It's hard to be fancy-free when you're feeling foot-sore. It's estimated that 80 per cent of us bipeds are walking around with something going wrong in our foundations.
The ramifications can be severe. Even minimally misaligned or misused feet can develop painful bunions, corns and calluses, and there's also a ripple effect on your whole musculoskeletal structure. A few degrees of unwarranted torque in the foot translate to greater misalignment in the knees and hips, and can lead to leg, back and even jaw problems.
Leading-edge dentists now work in tandem with podiatrists (foot doctors) to deal with recurring dental problems. If a person's feet aren't taken care of, they've found, the impact on the jaw moves teeth right back to the undesirable places they started.
Looking after your nether paws isn't so tough -- it just requires a little respect. Don't be a fashion victim and squish your tootsies into too-tiny shoes.
Over time your feet will deform, which isn't very beautiful at all. Save high heels for special occasions, unless you want to wear them for the rest of your life. Flaunting your gams too often contracts your tendons, making flat shoes too painful to bear.WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY
"The feet are the structural base of the human body, and improper care or use is going to give you numerous other health problems. High heels are not a person's best friends. All your weight has to be carried by your metatarsals, weight that the whole foot is supposed to carry. Most people who wear high heels tilt the pelvis forward to try to walk normally. That stresses the lower back and puts excessive stress on the kidneys. It'll also affect the lower thoracic, and the nerves that emanate from there go directly into the lower intestines and abdomen."
MATHIAS NAUTS, osteopath
"Bunions are inherited deformities of the big toe. Knowing there's a family history, you should get a prescribed orthotic, which maintains an ideal foot position. They cost about $450 to $650. Someone who can't afford that should try an arch support. It may eliminate some hyper-mobility of the foot. Corns and calluses are all reflections of pressure and irritation. They're probably secondary to a structural deformity, such as a hammer toe that rubs along the top of the shoe. Hammer toes and corns are easy to fix in the office under local."
JEFFREY LIEBMAN, doctor of podiatric medicine
"You don't inherit a bunion, but you inherit a foot type that predisposes you to it. It's probably caused by several factors, including shoes, the surfaces we function on and genetics. If you squeeze a foot into something that's not in its natural shape, the foot will start to conform to that shape. You're going to bump and rub and damage. There's no instant cure when you cause all this damage. Birkenstocks offer good solid support, but for some body types they could cause injury. (They may not work for) people with shortened Achilles tendons or people with a very high, stiff arch."
ROBERT CHELIN, president, Canadian Podiatric Medical Association
"A chiropractor should be examining the feet, knees and back at every visit, and adjust them if needed. Surgery should be the last resort. With bunions, the arch has collapsed and you're hitting the big toe, which develops a bony outgrowth. Podiatrists cut off the bony outgrowth. The chiropractic approach is to use orthotics after the surgery so the problem doesn't recur. Epsom salts foot soaks relax the foot muscles."
KATRINA KULHAY, chiropractor, nutritionist
"The Birkenstock gives you proper support. It has a deep heel cup, good lateral support and a toe bar for gripping that exercises your feet. If someone hasn't worn them before, we recommend starting these slowly. A lot of footwear uses materials to cushion the foot. Foam cushioning strains the foot -- it's a soft surface to walk on, like sand."
BARBARA KANNER, CEO, Serum International, distributor of Birkenstock shoes, Montreal