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The mission of Storey Publishing is to serve our customers by publishing practical information that encourages personal independence in harmony with the environment.
Edited by Deborah Burns and Lisa H. Hiley
Art direction and book design by Ash Austin
Indexed by Andrea Chesman
Back cover photo (author) by © 2021 Stephanie Tourles
Illustrations by © Choo Chung
Text © 2021 by Stephanie L. Tourles
Ebook production by Slavica A. Walzl
Ebook version 1.0
December 21, 2021
Portions of this book appeared in Natural Foot Care (Storey Publishing, 1998).
This publication is intended to provide educational information for the reader on the covered subject. It is not intended to take the place of personalized medical counseling, diagnosis, and treatment from a trained health professional. Please consult a physician or other health professional if needed.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages or reproduce illustrations in a review with appropriate credits; nor may any part of this book be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or other—without written permission from the publisher.
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Dedicated to Myra Achorn, foot reflexology instructor extraordinaire. I've had many teachers over the years, but you were the best! You once told me, "Learning is a lifelong process, and reflexology will take you on a journey that never really ends. It is a journey of healing and self-discovery. When you follow your dreams, you open the door to more possibilities than you can imagine. Learning can be fun, but earning money doing something you love is even more fun!"
That has proved to be true! I'm honored to have studied with you and blessed to call you my friend.
You Can Have Happy, Healthy Feet
1/ Greet Your Feet: Foot Basics
Your Amazing Foot
Toenails Are Part of Your Feet
The Benefits of Barefoot Walking
The Shoes You Choose
Foot Care Basics
2/ Foot Fitness: Stretching and Strengthening
Exercises for Healthy Feet
Foot Refresher and Revitalizer
Comfrey Foot Massage Oil
3/ Foot Massage to Relax and Revive
Techniques of Foot Massage
Foot Massage Elixirs
Foot Fitness Massage Oil
"Agony of the Feet" Comforting Massage Oil
Creamy Cocoa Butter Foot Balm
4/ An Introduction to Foot Reflexology
A Brief History
The Fundamentals of Reflexology
5/ Common Foot Problems, Uncommon Remedies
Soothing Herbal Poultice
Sweet Relief Arthritis Rub
Fungus Fighter Foot Powder
Happy Feet Antifungal Drops
Quickie Blister Resister Oil Blend
Sweet Feet Sugary Foot Scrub
Peppermint Salt Glo
Warm-Me-Up Foot Rub
Diabetic Foot Concerns
Dry, Cracked Feet
Mineral-Rich Oatmeal Soak
Cracked Skin Rescue Balm
Peppermint-Lavender Foot Chiller
Scent-sationally Cooling Aloe Foot Gel
Soothing Anti-itch Oil
Step Lively Massage Oil
Odoriferous and Sweaty Feet
Freshen-Up Foot Soap
Feelin' Fresh Cleansing Foot Spray
Odor-Neutralizing Herbal Foot Powder
Your Foot Care Cupboard
Care For Yourself with More Books from Stephanie L. Tourles
Share Your Experience!
You Can Have Happy, Healthy Feet
I've been fascinated with feet since I was a youngster. Growing up in Stone Mountain, Georgia, I went barefoot whenever possible. My strong, tough feet enjoyed the sensory stimulation of the outdoor world. Much to the dismay of my mother, my soles were forever filthy: green from grass, black from tar, sticky from tree sap, or muddy from playing in the creek. Reminders to wash my feet before entering the house were constant, but I never listened.
My love for foot care began with watching my grandfather soak his aching, fatigued feet every night. He was a carpenter who also tended two big gardens and about two dozen cows, so his feet yearned for relief. He would fill an old dishpan with either warm or ice-cold water—depending on the season—to which he added, of all things, two tablespoons of Massengill douche powder! The blend of boric acid, alum powder, eucalyptus oil, thyme oil, menthol crystals, and methyl salicylate cooled, deodorized, and relaxed his feet, while easing pain. Foot soaks pulled the day's stresses right out of him, he told me.
My grandfather also lovingly cared for my grandmother's very narrow and always tender feet. She suffered from poor circulation and edema in her lower legs, and it didn't help that she always wore shoes that were too tight and too short and had two-inch heels. Grandfather would often give her feet and legs a comforting massage. I learned at a young age that foot care should be part of everyday life because neglected feet could negatively affect your entire body and outlook.
