Friday, 18 January 2008

Are my high heels bad for me?

I am 5ft 10 inches tall and as a result, unless I never want anybody to talk to me, I don't usually find the need to wear high heels apart from on really special occasions. Saying that, there are a lot of females (and cross dressers and the odd fancy dress party goer) that do (approx. 300 million pairs of heeled shoes are sold annually in the US) and on behalf of these people, lets find out the truth about high heels and whether we should be heading for the recycle bank.

If you do frequently wear high heels or shoes that are too narrow or too short for your feet, you and your feet might be suffering from a number of ailments such as corns, calluses, toenail problems, bunions to name but a few. Not to scare you (well actually yes if it helps), a worst case scenario of long term abuse of your feet through ill fitting shoes could leave your feet looking something like this:

Compared to the sought after sexy factor of the high heels, these feet are anything but sexy! This is a bad case of bunions.

Problems like this do not just happen overnight, they build up over time. Research undertaken by D. Casey Kerrigan, M.D., M.S. of the University of Virginia has also linked the wearing of high heels to knee osteoarthritis, a painful, degenerative joint disease.

The images in this chart show us some of the major issues (Click on the image to enlarge):

It's not only your shoes affecting your feet, age does as well. As you get older your feet become wider and longer and the natural padding under your heel and forefeet thins. Your feet and ankles become stiffer (ask any reflexologist) through years of standing and walking and your arches flatten.

So back to that question, can I keep my high heels or are their days numbered?

Well not entirely, according to Martin Ellman, D.P.M., a specialist in podiatry at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.
"You can still wear high heels, but save them for special occasions," says Dr.Ellman. "...Avoid wearing high heels every day to minimize your risk of developing foot problems." The advice from Dr. Ellman is to "wear comfortable shoes eg trainers whenever you can for your commute to work and then changing into high heels once you arrive. Limit heel height to an inch and a half, and don't wear your high heels all day. For instance, if you have an important event in the morning, wear the high heels then, and switch to lower heeled shoes in the afternoon. Alternate your shoe choice throughout the day or from one day to the next."

So here are some tips to think about when buying your next pair of shoes:
  • Get your feet measured -your foot size can change with age
  • Choose sensible heels -try to select shoes with low heels eg. an inch and a half or less
  • Try the shoe on even if it's in your size-every shoe is different and you're going to be wearing them-get it right from the start!
  • Compare the shoe width with the width of your foot - try to avoid shoes that are to narrow for your feet
  • Try both shoes on - If you're like me and both of your feet are a different size then you need to know the difference and if both shoes feel comfortable for you
  • Shop for shoes late in the afternoon or in the evening - Your feet swell during the course of the day so try to hold out and resist the urge if it's at all possible!
Well there we have it, if you really can't give up those stilettos, try to limit the amount of time you spend in them and in the words of Kellie Pickler in the song Red High Heels:

"Baby I’ve got plans tonight
You don’t know nothin’ about
I’ve been sitting around way too long
Trying to figure you out
But you say that you’ll call and you don’t
And I’m spinning my wheels
So I’m going out tonight
In my red high heels"

*Sources used in the production of this article include The Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research and Science Direct, many thanks

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Is it illegal to drive barefoot? Answered

I noticed a few questions circulating on the Internet about whether it is illegal to drive barefoot in the UK so I contacted the UK Driving Standards Agency a couple of days ago and received the following response:

"You can legally drive in the U.K. with bare feet, also you can take a driving test with bare feet."

So that confirms it for the UK.

All you British shoe haters out there can go for it and be free!!


The Foot

Thanks to the Driving Standards Agency for their prompt response.

"And I would 500 miles and I would walk 500 hundred more..."

Well it wasn't quite as far as The Proclaimers would go but here's the evidence of my mammoth walk a few days ago. By the end of the day it was up to 28,000 steps! To give you a rough idea of distance, that's about 15 miles. Go me!

The pedometer is proving to be a really helpful tool in my daily exercise routine so far. If you have one anywhere in your home, it's certainly worth digging it out, if not, they're not too expensive to buy . Check the batteries, clip it on and you're away, simple as that! Get a rough idea of how many steps you are taking in a day-you might be surprised!

For information about the recommended daily number of steps you should be taking to stay healthy, check my earlier posting here.

If you do try this out, I would love to hear from you. It's always more fun to do this at the same time as other people and to cheer each other on.

The Foot

PS. The 28000 step day was a bit of a one off and my average typically is somewhere between 7000 and 10,000 steps a day at the moment.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Barefoot matters and where are all the Reflexology paths?

