by Tom King © 2011
So how do you get to the advanced age of 57 and still have healthy happy feet?
Step 1: Go barefoot as a child.
Nothing is better for your feet than exposing them to the varieties of surfaces and textures you'll encounter in the average backyard. The bones in growing feet need to flex and move freely if they are going to develop properly in order to hold us up when we reach our full height. Mom's overprotect kids feet, I believe. I have a nice wide stable foot thanks to running barefoot most of my childhood (and Mom saved a fortune in tennis shoes).
Step 2: Accep minimal support.
Sandals are wonderfully unsupportive. I used to wear thin-soled canvas running shoes as a kid. They had virtually no padding or arch support in them and my Mom didn't like them because she thought they'd ruin my feet. But since I had my own paper route, I could buy the shoes I wanted and track shoes were as close to barefoot as you could get and still be allowed to go to school. So that's what I wore and they did not ruin my feet despite Mom's dire warnings. Science backs me up. There are Indians in the mountains of Mexico who run marathons wearing only Huarache sandals. Curious researchers found that these thin, almost non-existant shoes allow the bones in the foot to absorb impact more effectively than expensive running shoes. Turns out there is evidence that all that support in so-called "scientifically" designed sports footwear may actually cause more injuries than they prevent. Giving the foot too much support can, apparently, weaken the foot's ability to absorb shocks. A foot that can flex is a foot that will hold up under long usage.
Step 3: Ventilate your feet.
If you must wear shoes, go for ones that ventilate well. Fungal infections of the foot require a warm moist environment to grow – environments like the inside of a poorly ventilated shoe and thick socks. If you do, for whatever reason, need to don Nikes and sports socks, for goodness sake get out of them and air out your feet for several hours afterward. Wash and dry thoroughly, then run around unshod for a while. If you're out in hiking boots, get wool socks, even in summer. They wick off the moisture and keep your skin fairly dry. Around the campfire, though, kick off the boots and lounge about in flip flops or a pair of Huarache's you keep dangling from your backpack.
Step 4: Go bare-footin'.
No need to spend a fortune on a foot massage or a reflexologist. Find a safe place to walk unshod and take a hike once in a while. The textures of the ground, rock, grass and earth, not only thoroughly and naturally massage your feet, but the sensations give you an all over sense of well-being. Mother Earth was meant to be felt through our soles. In the process, you'll also build a nice thick protective layer on the bottom of your feet – something that may come in handy some day if you ever have to cover some ground sans Gucci loafers.
Step 5: Let your toenails grow out a little.
When they advise you to cut your toenails straight across, there is a good reason. If you let the edges of your toenails grow a bt beyond the skin and don't cut them low in the channels along the sides of the nail, you'll save yourself a lot of pain from ingrown toenails. Buy yourself some proper nail clippers for toes and keep up with your toes. An ingrown toenail is very painful and can even require surgery to remedy. If you go barefoot a lot, you'll be more likely to notice a developing problem.
People don't appreciate how important their feet are to their happiness. Show me a man with unhappy feet, I'll show you a miserable human being capable of talking on his cell phone in the theater, committing genocide or starting a nuclear war.
May the road rise up to meet you and may your feet be happy upon the road you have chosen!