As I grew up, I learned from personal experience how injured, unhappy feet can make you miserable. Over the last two decades, I've suffered a broken toe, a sprained ankle, Morton's neuroma, plantar fasciitis, arthritis in my toe, and mild frostbite. I've dropped a bucket of water on one bare foot and had nine yellowjacket stings on the other. Plus, I've had two major falls that severely altered my gait and created much foot pain (and ultimately two hip replacements!), so I know what people are suffering when their feet are in distress.
I love feet, and as a certified foot reflexologist, licensed massage therapist, and licensed aesthetician, I work with them nearly every day. When it comes to bodywork, I think feet are the best part of the body to work on. My clients would likely agree, as evidenced by their deep sighs of relief as I release the aches and tension from their hardworking, tired dogs. I target their feet with a comprehensive combination of reflexology, massage, Epsom salts foot soaks, herbal treatments, and aromatherapy, and I know I'm making their entire body feel better from the ground up.
I wrote this book to deliver much-needed education about keeping feet healthy and natural solutions to common foot woes. My hope is that reading these pages will give you a new respect for your feet and an understanding of their structure, function, and importance to overall comfort. If you ignore or mistreat your feet, life can be miserable, but if you make the conscious choice to care for them properly, your feet will thank you—as will your entire body!
Happy Feet = Happy You!
1Greet Your Feet Foot Basics
If our feet could speak, what might they say?
- Fashionista: "We're too confined in these tight, pointy shoes! Our arches are cramping, our heels are numb, and our toes are painful and deformed."
- Stylish businessperson: "Your slick Italian leather shoes and nylon dress socks are choking us. We look fabulous, but we can't breathe!"
- Active teenager: "These shoes smell so bad it's embarrassing."
- Busy parent with no time for self-care: "We have corns, calluses, and cracked heels. We ache. Give us a break!"
If our feet could speak, they'd probably complain, and loudly. Our feet walk, run, jump, skip, climb, balance, and grip, taking us where we need to go. It's tough to get along without them. But what do we do instead of keeping them in tip-top shape? We abuse them!
You're going to hear me say this more than once: Ill-fitting, poorly designed shoes are the primary source of most foot problems. We encase our feet in suffocating socks, pantyhose, or tights and stuff them into confining shoes. We buy shoes that are too small or have hard or inflexible soles that stress our feet. We choose exercise shoes with overly cushioned support, rigid stability, and elevated heels with turned-up toe boxes that don't allow our poor feet to move and spring as they are meant to do, so they weaken and deform over time. I feel so strongly about this issue that I nearly called this book The Evils of Modern Footwear!
Even when properly shod, feet may experience more wear and tear than any other body part and thus are more prone to discomfort and injury. They often also suffer from lack of effective hygiene and proper maintenance. How many people regularly scrub their feet, including the soles and between the toes, much less actually dry between the toes? Neglect and mistreatment can lead to myriad foot problems. Avoiding these issues just takes a little education. Let's start with some basics on the structure and function of your precious feet.
"My feet are killing me!" Sound familiar? Foot pain is one of the top reasons that folks over age 40 visit their healthcare provider. And the majority of sufferers are women, who have about four times as many foot problems as men. No surprise there, as "fashionable" women's shoes usually squeeze toes into submission or bend feet into unnatural shapes, causing any number of problems over time.
Your Amazing Foot
Leonardo da Vinci is reputed to have said, "The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art." A normal foot contains 26 bones (or 28 if you count the two little sesamoid bones near the big toe joint) and 33 joints, plus more than 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments and a complicated network of blood vessels and nerves.
The bones support the soft tissues and provide the flexible structure for functional movement, while the heel pad, the ball of the foot, and the arches act as shock absorbers, cushioning the jolts that occur with every step. Just walking around the office, going grocery shopping, or taking the dog around the block exerts several hundred tons of pressure on the feet.
In order for the feet to propel the body forward and absorb shock, the brain and spinal cord must first receive messages from the nerve endings located in the feet. The feet have thousands of sensory neurons (it's one of the highest concentrations of sensory neurons anywhere in the body), which makes them extremely sensitive to stimuli. These "earthward antennae," as I call them, send important information about the terrain and the body's positioning to the brain so that the brain can direct the feet to respond appropriately.
