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No Mean Feet

Updated on March 24, 2019
Stella Kaye profile image

Stella has an avid interest in physical and mental health and fitness related issues and facts dealing with sound nutritional advice.


Perhaps God should have provided Adam and Eve with suitable footwear rather than giving them fig leaves to cover their modesty because even now in the twenty-first century, the perfect shoes may not exist.


In order to care for your feet properly, you really do need perfect shoes for every season but finding a pair can prove an insurmountable task and many of us are prepared to substitute comfort for style until one day our feet rebel.

Finding suitable shoes in ordinary chain stores is like the quest for the Holy Grail so it's no mean feat getting them to fit if you require wider fittings than the standard ‘off the peg’ selection provides. Whether it's footwear or clothing you're looking for, if you're not Mr or Mrs Average, then your trip to the shopping mall may often prove unproductive.


A few years back, my left foot rebelled due to bunion problems and I couldn't find a pair of shoes that didn't aggravate the condition further. None were wide enough to accommodate the bunion comfortably, which meant I was experiencing considerable pain when walking. There was also inflammation that wouldn't subside unless I went barefoot or wore flip-flops to allow my toes total freedom of movement. Thank goodness it was still summer, I thought, but if the problem didn't go away soon, I might even have to get specialist shoes made-to-measure by the time autumn arrived.

I was no Cinderella so I didn’t want glass slippers to wear to the ball – I just wanted a pair of shoes that wouldn't crush my feet or rub the side of my big toe! When you think about it, if you had mittens on your hands all day long, you wouldn’t be able to do very much with your fingers and the same can be said of toes that are continually encased in tights, socks and shoes that leave no room for toes to do what they are supposed to. Like feathers on a bird’s wing, toes need to spread out to do their job properly; they shouldn't be squashed together along with the rest of the foot.

My right foot was fine - a standard size five - but being born with a bony protuberance on my left foot (something inherited from my father) has meant I’ve never been able to get a shoe to fit it perfectly. I can’t recall that dad ever had problems finding the correct shoes but men’s footwear is far more foot-friendly than women’s. Incredibly, I never knew the protuberance on my foot was a medical condition known as a bunion until I reached the age of fifty or I would have taken remedial action long ago. It had also taken me fifty years to realise that shoes are not foot shaped! Not one medical professional picked up on my predicament throughout my formative years and Clarke's shoe stockists who measured my feet for new school shoes at the start of each term didn't mention that anything was amiss. Even my weird cousin who had a foot fetish never noticed! For years, I'd assumed my little toe was the culprit for fighting its way out of the side of my shoe – not realising it was the big toe affected by the bunion that was pushing all the other toes over! It was just like the old nursery rhyme: ’There were ten in the bed.’

When a doctor eventually diagnosed the condition, he said I could have an operation to shave down the protruding bone. 'You'll need a general anaesthetic, you won't be able to walk for a couple of months and you might not see any improvement in the long term,' he told me.

'Well, we'll forget that then!' I replied. My foot pain eventually subsided and with careful choice of footwear, I haven't had any problems since. I can walk for miles but know I wouldn't be able to do that in anything other than completely flat shoes which allow adequate room for my toes.


Take a good look at your own bare feet and if your toes are all squashed together with no space in between for them to move freely like mine are on my left foot, then you could be in trouble at some point when your foot eventually rebels and you won’t be able to walk without experiencing excruciating pain with every step. Being overweight can also exacerbate foot problems and people who stand for long periods or take small steps backwards and forwards in the course of their daily work are more likely to suffer from foot ailments too.

It’s easy to forget about your feet until they give up on you. We all shove them into ill-fitting shoes, bunions or not, for the sake of fashion and convention and then when they cause us pain we begin to wonder why. Our feet are beasts of burden and it’s easy to flog them to death before we even begin to realise that it’s because we’ve been mistreating them all along. I’m as guilty as anyone for ignoring the needs of my toes.

No wonder we suffer from so many maladies as we grow older when our toes have been neglected all our lives. Backache and bad posture can be a particular problem if you continually wear unsuitable shoes with ridiculous heels on a regular basis. You may be able to get away with such extremes in younger days but as you age, your body will become less resilient to such abuse. Save the heels for special occasions only, if you can't bear to part with them altogether.

As well as being the wrong shape, most women's footwear is barely wide enough to contain normal feet, never mind those with bunions. Whereas men wouldn't dream of squashing their feet into cramped, pointed footwear, women are prepared to go to any lengths (or heights in this case!) to make a fashion statement. This is nowhere near as bad as the Chinese foot-binding process of times past but it can still cause bones to become deformed which gives rise to problems such as hammertoes and arthritis.

In my own search for an answer to my foot problems, I began to wonder if shoes should really have separate compartments for toes in order for the structure of the foot to function correctly – you know, like those brightly coloured woolly socks that were fashionable back in the seventies. And yes, such shoes do exist! An internet search provided me with several stockists that sell ‘five finger shoes’ and I must say I was very tempted to purchase a pair. Maybe it’s the way shoes should have been designed all along for feet to perform at their best.

I try to enjoy some shoe-free time whenever possible; not many have the opportunity to walk barefoot along a beach every day but something as free and simple as walking barefoot through wet grass can be amazingly therapeutic and is immensely beneficial to foot health whether you have foot problems or not. City dwellers can take a walk in the park and everyone can enjoy a foot bath containing some reviving mineral salts after a long day on their feet.

In my quest for the perfect shoe, I also found out a great deal about bunions which are more common than I previously thought. Indeed several prominent celebrities have suffered from them; Victoria Beckham and Oprah Winfrey to name but two. No one is going to listen to an ordinary person like me rambling on about my bunion but perhaps celebrities like them who are in a position to exert their influence on shoe designers can speak out so that everyone can easily find shoes that not only fit their feet but are fashionable too. Surely this should be possible nowadays at the height of humanity's technological development? Perhaps some clever sole, if you pardon the pun, will be able to help bring this about.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2019 Stella Kaye


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