In considering the whole framework of the body and the apparatus for giving it motion, I imagine many moderns feel that the foot plays a minor part. But an authoritative article which I have just read says that the highly mechanized army of today depends increasingly on the state of the feet. It also says that the large number of serious foot troubles in the young men entering the service is shocking.
We had best look with a critical eye, however, on what takes place in the armed forces. In World War I, a certain young man was rejected by the armed forces because of flat feet; the year after the war ended he won the Boston Athletic Association Marathon, running twenty-six miles, three hundred and eighty five yards, over hard pavements. This merely points up the fact that too much indiscriminate attention has been paid to the height of the arch under the center of the foot.
The foot is the very basis of human anatomy. Even in this mechanized age most people have to be on their feet a good deal. The feet support us, balance us, and start most of our motions. They should have intelligent care from the moment of birth. A famous orthopedic surgeon said that the care of club foot should begin while awaiting the delivery of the placenta. Actually, very few children are born with bad feet; rather, the great majority starts with good feet and then so-called civilized people proceed to ruin them. I doubt if many American Indians before their association with the whites developed flat feet or if the African savages do.
The foot was originally intended to go bare so that it could take its normal position and get normal exercise. Feet have made trouble principally because shoes interfere with these two conditions. No other part of the body has been habitually encased in a rigid framework, preventing free motion, and, what is more, absolutely forcing it into the wrong positions. For centuries the pointed-toe shoe was considered, if not the acme of beauty, at least of fashion. When Elizabeth Hawes said that fashion is spinach, she slighted the attributes of a very potent drug. Rarely does one see an adult foot that corresponds to what a textbook on the anatomy of the foot considers normal: a turning of the big toe to the outer side is, almost universal. When this is carried to an extreme, a bunion is likely to develop and may be disabling. Wear proper shoes during the growing age, exercise the feet, and be careful about much wearing of poorly shaped shoes at any time.
These observations should not be construed as a plea for dressy young women to attend their social functions in "common sense" shoes - straight inner sides, square toes, low heels. It is not to be expected that dressy women will go to dressy parties without dressy shoes. If they will wear sensible shoes most of the time, they may indulge in a little foolishness at intervals. A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men. And women.
In this mechanical age it should be unnecessary to point out that when any machinery is "out of line" there is resulting trouble. A misshapen foot puts extra strain on the ligaments and muscles that support it. Add to this that the free movement of the muscles is interfered with, and the trouble is compounded. It is not the lowness of the arch, the "flat foot," that is the cause of the difficulty. Negroes are notoriously flat footed and yet, as we all know, they are often the finest of athletes. But once the ligaments have stretched, a chronic distressful condition occurs that is difficult to restore to normal. A better term than flat feet is "foot strain," as it is the resulting strain upon the muscles attempting to compensate which causes the symptoms. This strain may be felt all the way from the foot to the back. One hint: if you are carrying extra weight, you are not giving your feet a fair chance.