No two pairs of feet are identical, and even on the same person, feet usually differ slightly from each other. Foot shape and size, arch height, and length of toes all vary. Inherited traits may produce some characteristics, such as extremely high arches or particularly sweaty or odoriferous feet, that are potentially problematic.
Your feet contain 25 percent of the bones in your entire body!
The Achilles tendon is the largest and strongest tendon in the entire body. It connects the two calf muscles to the heel bone. When the calf muscles flex, the Achilles tendon pulls on the heel, allowing us to rise onto our toes, as we do when running, jumping, walking, or reaching for something overhead.
Children's Unique Feet
Infant feet are not simply tiny versions of adult feet. They are primarily cartilage and not fully formed. As the feet grow and strengthen, the cartilage becomes bone, a process that continues into the late teens.
Baby feet tend to be a bit chubby, wider at the toes and tapering toward the heel. They normally appear flat because the arches aren't formed and the soles are protected with pads of fat. When a child first starts walking, these fat pads cause a waddling gait. (That's why we call them toddlers!) Children usually start taking adultlike, heel-to-toe steps around 3 to 4 years of age. The arches begin to develop when the child is about 21⁄2 years old and don't fully form until 6 to 8 years of age.
Proper care for your child's feet is essential. The most important thing you can do is allow them to develop naturally and without constriction. Babies should be encouraged to stretch and kick their feet as much as possible to develop muscles and prepare their feet for standing and walking. They do not need shoes, just soft socks that don't bind. As your child grows, encourage them to go barefoot as often as possible, indoors and outdoors. This strengthens their feet, knees, legs, hips, and back.
Shoes need to fit properly, be extremely comfortable, allow plenty of wiggle room for toes, be super flexible, and have soft soles. Rigid shoes minimize the natural movement of feet and can result in problems down the road.
This category can include many fashionable dress shoes, boots, clogs, and sandals, as well as ultrapadded athletic shoes and most sports-specialized shoes. Please limit the time that your child spends wearing these styles, instead searching out brands that promote foot health. See Resources for a few suggestions.
Toenails Are Part of Your Feet
Toenails are composed of keratin, the same protein that makes up your skin and hair, but in a harder and tougher version. They protect the ends of your toes and the bones and nerves lying underneath. Toenails grow approximately 1⁄16 to 1⁄8 inch (1.6 to 3 mm) per month, two to three times slower than fingernails. To grow an entirely new toenail takes 12 to 18 months. Toenails and fingernails grow fastest during hot weather, pregnancy, and teenage years.
Parts of the Toenail
Toenails can suffer a variety of disorders caused by injury, lack of hygiene, improperly fitting shoes, poor circulation, or disease. Toenail woes include bruises, fungal infections, discoloration, brittleness, and deformity. Seniors, who often neglect their feet because they can't reach them, have arthritis, or lack the hand strength to cut increasingly tough nails, are particularly prone to toenail issues. Overgrown toenails, thick calluses, and cracked, dry heels are often the result.
The Benefits of Barefoot Walking
Feet play an important role in proprioception, which is the gathering of information necessary for awareness of balance, movement, and your position in space. Bare feet touching the ground can relay much more information to the brain than feet encased in shoes. Over time, the constant shielding of feet can lead to a loss of normal nerve response and even painful hypersensitivity.
Stimulating the feet by walking barefoot sends large amounts of data to the brain and helps keep it active and sharp, plus it allows feet to relax, expand, become stronger, and develop better mechanics. If you rarely go barefoot, try spending even just 10 to 15 minutes a day barefoot, preferably outdoors. Choose a safe, textured surface, such as mown grass, soft dirt or sand, or a smooth stone ledge. Wading in a brook or the ocean is great for your feet, too.
Many folks notice that as they spend more time barefoot, they feel less anxious and sleep better. Often they have improved circulation in the feet and legs, better clarity of thought, enhanced immunity and vitality, and a decrease in overall inflammation. They feel refreshed, calm, grounded yet energized, and fully alive. Being barefoot feels great once your tender soles get used to the new sensations!
Though I encourage daily barefoot walking (and spend as much time barefoot myself as I can), do be careful. You should not go from regularly wearing shoes, especially ill-fitting ones (and that includes overly padded running/walking shoes with elevated heels and tapered toes), to going straight-up barefoot for any length of time—your feet and lower legs will probably scream! Feet that have been caged for years in typical modern shoes will not function properly, especially on uneven surfaces.
