.  But again, look to your shoes.  You'll likely find it is the fit, that the shoe is rubbing your toe and causing the corn.

I say this and then will tell you that in our family to a woman we each have a callus on the outside of our big toe.   Granny had it, I have it, Amie has it and Katie has it.  This is not due to shoe fit but due to how we bear our weight upon our feet.  I've tried to remove the callus for years.  The best I can do is monitor it and use the Amope or a pumice stone to smooth the area.

Plantar Fascitis is the inflammation of a sheath of fibrous tissues that runs along the sole of the foot.  It can be terribly painful.  What helps most with this is a shoe with a good arch support.  Buy insoles if you must.  The orthopedic doctor I worked with suggested I sleep with my athletic shoes on each night too, to keep the foot in a position that stretched the fascia.  Those exercises above where you point the foot upwards towards the knee and then down to the floor works to relieve some of that tension as well.   If it's particularly bad, you might well need to see a doctor. 

There are other conditions, too which might well send you to podiatrist or orthopedic doctors, but suffice it to say that if you're experiencing pain or malformation, you should know enough to get yourself to the physician.

One thing emphasized repeatedly to diabetics is to check over your feet daily.  This is due to the increased risk of neuropathy or nerve endings that are dying, so there is decreased sensation in the foot.  Generally this condition strikes those who have had a diabetes for more than twenty years.  It is recommended that you check for new calluses, blisters, cuts, and splinters.  I don't think it's a bad thing to check over your feet daily while moisturizing them. It's a good time to note painful areas and go right to work at correcting the problem before it becomes a major issue.

Finally know that proper foot care includes a weekly pedicure. If you do nothing else, do as you did for your hands: treat your cuticles daily by pushing them back and use a cuticle remover once a week.  File and clean the nails properly. Moisturize and moisturize.  If your feet ache terribly try soaking them in an Epsom Salts bath or use a peppermint foot bath.  If you've been on your feet all day long and they are swollen and hot use a cool foot bath to bring relief. 

You can have a pedicure at a salon or at home, as you choose.  Katie often used to have her feet done at a salon when she was pregnant with Taylor.  I've experienced only one salon pedicure and it was nice but I kept thinking how much more I'd have enjoyed it at home, lol.  You can find all the needed steps to do a complete pedicure at home at this site.

Be sure, if you're going to be wearing sandals, that your heels are up to public viewing.  Cracked dry heels are unattractive and really shouldn't be on open display.  It will take a lot of moisturizing and some pumice or filing but you can have smooth heels.

While a classic polish is quite pretty and attractive to all, I think you can afford to have some fun with your pedicure.  I would be cautious about doing anything that looked juvenile, but do look about online at pedicure images and see if you don't find something that really appeals to you.   In the South a French manicure on toes is quite popular.   I can't say that it has ever appealed to me but I am currently sporting a teal matte polish on my own toes and I do like to do an accent nail now and then (usually on the big toe nail) with a Jamberry wrap.  I generally choose a classic coral or red though because those colors are timeless and things that are timeless are often classy.

One last thing to share and then I'll end here.  Years ago, when I was hit by the drunk driver, I broke the main weight bearing bone of my foot.  I also badly sprained both ankles and so I had very limited mobility and a lot of pain related to those injuries for YEARS.  Because my feet hurt so badly all of the time, I felt angry at them.  That might sound odd but the truth is the truth.  I was angry at the pain and the source of the pain.  I did not completely care for my feet as I might have.  One day I decided that I would rub lotion on them each night and so I started that ritual.  As I moved my hands over my feet each night I began to feel a release of tension that caused decreased pain.  I am not 100% pain free to this day but I am no longer angry at my ankles and feet as I once was.  That bit of self-care really did change both my physical nature and my emotional nature.  I think that is important to keep in mind as we learn to tend to our bodies so that our bodies may attend to us.


Sparkiedoll said...

My dear Aunt (aged 87 and with an ironic smile) once asked 'Do you know where I can get some square shoes?' I now know how she feels;-) I'm a RN and have gone into a shoe shop and asked for '12 hour shift shoes'. And I got them too - for a price. Money well spent. I once read that you should look after your feet as if they are premature twins.
Best wishes. Rose (UK)

Debby in KS said...

Boy, do feet take abuse!! And shoes are the main thing I will no longer skimp on. I would rather own just one good pair than several bad ones. In fact, I just bought some summer sandals on Sat. for the mere price of $140. Yes, ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY tax! They are a brand called Aravon and the beds are like wearing a sneaker. I bought my last ones in 2007 and they lasted until last month, when they literally started falling apart off my feet!!! They were $120 back then (I nearly fainted!!), but my husband said, "That comes to only $12 a year for comfortable shoes. That's a bargain." I had to agree.

And yes, I love doing my toes in something bright and fun!

Vintage Ellen said...

I was diagnosed with neuropathy in both feet from standing on a concrete floor with just a thin carpet all day at work. It was so painful that I hated walking anywhere. Good shoes and orthopedic inserts helped. Luckily I am retired now and have a lot less pain. But be careful if you are on your feet a lot on a hard surface - it takes its toll.

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