Not your average travel blog
Despite what you might assume, elephants walk on their tip toes, but more on those ballet-beauties in a moment.
Fascinating feet come in as many visual variants, shapes and sizes as they do tastes. Once described by a group of friends, mine happen to be, “feet that a woman should be envious of”, apparently soft skinned, smooth, with desirable, aesthetically-pleasing arches and well groomed nails. To summarise, and although I have to now disagree, I have the feet of a beautiful woman. Splendid.
As grateful as I am for apparently appealing to the feet-partial podophiliacs, I can safely say that for the last few months my feet have felt like they have been in decline. Human feet have simply not evolved to withstand the pressures of basic locomotion; walking or running in our case, and I don’t say that based on my current opinion of the condition of my feet.
My dawn treaders have come a long way following the comments I made in my very early blog posts. Although blessed with health, I am sadly no hobbit-footed creature. I think however, my feet are finally feeling like they’re ready for a long distance challenge; not blistering in anyway whatsoever (with the right socks), not screaming for a whole tub of Vaseline after their six mile walk across London each day and not immediately having a tearful break down every time someone shouts “walkies” and shakes a dog lead in the air at me (that’s because my friends have dogs and not for any other reason).
I’ve been doing my utmost to toughen my souls, however we seem to be the only living creatures on earth that have decided to reverse the development of the dexterity, strength and adaptability of our feet, with other senses to boot. Humans are the only beings to wear protection on our feet and because of this, our feet have devolved into thin-skinned, over-protected, weak, flimsy, breakable structures that are only just useful for relatively short journeys. They’re useless in environments even slightly outside of their comfort zone and have adapted poorly for unstable ground. We treat them like babies that we never allow to grow up.
Walking is the best exercise for your feet, even moreso barefoot. It also maintains your general health by improving circulation, posture and contributing to healthy weight control. Your feet mirror your overall health. If you see someone with a funny walk, likelihood is they have hilarious feet. Arthritis, diabetes, nerve and circulatory disorders can show their initial symptoms in feet – so foot ailments can be your first sign of more serious medical problems. When the structure of the foot is out of alignment, so is the rest of the body. I was always sceptical of reflexology, but after having the treatment a few years ago, it was like crossing a gypsy woman’s palm with silver and having my life story read to me, only it was with my feet, and accurate….not that I’m sceptical.
I need my feet to hold up under the constant pressure, variable temperatures and mixed terrain of the American landscape, so some of the following facts have been considered almost as much as the epic benefits of peanut butter (see January 26th 2014).
The bone-greedy feet contain a quarter of the human skeleton. One human foot and ankle contains 26 bones, 33 joints and well over a 100 ligaments, tendons and muscles combined (the facts will become less geeky…hopefully).
The average person takes 8,000 to 10,000 steps a day.
When walking, each time your heel lifts off the ground it forces your toes to carry one half of your body weight. During an average day of walking, the total forces on your feet can total hundreds of tons, equivalent to an average-sized family car, filled with well dressed, festival-going elephants.
There are 250,000 sweat glands in each pair of feet, excreting as much as a half-pint of moisture a day.
A foot is like a breast, rarely the symmetrical image of its partner, differing in shape and size, sensitivity and position. However, unlike breasts, when you run on them, the pressure can be as much as four times the runners body weight. Although I’m a bit dubious about that fact, I have never run on breasts, but that would be like carrying a baby elephant every time you go for a jog.
It’s neglect and a lack of awareness of proper care – including ill fitting shoes – that lead to more than 75% of Americans experiencing serious foot problems in their lifetime.
9 out of 10 women wear shoes that are too small for them.
It’s not surprising then, that women experience foot problems four times more than men. By slipping on a pair of high heels, ladies might accentuate their curves, plump up their calves, allowing their perked-up bottoms to flirt with us whilst they’re looking the other way, but hidden away and sweating a half pint, their feet are disintegrating and dying.
Arthritis, especially in feet, is the number one cause of disability in America. It limits everyday dressing, climbing stairs, getting in and out of bed, zimmer frame racing, hopscotch, riding unicycles, clog dancing, accidentally playing footsy with your boss when you meant to rub up against the new girl from accounts and I think, walking – for about 7 million Americans.
As well as arthritis being the number one cause of disability, diabetes is responsible for the most foot amputations every year in America. Of all lower limb amputations, in the states, diabetes is responsible for more than half of approximately 185,000 “leg-offs” every year.
The V.A.C. Therapy website, has some terrifying statistics:
Although linked with overall health, extended medical ailments including diabetes and arthritis, let’s keep the topic of feet in context. There are currently more foot fetish websites on the Internet than websites for foot health. Although I’m sure if you look at some podophiliac pages, you might find some “creative” foot/beauty notes.
