Those are my feet. They are 58 years old, have carried me through three pregnancies, a nasty back injury where I had to relearn how to walk, up the Black Cullins (and down again), across the dance floor and across miles of pavement. They are a trial (at 6.5 EE, finding shoes is a challenge) and torture (we once had a 350 pound ram named Bill who decided to put his hoof through the large joint at the base of one of my big toes, which now can predict the weather).

I consider them to be the most important parts of my body – the pieces which enable me to do the things that will keep me alive and healthy longer. I learned this one from my father the ophthalmologist (who among many other socially redeeming qualities considered a clean colon a happy colon), who had the unfortunate fate of finding people’s diabetes long before they realized they had any problems (the changes show up in the retinas first). He told me that the biggest challenge for diabetics was keeping the circulation going in their feet – that foot health was literally life saving for them. I was truly impressed with his statement that “As long as you can walk , you have a way to keep yourself healthy”. He prescribed walking for all sorts of eye problems and advised it to me for some of my, ahem, issues:
–Slow digestion: drink more water and walk
–Hemorrhoids: ditto
–Back pain/disk issues: walk (my addendum is take up ballroom dancing; it will tell you where your feet actually belong which, if you have numbness from the injury is a real challenge)
–Monthly cramps: yep
–Headaches: ditto

The list goes on and on.

I was talking about this to my orthopedist today (yes, the shoulder is healing nicely and my prize for being such a good girl is a free pass to physical therapy) and he totally agreed with me – especially with older folks, any infirmity or injury that prevents people from walking is a first class ticket to their health getting worse and worse. That’s why preventing fractures is so important.

Deformed foot from ancient Chinese practice of foot binding. (photo: DrJohnBullas on Flickr)

But even if you avoid a hip fracture, your health can spiral down if you don’t get out and get a good walk. For a lot of people, especially women who wear fashionable but ill-fitting/badly designed shoes, foot pain is the number one reason they don’t get the walking they need. Those folks would resent it terribly if you compared what they had done to Chinese foot binding, but there it is – the end product is the same.

So, take care of your feet. Wear shoes that actually fit your feet and don’t cause pain or malformations of the toes (anything that causes corns or squeezes the little toe in is doing that). Wear something with cushioning in the footbed. The physics of what a heel over about 1.75 inches does to the toes and the ball of the foot is astounding.

To paraphrase Satchel Paige, the baseball great: “If I knew I would be using these feet for so long, I’d have taken better care of them”. Amen.