Fun Foot Test
Let's see just how coordinated your feet are with this simple test.
- 1.Sit in a straight-backed chair, facing straight ahead, with your feet flat on the floor.
- 2.Lift your right foot off the ground a few inches (there's no need to point your toes).
- 3.Start drawing a clockwise circle with your foot. At the same time, write the number 6 in the air with your right hand, repeatedly.
You'll soon see that your right foot follows suit and reverses to counterclockwise motion. Neurological pathways will not allow your foot to move in a different direction than your hand, no matter how hard you try. And believe me, I keep trying!
Bare your soles slowly, for a few minutes each day, and work up to more extended time. Weak foot and calf muscles need to be conditioned and strengthened and the bottoms of your feet need to be toughened a bit before you venture forth for any length of time with barefoot confidence. Be careful where you plant your tootsies, and inspect your feet when you return indoors.
Be aware that some folks simply cannot walk barefoot, whether it's because of injury, a foot deformity of some type, or a lack of natural padding on the soles. Diabetics and those suffering from neuropathy in their feet may not realize when their feet suffer tissue damage and should not go barefoot outdoors unless the area is guaranteed to be free of sharp objects, prickly plants, and biting insects.
If it's difficult for you to find safe natural surfaces for barefoot walking, then walk barefoot in your home or on carpeted surfaces as much as you can. Your feet will still become stronger, though you will not experience the energizing, grounding, full-body health benefits of sauntering on the actual earth.
And if walking barefoot on any surface isn't in the best interest of your feet or your body for medical reasons, then you can at least do daily foot exercises; see Chapter 2.
The Shoes You Choose
The shoes you wear have a huge impact on your foot function and therefore your whole body's function. Delving into all the pros and cons of every style of shoe available would fill an entire book, but suffice it to say, most of them are not good for your feet! In fact, the majority of foot problems can be attributed to ill-fitting footwear.
Most shoes—for work, athletics, or fashion—are designed not with natural foot function and health in mind, but for pleasure, popularity, and profit. Shoes that are too cushioned or overly supportive, shoes with tight toes and high heels, and shoes that just don't fit properly have spawned an epidemic of foot dysfunctions and deformities.
But it's not just the feet that suffer. Your feet are the foundation of your body, and when they can't move naturally and freely, the rest of the body is negatively impacted. Over time, ill-fitting shoes can cause any of the following:
- Cramps and fatigue in the toes, feet, and legs
- Ongoing pain in the toes, balls of the feet, and heels
- Corns and calluses
- Poor circulation in the feet and lower legs
- Weak arches that don't provide adequate support
- Weak, sore ankles
- Painful, stiff knees, hips, back, and shoulders
- Contraction and other deformities of the toes
- Stress fractures of the foot
When your feet hurt, so do you! Furthermore, these foot problems can lead to issues with balance, as well as headaches, irritability, nervous exhaustion, and general fatigue.
If you must wear fashionable shoes that coerce your feet into unnatural shapes, think of them as dessert. Too much dessert and, well, you know what happens: The body changes shape, and not in a good way. Wear your "fancy" shoes only for special occasions, not all day, every day.
How to Shop for Shoes
Buy the most health-promoting shoes that your feet and your budget can handle. If you must have arch support, lots of stability, and plenty of cushion, that's fine for now. As your feet grow stronger and more flexible—and they will if you wear better shoes and do the exercises outlined in Chapter 2—you can transition to shoes that do a better job of supporting foot health and functionality. You'll eventually discover that your feet will bark in protest if forced back into most modern shoe styles.
Whether your feet are already in great condition or you're working to restore their strength, flexibility, and natural shape, let the suggestions on the following page be your guide for shoe shopping. (See Resources for suggested shoe brands that promote healthy feet.)
And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.
—Khalil Gibran, The Prophet
- Feet tend to swell as the day goes by, so buy shoes in the afternoon or at the end of your work cycle when possible.
- Bring the type of hosiery that you intend to wear with the style of shoe you are buying.
- If you wear orthotics or other special insoles, bring them with you. You'll need a roomier shoe to allow for proper fit and function.
Choosing the Right Shoes
- On Sale
- Dec 21, 2021
- Page Count
- 144 pages