Humans may have been subjects of their own devolution by being a little scared of walking barefoot on awkward pebble beaches, on cold, wet grasslands, amongst freezing, sticky-floored pine forests, on steaming, boggy peat plains, along slippery, slime-coated riverbanks, on the verruca infected, concrete surrounds of the local baths or, to summarise those statements; scared of stepping into prehistoric Little Britain. However some land-loving creatures braved the new world on their feet and, without covering their limbs with the carcasses of their evening meals, demonstrated to us how to evolve like professionals.
Those ballerina-beauties walk on their tip toes. Disguised as slow plodding non-jumpers, they dance around all day making Darcey Bussell look like an amateur. A thick layer of padding separates the heel bone from the bottom of the foot, while the toe bones are instead much closer to the skin layer, on the ground. Don’t be jealous ladies, essentially they’ve adapted their own high heel wedge into their foot. Not only does the padding serve to cushion the bone, it accentuates the elephants robust and beautiful bottom. Now that’s a lesson in evolution!
Also, unlike river dancing destroyers of the worlds stages, when elephants dance, they barely leave footprints on dry ground. Floating over eggshells, they’re like massive fairies. It’s also very likely that they feel vibrations in the ground, using their feet like a spider without a web. Next time you see an elephant running for no reason, it either knows, through it’s feet, that a storm or other animals are approaching, or you’ve angered a half ton Tinkerbell. Fairies do exist.
All felines are able to retract their claws, except cheetahs. Don’t feel sorry for those crazy cats, they can run as fast as seventy miles per hour. Personally, I don’t think we’ve found the fastest cheetah. He’s out there somewhere, running 80mph, but speed cameras in Africa are sparse. Cheetahs feet have evolved to have ultimate grip so they can chase after anything, catch it and then commit murder.
Butterflies taste with their feet. If you don’t think thats cool, stop reading. Now. Imagine being a butterfly and standing on a flower, or better yet, on a crème brûlée!
Blue-footed boobies are aptly named, and males take great pride in their fabulous feet. On a first date, with a high-stepping strut, they quickly get their feet out and parade them around in front of their flight of fancy to see if she’ll put out. Even during sweet love making, male birds show off their feet. The bluer the feet, the more likely it is that she’ll fall in love. Without doubt, the blue footed boobies have a serious foot fetish and once they make baby boobies, they use their impressive blue feet to cover their young and keep them warm. Now that’s some genuine foot love.
Sea lion feet, as well as other aquatic mammals, have evolved into paddles, specially adapted for life in the water. Pinnipeds (sea lions, walruses, and seals) also flap around on land a little less gracefully, but humans still figure that their feet are so awesome, that they copy them to steer their boats and canoes.
Polar bears have paws bigger than your head. Covered with hair, the bears feet can grip as it runs across the ice and snow. Thickly callused pads both protect from the cold and prevent the bears from cutting themselves on sharp ice when they’re making cocktails. Long claws help the bear to dance without slipping off an ice shelf and to dig snow caves to have afternoon naps in. Their feet have evolved to have sharp claws, which are deadly weapons for attacking other bears, walrus, caribou or tourists and just for kicks, they also developed partially webbed forepaws. Impressive as we struggle to simply walk across a room without standing on an upturned plug.
Horses, mules and donkey’s all have solid hooves. The solid hoof is built for speed when crossing wide open, desolate spaces like the area between my ignorant, neighbours ears.
Not all hooves are solid. A cloven hoof helps goats and sheep to climb over uneven ground, on rocky hillsides or cliffs, up concrete dams in Italy and into the trees in Morocco. Deer, elk, moose, bighorn sheep, pronghorn and bison all have cloven hooves and these respected and tasty quadrupeds all live in North America (but don’t climb trees).
Hummingbirds spend more time at the bar than they do on the dance floor and therefore their feet have evolved into light, efficiently tiny, packaway daps.
If we return from the sublime, back to the ridiculous, “Elvis foot” is climber’s jargon for being so tired that your foot trembles on the rock. However I prefer its other name which can and should be used in more situations, “disco knee”.
The ancient Romans were the first to construct distinct left and right shoes. Efficient as always but before Russell Crowe, shoes could be worn on either foot.
The human race is not going to reverse its devolution of feet. We’re not all suddenly going to wake up and go without shoes, comfortable carpets or pedicures. I’m not suggesting we should.
However, I think some careful reflection of what we expect of our feet, what we ask of them and what it might mean if we neglect their significance is important.
Walking, especially barefoot has impressive benefits:
The facts are simple; look after your feet, and you automatically look after your body and soul.
I know I will have to remember that over the next eight months.
Great blog. Totally barefoot may be a bit extreme, but you can get pretty close. I used Inov8 Terrocs on my trip across Europe and let me enough pairs (4) to get me from Tarifa to Budapest. I didn’t get a single blister, but I did, by and large, manage to avoid walking on roads which is another thing I don’t think we are evolved to do.
Thanks John. Often a little humbled that strangers read it! I’ll certainly be checking out your recommendations and a few barefoot options. Not long to go now. Getting pretty nervous.