Take Off Your Shoes and Walk
by Simon J. Wikler D.S.C. (Doctor of Surgical Chiropody)
For easier printing -- The full extract
Introduction by Thomas Hale, Jr., M.D. Director, Albany Hospital Albany, N.Y.
. . . practically all shoes worn daily by men and women in our Western civilization have little relation to the shape of the human foot . . ."
. . . most adults' foot trouble would either not exist or would be much less bothersome if properly-shaped shoes had been worn during childhood or, better yet, if those people had gone barefoot . . .
How Shoes Cripple Our Feet
. . . I asked an older physician on the hospital staff what he thought could be done to cure foot trouble. "Foot troubles are chronic conditions people have had for a long time," he advised. "You'll waste your time trying to find their cause and cure. Be content just to give people all the relief you possibly can." . . .
. . . I could no longer doubt that poor feet contributed to poor posture and associated illnesses . . .
. . . as I traveled about the interior of the island where many of the people are habitually barefooted, I was amazed to find that they all had straight, undeformed toes, unlike the shoe-confined toes I had seen and treated in the United States . . .
. . . I read a number of studies which, together with what I had seen, proved to me that habitually barefooted people do not acquire our foot troubles . . .
. . . Besides having sturdy toes and muscular feet, the people who were constantly barefooted did not have fallen arches . . .
. . . His toes were being forced together in narrow shoes . . . He tired easily, always wanted to be carried, and fell frequently when walking . . . his toes [were] so weak he could hardly bend them . . .
. . . Remembering the healthy feet and strong toes of the people who were constantly barefooted, I suggested the child wear no shoes for the rest of the summer . . .
. . . an amazing thing happened. He finally stopped leaning on his arches; he started to walk straighter and more normally . . .
. . . Most people continue to acquire permanently and unnecessarily deformed feet simply because of the evolution of a fashion which started a hundred years ago . . .
The History of Foot Trouble
. . . There is no record of foot troubles in Biblical times comparable to modern foot ills . . .
. . . The seeds of foot trouble were first sown, however, in the Renaissance . . .
. . . The introduction of the elevated heel and the pointed toe marked the beginning of modern foot disabilities . . .
. . . This class could afford hand-made shoes. Soon, their children's feet were being molded to resemble the tiny, delicate feet of aristocrats . . .
. . . In 1858, Lyman R. Blake invented shoe machinery that could attach soles to uppers . . . Within five years, shoe manufacturing had developed to a point where everyone could afford to wear the shoes of an aristocrat . . .
. . . Never in the history of mankind had a population so willfully and so innocently disfigured a vital part of their body . .
. . . In the 1880's . . . a new sickness -- exhaustive chronic fatigue-which was afflicting portions of American and Western European populations . . .
. . . About 1915 a wave of reform began to take place . . . people had only to squeeze their toes into a space about one half the proper breadth. While this was an improvement, it was not great enough to prevent deformation of the feet . . .
. . . Grandmothers with gnarled toes would scold their grandchildren and insist no one could possibly walk without support in their shoes. Yet, those who disregarded that advice are the ones who have the better feet today . . .
. . . If a lesson about foot trouble can be learned from history, it is that we are at the mercy of the latest shoe styles . . . fashion has dictated a return to the pointed-toed shoes of fifty years ago . . . As a result, the bunions and compressed toes of our grandparents are again being formed in children's feet . . .
The Shoe Industry and Foot Health
. . . Every child who wears present-day shoes has his feet distorted to some degree . . .
. . . I spent a day in such a shoe store observing the operation.
"How can you sell these corrective shoes," I asked the owner. "You insist on the necessity of 'arch cookies,' 'cuboids,' 'metatarsal supports,' and so on-yet from the continuous complaints of customers, you know that these supports are of no help to the feet. How do you justify this?"
"It's a wonderful living," the owner commented. "Besides, I always instruct them to do certain exercises. They never do them. When they complain too much about their feet, I say, 'Well, did you do the exercises?' That usually shuts them up." . . .
. . . Dr. Lee Bivings, a pediatrician from Atlanta, estimates 99% of new born babies have perfectly normal feet - and in his clinic more than 6o% of these same, shoe-wearing babies have acquired foot disabilities at six years of age . . .
Preventing Children's Foot Trouble
. . . You would not think of keeping your baby from moving his hands and wiggling his fingers. You would not swaddle his hands and fingers. Why, then, swaddle his feet and toes? . . .
. . . the baby should play barefooted in a play pen. When he starts to creep and crawl on the carpeted floors, he should be allowed to crawl barefooted . . .
. . . Infants' feet do not have to be protected from the cold nearly as much as some adults think. Babies need no more protection for their feet when crawling on a cold floor than they do for their hands . . .
. . . Be firm, and find a store where the shoe in your child's size is flexible through the arch . . .
. . . Shoes that have raises inside them are also likely to have other arch support features, all of them deforming . . .
. . . Mothers must be prepared to have uninformed shoe clerks protest vigorously at their insisting on wider shoes . . .
. . . It is not enough that children's feet be free from deforming shoes - foot health also depends upon going barefoot in order to develop agility and strength in the feet
. . . For toddlers, shoes should be worn outdoors only during inclement weather and indoors only for infrequent dress-up occasions . . .
. . . Your child will have straighter, stronger toes and denser muscles on the bottom of his feet. You will be amazed to discover that other children's toes will be skinny and weak, even gnarled . . .
. . . Moreover, children's toes are deformed without their feeling the slightest pain . . .
. . . Children whose feet are healthy do not need a shoe for support; they need a shoe only for protection . . .
. . . If you had the occasion to examine as many feet as I have, you would instantly be able to detect those who have had the opportunity to go barefoot as children . . .
Care of Fallen Arches in Children
. . . Imagine putting heavy leather mittens on an infant's hands from the first months of life, leather mittens which fit snugly, so that the child's fingers are pressed together so tightly he can hardly move them . . .
. . . Babies appear to have flat feet because of the thick layer of baby fat present in every infant's arch . . .
. . . A fourth misconception is that it is not good for a child to have short, square feet, as he will surely have fallen arches. Actually, that is how undeformed feet should look, but since children's feet are so commonly deformed, even most doctors hardly ever see a normal pair and the myth continues . . .
. . . treatment for the young child is very simple, and can easily be carried out at home. Simply put aside all his shoes and stockings and allow him to walk barefooted . . .
The girl was wearing such stiff arch-support shoes that she could not possibly move her feet inside them . . . . The little girl had begun to cry at night because of pains in her legs . . . I advised the mother to discard her child's shoes and let her walk barefooted at all times . . . By the end of the sixth week, she stopped having pains in her legs at night. . . . , and her feet had become much more muscular and sturdy . . .
. . . Third, the child must be given the opportunity to go barefoot for a part of the day, preferably three hours a day . . .
. . . Accumulated sweat is accumulated waste which decays on feet which are covered . . . The barefooted child whose feet are soiled with dirt from lawns or floors of the house, would in this sense have cleaner feet than a child who has worn a shoe and stocking all day . . .
Barefooted Children Have Better Feet
. . . children who had the opportunity of going barefoot a great deal, had less deformed toes, greater flexor strength, more ability to spread the toes. They also had denser muscles on the bottom of the feet; greater agility than those who had never gone barefoot . . .