Foot Ills


I notice that in the bedroom scenes in motion pictures, whenever the hero or heroine is called from bed to answer the telephone, he, or she, invariably pauses at the side of the bed to don a pair of slippers. This in spite of the invariably elegant appointments of the room, including a carpet or rug which appears to be of the thickest and softest nap.

All I can say is they are missing a great deal. If there is any more fun than walking around barefoot on a nice thick carpet, it must come in the higher brackets of pleasure. And nothing is better for the feet—the best of foot exercises. Also it allows the feet to breathe. Aren’t they covered up enough in the 24 hours?

For the same reason, bathing the feet is not only for purposes of cleanliness. It improves circulation, relaxes the muscles, allows the strain to relax, and generally rests them. The careful and vigorous drying that should follow acts as a massage and as a stimulant to the skin.

Foot exercises which prevent broken balance and strengthen the feet to restore it, are as follows:

Exercise 1.—Toe Gripping Exercise. This exercise develops the musculature that supports the transverse (at base of toes) arch of the foot.

Position: Sitting, with several marbles or jackstones on the floor.

Action: Grasp the marble or jackstone with the toes and pick it up, placing it a foot or so from its original position. Now replace the marbles to their original position with the other foot.

Exercise 2.—Foot Adduction Exercise (Walking). This exercise stretches the muscles on the lateral side of the foot, and strengthens the muscles on the medial side of the foot, which tends to hold the arches in the proper position. This is an excellent exercise to over-come “weak foot.”

Position: Standing, ready to take a step. The foot is rolled to the outer side and the toes are forcibly flexed.

Action: Take from 25 to 50 steps with the foot in this position. This position holds both the longitudinal arch and the transverse arch in their proper posture.

Exercise 3. Heel Stretching Exercise (Standing). This exercise stretches the heel tendon and strengthens the muscle groups that hold the arches in balance.

Position: Standing, facing and three or four feet from the wall. Toes are turned in and forcibly flexed, and the body weight is rolled to the outer side of the foot.

Action: Lean on the wall with the arms straight, back rigid and head erect. Slowly flex the arms, keeping the back straight and the knees and hips extended and the heels firmly on the floor, until the head touches the wall, or as near as is possible, rolling the feet to the outer side. Hold this position for a few seconds, then slowly straighten the arms, assuming the original position. Repeat this movement from 10 to 20 times.

If you are doing this exercise properly you will feel the pull in the muscles on the back of the calf and thigh of the leg.


No one, I am sure, will maintain that a corn is a minor matter, and yet the medical profession has persistently ignored treatment and cure of this humble condition. • Fortunately, the practitioners of podiatry are prepared to treat it, and do usually treat it better than the average physician who receives very little instruction about it. I am pleased to note that a prominent New York surgeon has written an article on corns in a scientific medical journal, and has berated the profession roundly for its neglect of this subject.

He says, properly, that while most corns are minor ailments, the irritated corn, which compels the individual to hold the foot in a con-strained attitude in order to avoid unpleasant friction with the shoe, may be the primary cause of a severe chronic foot strain.

There are several varieties of corns. The commonest is the hard corn, and this one is almost always due to improper footgear.

In treatment, the use of corn plasters or ointment is generally adopted first. These ointments owe their efficiency largely to their content of salicylic acid, which softens the skin and then destroys the superficial layers so that they can be removed. The salicylic acid plaster usually has some cannabis indica in it also, in order to lessen the pain.

If these plasters do not result in healing, operative procedures are called in. This may seem a large term for simply paring a corn, which is usually the first operative procedure. Strict cleanliness and antisepsis should be observed by the home corn operator, as infected corns are by no means uncommon and extremely stubborn.

In the prevention of recurrence, it is usually necessary to perform a somewhat more radical operation. Recurrence is due to the fact that under most corns is a bursa and, in fact, a corn is not unlike a bunion. When this bursa is dissected out the corn will usually not recur, especially if the surface is protected by a properly fitting shoe.

The soft corn occurs between the toes and is almost invariably the result of infection. If it is not caused by infection, it becomes infected later by a fungus infection. The proper treatment, then, is to destroy the infection and keep the surface of the corn dry. The best way to do this is with a 5 per cent solution of silver nitrate, and protection of the corn with dry cotton.

A special form of corn is the seed corn, a small excrescence usually found in large numbers on the plantar surface of the foot, around the heel or on the inner surface of the great toe joint. It is only when they develop in great numbers that they become annoying. They are usually caused by wrinkles in stockings or nails in the shoe, etc.

When it is necessary to treat them they should be removed with a sharp paring knife, and the surface coated with balsam of Peru.


Contrary to most practice and probably to most opinion, founded on observation, it is not necessary to have ugly shoes in order to have healthful shoes. Nor can it be said that any particular type of shoe is a proper shoe for everyone, because feet differ.