I enjoy spending as much time as possible without my shoes and socks on. I grew up near a beach and could run around barefoot to my hearts content, it was natural to me. Now I live in an urban environment and it just isn't possible. I fear stepping on glass, dog muck, chewing gum etc I also fear people stepping on my long toes in the crowded streets-and lets be honest-the UK isn't the warmest of countries either! OK, so I have to settle with just going barefoot at home, but is there any other way? Well I first heard of Reflexology paths a few years ago and I have been keen to try one out. These paths are quite commonly found in parks and public spaces throughout Asia. When I started researching for this article I hoped to find evidence of reflexology paths in the UK but to my disappointment, I have found none whatsoever. The benefits of walking on a reflexology path are based on the same principles behind reflexology where the 7,000 nerve endings, muscles, ligaments and bones in our feet can influence everything from digestion and constipation to blood pressure and chronic pain. As in reflexology, this must be done barefoot for any effect. There are a couple of paths in the US that received some publicity a couple of years ago when they opened but I can't find ANY signs of progress in the UK.

What I have found is a Barefooting community who want us to understand that:

"It is healthy for your feet to go barefoot.
It is not against the law to go barefoot into any kind of establishment
including restaurants.
It is also not against any health department regulation.
It is not against the law to drive barefoot."

(Being as this is from an American based website, I am currently awaiting confirmation from the UK Driving Standards Agency regarding the last point.)
I also found Barefoot parks based in Austria and Germany that are open to the public and offer the opportunity to walk some distance (up to three miles) on natural ground and to feel a variety of materials with the bare soles. The Barefoot Parks website states:
"...visitors can enjoy balancing or climbing exercises and walk through brooks or even rivers. Some barefoot parks include playground sections designed for barefoot use. This healthy combination of barefoot hiking and playing has become a real touristic attraction."

I also found this list of quotes about barefooting.

And what about running barefoot? I remember the South African runner Zola Bud smashing the 5000m World record in 1984 and the reason I remember it? She ran barefoot.

Is there any evidence to suggest running barefoot is better for you or helps in some way? Well it seems to be a minefield of information and opinions but hey at least it's being discussed!

Australian physical therapist Michael Warburton published his research into barefoot running in 2001.
He concluded that:

"Running in shoes appears to increase the risk of ankle sprains, either by decreasing awareness of foot position or by increasing the twisting torque on the ankle during a stumble.

Running in shoes appears to increase the risk of plantar fasciitis and other chronic injuries of the lower limb by modifying the transfer of shock to muscles and supporting structures.

Running in bare feet reduces oxygen consumption by a few percent. Competitive running performance should therefore improve by a similar amount, but there has been no published research comparing the effect of barefoot and shod running on simulated or real competitive running performance.

Research is needed to establish why runners choose not to run barefoot. Concern about puncture wounds, bruising, thermal injury, and overuse injury during the adaptation period are possibilities.

Running shoes play an important protective role on some courses, in extreme weather conditions, and with certain pathologies of the lower limb."

Christine Dobrowolski, Podiatrist and the author of Those Aching Feet: Your Guide to Diagnosis and Treatment of Common Foot Problems wrote an article also enquiring about the benefits or barefoot running and summarized her findings as follows:

"There are probably a few individuals who could improve their performance and decrease their rate of injury by running barefoot. But, before you toss your shoes in the garbage can and head out for a run with naked feet, consider a better fitting shoe. Barefoot running is not recommended for individuals with a high arch, a very low arch, those who overpronate or those with diabetes. If you do decide to give barefoot running a try, choose the running surface carefully and be aware of puncture wounds."

Amby Burfoot of Runner's World published an article in 2004 and concluded in response to the same question:
"...many podiatrists think it's dangerous. "Most of my patients aren't worldclass runners," says foot doctor Stephen Pribut, DPM. "It wouldn't make sense for them to risk getting twigs and glass in their feet. And I think some soft surfaces increase plantar fascia and Achilles problems. Of course, what doesn't kill you might make you stronger."

This a-little-medicine-is-good-for-you perspective is shared by a number of other podiatrists, physical therapists, and coaches. Their theory: Modern man does spend too much time in shoes, and this weakens many of the foot and leg structures. To correct this, you can walk barefoot around the house, do simple foot strengthening exercises, or run a few barefoot miles a week on safe, secure surfaces."

Well there we have it-clear as mud! I hope to see urban public reflexology paths and more research carried out into the benefits of going barefoot in the near future. In the meantime, if you do live near a reflexology path, I would welcome your feedback -Do you use it? How widely used are they in your community? Any information you may care to share would be appreciated.

