The physical foot: Fragile strength
Why do your feet hurt at the end of a long day? For
one thing, feet are bony: A pair of human feet contains
52 bones, many of which are prone to breakage,
making up approximately 25% of the total number of
bones in the entire body. Each foot is supported by
33 joints, 107 ligaments, and 19 muscles and tendons.
Feet are extremely sensitive and receptive to touch,
due to the wealth of nerve-endings present. Also,
because many keep their feet covered and protected
most of the time, they may be more sensitive than
the hands, which are similarly constructed. And, as
is true of any machine with many moving parts, a lot
can go wrong mechanically.
As people age, their feet are simply more prone to
degeneration. Apart from trauma, such as breaks and
tears, simple wear from the passage of time may cause
pain in the feet. A common source is plantar fasciitis,
which is a painful inflammation of the connective
tissue on the sole of the foot. This condition is common
among people who stand for long periods of time each
day, which is why it is known as policemen’s heel—but
anyone who stands on a concrete floor for eight hours a
day is at risk. It is also common among aging weekend
warriors, such as tennis players and runners, especially
if they are overweight.
Shoes also often create drama for the
under-appreciated foot. Of course, the narrow pointed
toe and high heel of the coveted Louboutins and Jimmy
Choos can crush toes, create corns and bunions,
and cause painful, long-term muscular shortening.
Flip-flops are frowned upon by orthopedists, because
they offer the foot no support. And even sensible
closed-toe shoes, including the ubiquitous sheepskin
boots, may invite toe fungus if the feet frequently get
sweaty during the day.
Many other issues may threaten the well-being of
the feet, affecting the overall well-being of the person.
Foot treatments given in skin care facilities must not
address serious medical conditions, but instead should
be positioned as part of overall wellness, well-being and
a source of therapeutic touch.
The metaphysical foot
In the modern industrial world, feet tend to be
viewed as dirty and somehow less than noble. This was
not the case in the ancient world, including classical
Egypt, Greece and China, where foot-bathing and
foot-anointing had a sacred element.
Throughout Asia, enlightenment is symbolized by the
iconic footprint of Buddha. Not coincidentally, the word
dharma often translates to mean “path,” a key concept
in Buddhist practice that often discusses the steps and
footprints of Siddartha, the founder of Buddhism. In
many ancient healing systems, including ayurveda,
an understanding of the feet was considered essential
to understanding and treating the overall health of
the individual. This led to the current concept used in
reflexology that every zone of the feet, as well as hands,
corresponds to an internal organ, system or area of the
body. By applying pressure to the appropriate area or point
along a meridian, inner imbalances may be corrected for
improved function and health.
Today, reflexologists reference a very complex map
of the soles of the feet, where each area of the foot
corresponds to organs and systems. Many with a
specifically Taoist focus believe that contact with these
areas alters the flow of the concept of life energy, qi or chi,
and thus can prevent illness and support healing. Even
more traditional Chinese beliefs assign esoteric meanings
to the length of the toes and more.
The West weighs in
Not all Western professionals acknowledge reflexology
as viable. However, here’s the good news: More
conventional medical environments are taking an interest
in the role and benefits of reflexology, and massage in
general. This is thanks, in part, to the recognition and
Survivor By Annet King