The importance of properly fitting shoes to health, happiness and comfort, cannot be over-emphasized. Essentially a good shoe has a few simple requirements. First, as to material—ordinary leather is still the best material. It allows more ventilation, and removes heat from the feet better than any other material such as suede, patent leather, alligator, snake and lizard leathers. Suede is pliable, but non-porous and heating, and the reptilian leathers are very unyielding and harsh.

So far as construction of the shoe is concerned, there are three necessary factors for a good shoe. One is that the sole will be strong and yet sufficiently yielding to allow exercise of the foot and its controlling muscles; second, that there shall be room across the toe line without pressure and without rubbing, and third, that the heel shall be grasped firmly.

The best type of shoe is undoubtedly the high-laced shoe, although women especially have gotten away from this type of shoe with their sandal, slipper and strap shoes. For those who suffer from painful and aching feet, it undoubtedly is advisable to discard the dictates of fashion and return to the laced shoe.

The acquisition of a proper sole is best met by the use of what is known as the “reinforced shank” There is some discussion as to whether the foot is weakened by snug-fitting support in the shank and waist of the shoe, but the best experience seems to be that for city dwellers at least, pounding continuously on unyielding surfaces, a shoe which is fairly unyielding in the sole and heel, with a reasonably high heel, is most satisfactory.

The reinforced shank is a specially fashioned leather fiber with a tempered steel reinforcement in the layers of the outer sole. This metal is flexible and, therefore, allows the foot to exercise itself and become strong. This is also gained by the use of a proper filler which softens the surface between the feet and the sole, and allows movement of the muscles and tendons of the foot. A foot that is too strongly supported is likely to become weak rather than strong.

So far as other footwear is concerned, stockings, in spite of all temptation for me to say otherwise, are best made of cotton or wool. Wool is not necessarily heating to the foot. It has absorbent qualities and gives good ventilation. The only disadvantage of cotton is that it soon becomes saturated and soggy with foot moisture. Silk cotton and silk hosiery are not absorbent, and are also rather harsh and irritating to the skin surface. No person who suffers from chilblains should wear cotton, lisle or silk hose.

Garters frequently cause foot trouble, especially for people who have varicose veins, and rolled stockings are among the most villainous devices for interfering with circulation in the legs and feet.


Although certain foot troubles are inevitable, depending, as they do, on deformities or abnormalities with which the individual is born (such, for instance, to make the point clear, as club-foot), it is nevertheless a fact that most of the miseries which come from our feet are acquired and can be prevented.

The hygiene of the foot should begin in infancy. ‘ The infant’s foot is almost entirely cartilage with very little bone and, therefore, could not, even if the nervous system were developed, undertake the function of walking without injury. For this reason, too early attempts to teach the infant to walk or to stand up on its feet for the edification and light of doting parents and grandparents, are to be discouraged.

The infant’s foot, however, grows quite rapidly, and provision should be made for this growth. The cartilages turn into bone, beginning soon after birth, and the infant usually will be able to make attempts at walking when the feet are strong enough to bear the weight of the body. Incidentally, many cases of bow-leg are due to too early attempts to force the infant to stand or walk.

Most important in the hygiene of the infant’s foot is the question of stockings, and the principal damage that is done along this line is in having short stockings. Mothers do not seem to think that tight stockings are a disadvantage to an infant before it has learned to walk but, as has been said above, the feet are growing, and the use of woolen stockings which are too small, which shrink and become hard with washing, are liable to hamper comfortable development. Toes are frequently misshapen by undue pressure put on them by short stockings.

The hygiene of the adult foot is confined to a few very simple things: (1) Proper footgear, (2) bathing, (3) exercise, and (4) proper attention to the nails and pressure points.

The subject of proper footgear has been discussed on pages 131 and 132.

Bathing is of great importance to the foot because it is covered with shoes and stockings in the daytime and bedclothes at night, and almost never gets a chance to appreciate the benefits of fresh air and sunlight. Perspiration and skin detritus accumulate, and proper bathing and washing of the feet with soap and water are, therefore, especially necessary in this region. Frequently foot trouble can be relieved by using contrast baths, first of warm or hot water and then of cold water. After bathing, the feet should be dried with especial care, paying attention to the spaces between the toes and mopping these with cotton on an orangewood stick, if necessary.

Exercises for the feet are not always necessary except in people who have somewhat weak feet, and for that reason have pain due to stretching of the muscles.


A reader with a Wall Street address writes: “Yesterday a group of us were sitting around the edge of the swimming pool and the conversation drifted to the so-called `athlete’s foot.’ Some maintained that it is merely another form of ringworm, others that it is a germ which has so far been unseen and hence not subject to analysis.”