Yours barefooted,

The Foot

Saturday, 12 January 2008

If you see me walking down the street

Yesterday, my pedometer told me I did 28020 steps - I'm pretty happy with that. This was achieved by walking all around London for a fair few hours chatting with a friend-yes us girlies can talk!
Now my pedometer might not be one of best ones out there and there most probably will have been a few hundred "fake steps" involved whilst bending over to tie my shoelace or lifting my hot chocolate cup but on the whole, I'm finding it to be a useful way to motivate myself to keep fit. I have attached it to my clothes already this morning and by the end of the day, I'll have a good measure of whether I got enough movement into my day.

The NHS have also backed the use of pedometers after a systematic review saying it
"provides evidence for the effectiveness of pedometers as one of the few interventions proven as a motivational tool to improve activity levels."

So how many steps do you need to take to be staying healthy?

Well 10,000 steps a day seems to be the standard response but this of course isn't always possible for everyone. The Walking Site suggests the following:
"A reasonable goal for most people is to increase average daily steps each week by 500 per day until you can easily average 10,000 per day. Example: If you currently average 3000 steps each day, your goal for week one is 3500 each day. Your week 2 goal is 4000 each day. Continue to increase each week and you should be averaging 10,000 steps by the end of 14 weeks."

Keeping a diary of how many steps you have managed in a day might help you get an idea of where you are at with your daily exercise - you might be surprised!

Here are some ideas for slipping in more walking:

Take the stairs instead of a lift-this is such a nice easy one to slip in
Park the car further away from the door of the supermarket
Walk the dog
Walk to your local shop (if you have one) instead of always going to the supermarket.

Basically anything that gets you walking those few extra steps, just like the change in your change jar, it'll add up.

Having a pair of shoes that are easy to walk in is also a good start.

Here are some more links to the use of pedometers:

Pedometer users walk farther, get healthier. San Francisco Chronicle, November 21 2007

It pays to count, pedometer study finds. Reuters, November 21 2007

Using Pedometers to Increase Physical Activity and Improve Health. The journal of the American Medical Association

How many pedometer steps per day are enough? Wendy Bumgardner

Happy walking!

Yours step by step,

The Foot

Friday, 11 January 2008

Does it say what it does on the box? Sugar, salt and fat content revealed, or is it?

Watched an interesting program "The Truth About Food" last night on Channel 4 (UK TV) in which the journalist Jane Moore investigated whether we know what we are actually eating when we buy food from the supermarket. Does it say what is does on the box?

It seems food labels aren't really telling us the truth about the fat, sugar and salt content of our food and there is quite a margin for error which is Government approved. The program revealed for example that the two out of six samples of the Sainsburys Chicken Tikka Masala had a third more fat than stated on the label whilst another had 91 per cent more fat. Yes, that 's right - 91 per cent more fat! How can this be? Well Government guidelines do allow manufacturers a margin of error of up to a whooping 30 per cent on fat or salt content. Jane Moore pointed out that there are more stringent guidelines on the content of the food we feed our animals in the UK than for the food we ourselves eat! This is crazy!

One of the breakfast cereals investigated had 1/4 of RDA of salt in one (small) serving. The percentage content was the equivalent to the amount of salt in sea water. This is what we are feeding our children and ourselves.

Supermarkets labeling seems to be in a mess. Well I find it totally confusing. I spent about 10 minutes the other day in the supermarket trying to figure out with breakfast cereal was better for me but the portion sizes were different, the labels looked different. I mean come on! Should it be this hard? I was sadly not shocked to find out that the Government has not enforced one labeling system for all supermarkets to use. Why is it taking so long to get this right? Obesity is a growing problem here and issues like this need to be seen to. Consumers obviously need some guidance. It could also be that Tesco and the big food manufacturers have rejected the colour-coded traffic light labelling backed by the Government in favour of a system based on the recommended daily amount of nutrients. It was pointed out on the Dispatches program last night that there is evidence that the Guideline Daily Amounts were set 20 years ago and are in need of serious revision.

I thought this program was highly informative and gave a good flavour for thinking a bit more about what is in our food rather than necessarily believing what the supermarkets tell us is in our food. I would be interested in seeing a more in detailed review into all of the subjects investigated but they did well for the time available.

I then watched the beginning of Super Size me for good measure. Morgan Spurlock-you're great!

