By Elaine Rohse • Columnist • 

Appreciating feet is the first step

A friend recently suggested I write a column about feet.

I love suggestions for columns, but at the outset I was rather dubious about “feet” as a subject. It didn’t seem to be exactly a profound subject — but, I reminded myself, I’ve often written colums that lacked profundity.

But my friend further explained his reasons for suggesting that something be written about feet, and, with that, I began to understand his reasoning for the idea. He says we humans abuse our feet. We not only imprison them, but command them to take us wherever we want to go. Never do they see daylight, although nighttime brings a bit of freedom.

After thinking a bit about my friend’s suggestion, I, too, began feeling sorry for my feet and decided to take up their cause.

After all, I often listen to other body parts when they complain. Although sometimes my feet may protest a bit, usually they carry on like soldiers. They are stoic as can be.

My stomach rather frequently complains. I eat a piece of chocolate mousse cake, top it with a glazed doughnut, then finish off dessert with a macadamia nut cookie, and my stomach wastes no time in letting me know it has been abused.

Although I am sometimes a bit indignant about my stomach’s inability to cope, I agree not to subject it to such “dessert” again soon.

When my eyes advised they needed attention after I attempted unsuccessfully to read the fine print on the little sticker on my apple to determine what kind of apple I was eating, I listened to my eyes and shortly thereafter was fitted with new glasses — whereupon my eyes then advised I was eating Jonagolds.

My patient feet, on the other hand, just plod along, usually without complaint.

When I failed to use sunscreen on my face, my skin was quick to answer with unsightly brown “age” blotches. I again started wearing sunscreen.

My feet obediently took me where I wanted to go — without comment.

I like to walk, and when bursitis made walking uncomfortable, I walked less for a time. But even then, it wasn’t my feet that objected. It was an upset bursa.

It’s true that, once in a while, my feet send a little reminder — but in view of what we ask of them, they are indeed uncomplaining parts of our body.

There they are, imprisoned in tight leather prison cells day after day, permitted out only after dark, never to see sunlight.

And we women are guilty of torturing our feet even more than men.

I buy a pair of pointy, stiletto-heeled shoes, to which no man would ever subject his feet. I thought them quite grand, but my feet did not think so. In awkward, mincing steps, they scarcely could take me me across the room. And my feet objected strenuously to the way those shoes squeezed toes together so tightly in confined quarters that no flow of blood any longer was reaching them.

My feet weren’t the only reason I seldom wore those shoes. I didn’t like being so tilted forward. I felt as if I was going downhill. Even so, I bought more pointy-toed shoes — although heels never again that high.

When I cut my toenails too short and rounded them at the corners instead of cutting them straight across, my feet sent word via an ingrown nail — but they remonstrated only after giving me fair warning.

And I found more ways to abuse my feet.

I wore tennies. I wore tennies morning, noon and night. My feet took the tennies wearing in stride for many years without objecting. Finally, they sent word that enough is enough. They let my arches fall. I had to resort to arch supports.

So, although our patient feet, in time, may advise of corns, bunions, calluses, plantar warts, fallen arches, they do so almost apologetically, as when I bought a pair of shoes on sale that were half a size too small because none were available in the size I usually wear. It took quite a while before they sent out indications of a corn on my second toe.

And we not only imprison our feet, we tend to make fun of them and make jokes about them when they smell. Whereas, in fact, that unpleasant odor is not entirely the fault of the feet but rather resulting from sweat. The sweat, of itself, is odorless but creates a “friendly” environment for growth of bacteria that produce ill-smelling substances. And with that odor now comes more abuse for our feet. Now they are not only imprisoned in a tiny cell, but it is also a smelly one — with never a breath of fresh air.

In truth, we should have utmost regard for our feet. They are highly complex machines. Each appendage on the end of a leg has more than 26 bones and 33 joints. Our feet serve as our shock absorbers. They assist in mobility, walking, running, climbing, and dancing — and how sorry our world would be without dance.

Some meticulous housekeepers now are taking up the cause of feet and suggesting the removal of shoes before entering a home. So, perhaps, that is a step in recognizing our abuse of feet. And, oh, how glad our feet must be with our growing fondness for flip-flops.

I agree with my friend that we should forever praise our feet — for their dependability, their acceptance of our orders always telling them where to go. Often I am furious with my computer, which indeed is a highly complex machine. Likewise, my feet are highly complex yet never refuse to accept a command. All I need do is to tell my feet we’re going to walk down to the mailbox to get the mail — and never do they tell me that it’s raining or that they just got back from a two-mile walk. Humbly, as if they were servants, they take me out the door and up to the mailbox.

I do not thank them for doing so.

Yet, every time I give those complex machines an order, each foot puts into play not only 26 bones and 33 joints, but some hundred tendons, ligaments and muscles. My feet obey the command, never refusing to cooperate as may my computer.

I’m sure my friend’s efforts to get our feet out of prison aren’t going to be tantamount to a civil war, but at least he reminded me of how beholden I should be to my feet.

All I need do is tell them where I want to go — and off they take me — with no refusal, no malfunctioning — except, perhaps, a corn now and then.

Elaine Rohse can be reached at

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