The higher power of your choice willing, by the time this column makes it to print it'll be sandal season. That's right, time to put your feet on display for the rest of the world to see. For some, this is a less than thrilling prospect. Crooked toes, warts, athlete's foot, bunions and fallen arches can make folks self-conscious, and let's be honest, nobody really likes to be faced with someone else's toe fungus.
Usher in the warm weather with the tough love of a pumice stone, your one chance to slough off callouses. Then get yourself some manicure scissors, the kind that will let you cut toenails straight across instead of in an arc, which can cause painful and grossitating in-growths.
Then there's the question of footwear. The trend toward high heels is a major drag, a) because most women have no idea how to walk in them. You can't just clomp around duck-footed like you normally would. If you're going to do that, you might as well put your flats back on. And b) because if you're not a professional stripper choreographing your every move, you're going to get injuries, some of which might only appear years from now. You really don't want the surprise.
Choosing the right shoes can depend on your foot type. Hint: this is not the time to shop at Buy the Pound. And since we're going to be flaunting our earth-hugging extremities, know that studies suggests that psychological traits can be read by the relative size of our toes. Imagine if one day we could tell everything we need to know just by staring at each other's hoofs.
What the experts say
" Tea tree oil is something people can use topically for athlete's foot. I recommend oregano oil topically and orally, though not if you're pregnant, trying to get pregnant or breast-feeding. Washing feet regularly and drying them is the main thing - putting powder on as well. Wearing open-toed shoes airs out the feet better. Athlete's foot and toe fungus go hand in hand. Everyone who goes to a gym is exposed to fungus, but some get it and some don't. Some have a stronger immune system. Those who do get it may be eating lots of bread, pasta, sugars and starches. These make a better food supply for fungus or yeast. Supplementing zinc can build resistance. For toenail fungus under the nail, you can soak a band-aid in oregano oil [and apply]. This can take months. Apple cider vinegar or grapefruit seed extract foot baths will also help. Thuja is helpful for plantar warts.
PAMELA FRANK , naturopath, Toronto
"For fungus, a topical herb would be shi liu pi shui xi ji (pomegranate-rind wash preparation). This is a foot soak. Another that can be used is a topical powder, qing dai san (indigo). A common internal preparation would be wui shen tang (five spirits decoction) This is a mixture whose main ingredients are floss lonicerae flower and the violae plant. This lowers damp heat. Someone who eats a lot of spicy, greasy, fatty foods or a lot of damp foods like sugar and wheat may have damp heat. You have to be careful to air out your feet. People go to the gym, take a shower, then towel off and spread the fungus all over their bodies. It gets in through broken skin, like a pimple. I've seen people with fungus all over their groin and butts that has spread this way."
ROBERT McDONALD , practitioner of Chinese medicine, Toronto
"Naot shoes are from Israel, and they have a lot of sandals because, duh, they're from Israel. They have a specially moulded insole. If you've got deeper pockets, Mephisto makes good sandals as well, but they tend to be for a narrower foot. Men tend to cover their feet all year round. Please, men, let your feet breathe. [Women], if you wear heels, your weight will come forward onto the balls of your feet, and if you already have bunions, that can inflame them. It also increases your chances of having corns and tougher skin. If you're young and strong, you can wear them, but you shouldn't wear them beyond a certain age."
MARGO McLAUGHLIN , reflexologist, Toronto
"A nail lacquer called Penlac helps destroy toenail fungus. If that doesn't work, a practitioner will put you onto something oral like Lamisil , but this has possible side effects for your liver and kidneys. The dye in toenail polish creates problems for fungus. I tell people they can wear it for four or five days, but they have to remove it for a week or so. You can use clear nail polish. With the popularity of high-heeled shoes, I get a lot of complaints about shin splints and calf pain. It's hard on the legs to go back and forth from heels to flats. Shoes with minimal support will affect your whole body. You want to look for good arch support and a firm heel counter. If you can bend the back of the shoe it's not firm enough. Most people's feet roll. When it comes to running shoes, if you are a roller you should look at New Balance , Saucony or Asics . A high arch means you're a poor shock absorber, and for that I would suggest Nikes .
DARYL HOCHMAN , podiatrist, osteopath
"There is some evidence that men and women have different toe length ratios [between the second and the fourth digits.] But I don't know that anyone has tested to see whether they correlate with psychological traits; my bet is that they do. In other animals the answer is yes. Nancy Burley and colleagues have shown that a female finch is more or less picky about choosing a male mate depending on her toe ratio. I'm doing work looking at whether chickens with type-A personalities have specific toe length ratios."
PETER HURD , assistant professor of psychology, University of Alberta
"The plantar fascial band runs through the whole bottom of the arch of the foot. If you do a lot of sports and this band stretches, it can cause pain or plantar fasciitis. If it's not treated, you can develop heel spurs, which can be very painful. Treatments for heel spurs include shockwave therapy , cortisone and surgery. The bottom line is, wear supportive shoes with the proper arch support.' MARIO TURANOVIC, president, Canadian Podiatric Medical Association, Alberta