Thursday, 10 January 2008

What a handful…

Have you had a cold recently? I bet you know someone who has –wow, it is that time of the year again. The most common way germs are spread is by peoples hands. Not all germs are harmful but some can cause common colds, tummy bugs and flu. Miserable!

Reflexologists come into contact with the general public on a daily basis and it is of utmost importance that they protect themselves as much as possible to not pass on harmful germs and to be able to keep working so as not to have to cancel appointments and let clients down.

I know you know what I’m talking about but here’s a little refresher anyway

Think about where those germs can build up, your computer keyboard, mobile phone –give them a once over and try to remind yourself by syncing it with something else you do once a week.

Yours squeaklingly clean (of course),

The Foot

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Still got the blues?

Well it's a wet old morning here at chez "all about the feet" and I'm longing for some sunshine. Doesn't the Winter seem to last forever sometimes? Today I want to share with you some of my ideas and thoughts for combating those winter blues.

Exercise: I walk every day, even if it's just to the local shop. I strongly advocate walking as often as possible (if you are physically able). Get the blood moving and get some daylight on board - it might not seem like there's much daylight around some days but it's going to be more than you get indoors. Try to vary your trips so you don't get bored with the repetition. Maybe a friend can join you? Get those feet moving.
I also can not speak highly enough of the benefits of practicing yoga as often as possible. I’m a big fan. is a really great site for learning more and even has a free hour long down loadable DVD-thanks guys!

Good Food: Feeling good through a well balanced diet sounds like a nice way of living to me. I also think it is important for your mental health to have a little bit of what you fancy when you think you need it. Each person needs different foods to support their body and mind. If you torture yourself with extreme diets the chances are it won’t last and you’ll revolt against it at some point (that is of course unless you have absolutely zero choice). I like to eat the veggies that are in season. ThinkVegetables has a great deal of information and advice to help. Make sure you’re getting the right range of vitamins. There is a great section on the Think Vegetables website where you can find which vegetable contains which vitamin. If you can afford it, ordering an organic veg box each week gives you in season veg and a variety so you can try new recipes each week – it makes getting the dinner more interesting and expands your repertoire!
Lets also not forget the medicinal powers of a good curry!

Laughter: When was the last time you laughed really hard? As well as lowering blood pressure, laughter increases oxygen in the blood, which also encourages healing, Discover Health 2004.
A good laugh can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure, elevate mood, boost immune system, improve brain functioning, protect the heart, connect you to others, foster instant relaxation and most of all, make you feel good. For more information see
I don't think you'll appreciate any of my jokes, (they're pretty awful) so here is a link to the Good Clean Funnies List.

Relaxation: I love a steaming hot bath full of all whatever “nice smellies” are to hand kicking off my going to bed routine. Depending on your mood, try A world of aromatherapy for a list of oils that can help. Lights low, candles-yes please! Mobile phone off. Land line? Not answering it. No more talking on the phone to anyone before going to bed. I pop my ipod on and drift away to wherever. Bliss!

Music: When I get the blues, I play my bongos! I also play my guitar-basically anything I can make noise with and let it all out. Beware though-this can be stressful for partners and neighbours.

And last but not least Reflexology. Reflexology is trying to help the body to naturally maintain its balance and aims to bring about greater unity of mind, body and spirit, as well as being an excellent form of relaxation. Make sure you find a qualified reflexologist, there are varying levels of competence out there. If you are in the UK try the Association of Reflexologists.

If you have any questions or more ideas on how to relax and enjoy these winter months, please feel free to leave comments.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Detox? Find yourself a qualified Reflexologist

Overdid it at Christmas?

Got the January blues?

Want to start the New Year afresh?

There is a qualified Reflexologist wanting to help and you can find them on the AoR website.

Don't settle for second best-these guys are professionally qualified to offer Reflexology treatments and maintain the highest standards of training.

Be well,

The foot

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Great Hand Reflexology Widget

Hover over different areas of the hand and see the corresponding reflexes.

The year ahead

I'd like to take the opportunity to wish you a Happy New Year and to give you an idea of what you will be seeing on this blog during the year ahead.

This will include:
Regular hints and tips for improving health;
Links to the latest research information regarding reflexology and other complimentary therapies;
My thoughts on the latest research and hopefully, your feedback;
Polls, ideas and anything else I can fit in.

I would like 2008 to be the year reflexology takes a great step forward in being accepted by the general public and members of the health profession as one of the many powerful tools we have available to us to tackle ill health. And that reflexology has it's deserved place working side by side with traditional medicine.

I would also like World peace but I think I'll settle for the above :-)


The Foot