Paul gives us a text about our feet in Romans 10:15 "How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things !" But are they beautiful? If the actual facts were known, it would have to be said that the feet of many that are "shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace" are anything but beautiful. The writer of sacred poetry upon contemplating the graces of Christ's church exclaimed:
"How beautiful are thy feet with shoes, O prince's daughter !" Cant. 7 :I.
But how are they without shoes ? In olden times the messengers of the Lord did a great deal of walking, barefooted or in sandals. These latter consisted largely of soles which were for the protection of their feet from the roughness of the paths. The feet remained for the most part exposed to air and sight. This led to the custom of bathing the dust-covered feet of a welcome traveler. Thus, Mary, the sister of Lazarus, washed the Master's feet as a token of love and devotion.
All this has changed in modern times. The gospel is being carried by automobile, train, ocean liner, airplane, radio, and other rapid means to the remotest parts of the earth. Walking for many has almost become a lost mode of conveyance. And yet, great is the handicap of the one whose painful feet make walking or standing difficult.
There are relatively few so unfortunate as to be born with deformed or clubbed feet. There is another group whose feet become disabled because of disease, such as infantile paralysis. Medical science is doing much for both groups in restoring their feet to usefulness through corrective measures, such as shoes, braces, exercises, or other forms of physical therapy, and through surgical reconstruction. However, there is, comparatively, a much larger group who are suffering with their feet, not because of congenital deformities, nor because of the ravages of disease, but rather because of inadequate footwear.
In our so-called civilized lands, it is an established custom to wear shoes. These are made, chosen, bought, and worn, not merely for protection, but often for their decorative value. In appearance, size, shape, and quality, there is no end of varieties of shoes—all purportedly made to fit the different shapes and sizes of feet. Actually a very large proportion of these shoes is lacking the fundamental factors which make for serviceable comfort and maintenance of natural, normally functioning feet. In his recent book, "The Foot," Norman C. Lake, director of studies of the London Foot Hospital, writes the following:
"The craze for footwear which would enhance the height of the wearer reached its climax in the development of the chopine, literally a shoe on stilts, which was introduced in Italy at the beginning of the seventeenth century. (Catherine de' Medici is credited with its introduction to increase her apparent stature, but it is to be noted that the same method was employed by the Egyptians many centuries before in the case of sandals.) With such footgear, walking necessitated the attendance of at least two servants, and this fact in itself was thought to be an indication of the social rank and wealth of the lady. Much the same applies to the practice, not long abandoned, of deliberately deforming the feet of Chinese ladies of rank by tightly binding them from infancy in order that the very small and special type of boot introduced by the empress Tali could be worn. It is said that in order to render her own congenitally clubbed feet less conspicuous, this empress issued a decree that all ladies of the court should wear shoes similar to her own ; at any rate the fashion grew to be an indication of the wealth of the father, who of necessity had to provide the essential carriages and carriers for his daughters."—Pages 62-64.
Abnormal Footwear an Ancient Invention
The abnormal footwear of our day is therefore not a modern invention, but a heritage from the Egypt of sin, revived and further refined by Catherine de' Medici, who was responsible for the Massacre of St. Bartholomew, in which about so,000 Huguenots perished, and for which she received the congratulations of all the Catholic powers, including Pope Gregory XIII.
In his constant endeavor to satisfy the desire of the public to leave an impression of smallness and daintiness of feet, the manufacturer is forced to resort to cunning perversion and distortion. He has found that the higher the heel, the smaller the foot appears to the eye. Having placed a person's heel on a high pedestal (which is usually very slender and thus adds to the illusion of daintiness), he finds that to keep it there, he must foreshorten the forepart of the shoe, make it narrow, and taper it off toward the toes. With a few refinements added, he has thus succeeded in satisfying the cravings of a vain heart for attention, daintiness, elegance, and increase in stature.
All is well for a little while, especially in the young person whose adaptability is phenomenal. But man, who was made after the similitude of God and not of hoofed creatures, which naturally walk on their toes, cannot forever ignore the laws of nature. Soon there develop corns on the toes, bunions, painful calluses, fallen transverse and longitudinal arches, and a number of other distressing foot conditions, and secondarily, disabling backaches. To combat these, the person resorts to corn plasters, bunion pads, metatarsal arch pads, heel pads, and all kinds of rigid arch supports and body corsets. In spite of all these palliative measures, the crippling of such feet is progressive. After analyzing the effects of high heels, Doctor Lake remarks conclusively:
"Clearly the changes which have been described are more likely to lead to serious and permanent deformity when the cause acts upon the plastic and developing feet of adolescence, and it is during this period that the most extensive damage is done, although the subsequent and consequential deformities usually do not occasion any demand for treatment until many years later."—Page 78.
The wise man said in Proverbs 6:12, 13 : "A naughty person, a wicked man, . . . speaketh with his feet."
And in Isaiah 3 :16 we read : "The daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go [margin, "tripping nicely"], and making a tinkling with their feet."
Obviously one's thoughts and motives can find eloquent expression in one's demeanor and gait. While the words of the last reference may have originally been directed to the daughters of God's people of those times, the thoughtful observer is inclined to wonder whether they do not find appropriate application in our day. The abnormal shoes worn today affect the person's posture in such a manner as to tilt the pelvis forward, thereby increasing the lower curve of the spine and throwing the neck back. The gait becomes stilted and rigid.
What then constitutes a normal shoe? A detailed description and technical analysis of this subject can obviously not be given here, but a few suggestions of the priciples involved in a good shoe are herewith offered:
- The shoe must afford protection.
- It must facilitate, not impede locomotion, which is normally elastic and graceful.
- It must be as comfortable at the end of the day as when first put on in the morning.
To achieve this, the normal person's shoe should be of adequate length and width to allow ample freedom for the toes and forepart of the foot; it should have a broad, low heel or no heel at all, have an elastic shank and a straight, big toe, that is, in direct line with the inner border of the foot. Be kind to your feet, and they will be kind to you and serve you well.