The condition called “athlete’s foot” is due to an infection with a fungus known as “trichophyton.” It also goes under the name of “ringworm.”

The fungus, which is of microscopic size and somewhat resembles yeast, is well known and can be identified under the microscope very easily.

Treatment in the simple form is easy and satisfactory with the application of such substances as Whitfield’s Ointment or a preparation known as Mycozol, which can be obtained at any drug store.

More severe cases require treatment with the x-ray and, as a matter of fact, the disease is extremely liable to recur.

Prevention is easier than cure. Methods to prevent the condition should be installed in all gymnasiums, country club locker houses, swimming pools, etc. The method most successful is to have a shallow wooden box containing one of these composition rubber sponge-like bath mats with a 10 per cent solution of sodium thiosulphate (this can be purchased at drug stores in the form of a patented preparation) poured over the bath mat until it is pretty well saturated. This box should be placed outside the shower baths, and the “athletes” required to stand in it so as to soak the bottom of their feet before and after taking a shower.

Besides this, the use of paper slippers while walking around locker room and shower bath is advisable.


A young lady told me the other day that during her vacation in Florida this winter she spent most of her day on the sands in bare feet, and as a result there wasn’t a blemish on them. But since re-turning to the city and the resumption of shoes and hitting the unbreakable stones of the sidewalk, she had developed a corn. Being a very modern young lady, she described it in terms which the rules of this newspaper prevent me from repeating.

Her unfortunate situation serves to illustrate the reason foot trouble is so common in modern civilization, and its usual cause. Savage feet, those that know no restraint and are used to grasping the earth as a prehensile claw, are almost without exception strong, painless, free of infection, and especially free of corns.

Strong, vigorous young people today, returning to the outdoor bare-foot life on the beaches and in the woods, soon develop the splendid feet of our long-ago ancestors. The young lady of whom I speak was a splendid specimen of vigorous, healthy womanhood, and thus was able to profit from her barefoot seaside experience.

On the other hand, the weak, white, undernourished city dweller of today, used to the support of shoes, is liable to make serious misery for himself if he undertakes suddenly the barefoot life.

Indeed, it must be acknowledged that it is only a certain kind of savage whose feet are entirely happy—that is the more or less tropical savage who spends most of his time at the seashore—typically the South Sea islander. When the savage moved or was driven into cold climates, as the Eskimo, or into rocky and stubby ground as our North American Indian, he had to provide some protection against injury to his feet, and because the circulation of blood in the feet is particularly poor, against frosts. So he devised the moccasin, probably the best of all shoes if your feet are strong. At least it gives resiliency and does not cause corns. It is ideal for soft, yielding, natural ground surfaces.

We have to provide shoes to protect us from the hard pavements and floors of our modern civilization, and shoes make it difficult to preserve healthy feet. Certain exercises to be taken in the bedroom in bare feet help to do this. One is to cross the knees and stretch the calf muscles by moving the foot up and down and throwing it in a circle. Another is to turn the toes in 20 or 30 times as if you were trying to make them prehensile and grasp an object. The same exercise can be accomplished by attempting to pick up small objects, the size of a marble, or possibly a golf ball, with the toes. The third exercise recommended is to stand grasping a table, and with the feet in line with each other, bend forward, keeping the heels on the floor, so that the muscles of the back of the foreleg are stretched.


Sherlock Holmes was able to determine a person’s age, occupation, state of health, and many other things, by examining any article which had been worn by that person or in his possession for any length of time. In a similar way, a diagnosis of the health and strength of the foot can be made from the examination of old shoes.

If Johnny tends to wear out shoes in a small round hole over the prominence of the ankle, it probably means that there is a tendency to flat foot. Because these holes indicate that he interferes and knocks his feet together at this point. This happens when he toes out as a result of the weakness of the foot in beginning flat foot or weak foot.

High heeled shoes in women, which are worn on the inside of the heels and sole, and in which the heels tend to be bent outward, indicate that the wearer is harmed by high heels. High heels put quite a strain on the ankles and muscles of the calf (to say nothing of general posture). When the calf and ankle muscles are not strong enough to maintain the ankle line erect on top of the high heels, the heels tend to flare outward so that from behind the lower legs and ankles begin to resemble the letter X, and this wears out the inner side of the heel and sole.

The point where the sole wears out may indicate a possible weakening of the transverse arch of the foot, or possibly an enlargement of the bone or joint underneath. Wearing out of the extreme tip of the sole indicates a weakness or sometimes a paralysis of the leg muscles so that the toes are dragged.

A shoe which wears out “normally,” indicating a healthy foot, is one in which the heel wears out at the very back in the middle, or slightly to the outside, and the sole tends to wear out in the exact center of the ball of the foot.