‘Love Thy Feet’ by reflexologist Joan Angus

Feet get an undeservedly bad press. Jokes are made about them, cartoons portray them as grotesque. They have unfortunately been referred to as appendages. We use expressions which imply that the feet are unlovable, a nuisance or instruments of aggression.. “I could kick myself”; “He put his foot right in it” (usually a result of not looking where he was going); “She has two left feet”; “ I had cold feet”.. suggesting fear. When speaking about their feet, some people use the words ‘hate’ and ‘ugly,’ strong language for such sensitive creations and such precious members of our human body. Unfortunately, because they are so sensitive, our ancestors found it necessary to cover their feet up
quite early on in their development, knowing how much they depended on them, to protect them from cold and wear and tear. And when footwear became a fashion statement we abused our feet by squashing them into winkle-pickers and high heels. Some people say that they cannot bear their feet to be touched, that they are ticklish. And as they are at the end of our body, and sometimes have an unpleasant smell, we tend to leave our feet alone, and don’t look at them because of the calluses and squashed toes caused by ill-fitting shoes, until it becomes necessary to perform the unsavoury task of trimming the nails–if we can reach them. In China they used to cripple their women by binding their feet from an early age (in this case small is not beautiful, though presumably they thought it was). This practice ensured that the women could not walk far.

Patriarchal images show children sitting at the feet of their Father. It was in ancient times the job of the lowest of the low to wash the feet of their Lord and Master. But was Mary Magdelene really demeaning herself when she anointed the feet of Jesus? Or was this purely an expression of her love for him? It really is a most refreshing, relaxing and enjoyable experience having one’s feet massaged.

The structure of our feet is an incredible example of intricate precision engineering. There are three arches formed of 26 tiny bones in each foot, each one with smooth surfaces where it fits snugly against its neighbours, lubricated to ensure free movement, and held together with over 30 elastic ligaments to allow flexibility. Attached to the bones are 19 small muscles which provide strength and movement. The whole foot is covered in skin and tissue which is breathable, retains moisture, and sweats when necessary to control temperature. The soles of the feet are extra tough, and would be more so if we walked around in bare feet, to protect us from injury. The feet are extensions to the legs, which possess the strong muscles enabling us to walk, but which would be more or less redundant without the feet. All of this is supplied with a nervous system linking the brain and balance mechanism in the ear to the muscles. Messages are sent through this network to the appropriate muscles when movement is required.

But why do we need feet, those ugly flappy things at the end of our legs which cost us a fortune in shoes? Our predecessors the apes used them in much the same way as their hands, holding on as they climbed and swung through the trees. But as soon as they stood up they realised they could travel along the ground. Their horizons expanded. One’s mobility is severely restricted without the use of one’s feet, and before the invention of the wheel, they were our only means of getting around. But we developed a lust for speed, and now there are many alternative modes of transport, and our horizons are even wider. There are kids walking around these days with little wheels on their shoes… soon they will be flying like Mercury! But there’s more to feet than just walking. We need them to stand on for a start. They are the first things to make contact with the earth when we get out of bed in the morning. We need them to run, jump, skip and play. Where would footballers be without feet? We use them to express ourselves, in dance and ice-skating. All day, as we move around, every muscle and sinew is working in harmony to keep us on our toes. They are incredible tools of communication—who hasn’t played footsie under the table in their youth? They can even learn how to hold cutlery and pens, and perform everyday tasks in the absence of hands.

So lets start communicating through our feet… take our shoes off and find out what its like to feel the grass tickling our instep; spread our toes out and feel the sand pushing up between them; stand on small pebbles and give our soles a good massage; soothe and cool them in a woodland stream. Our feet are our connection with Mother Earth. When we stand or sit with our feet flat on the ground, we are grounding and rooting ourselves, opening ourselves to earthly energies which can be refreshing and nurturing, as the sap rises in the tree trunks. And as we stand and walk we are leaving our footprints, making footpaths, massaging the Earth and stimulating healing energies both ways. There are some who go on Pilgrimages to Holy Places, and they say that it is not so much the arriving at their destination as the journey which refreshes their soul, the path their feet take to get there, following many who have gone before. And those paths are recognised for their healing energies.

As a Reflexologist I know that there are energy channels to every part of the body coming from the feet, and by regularly massaging the soles of the feet we can keep those channels open, stimulating the healthy function of all the systems of the body: circulation, digestion, respiratory, nervous and endocrine systems, and the immune system. It relaxes emotionally and physically. I believe it would be of great benefit to humanity in these stressful times if everyone massaged each other’s feet on a regular basis, not only for maintenance of health, but as an act of love and care. There are some who are able to identify the root causes of emotional problems by reading the feet, from the shape of the toes and nails, the positions of wrinkles and lumps and bumps. They are windows to the soul. But it is not necessary to have those special skills to be able to give a massage which has a beneficial effect, whatever you do, if it is done with love.

Look at your feet now. They are fantastic, beautiful extensions to our bodies, whatever their shape. Wriggle your toes.. isn’t that clever? Touch each one, hold it. Play “this little pig went to market”. They all have their own character and their own function. We know that if one of them is painful, it not only affects the way we walk, but it throws us off balance, physically and emotionally. Soldiers in the trenches during the wars knew that a change of socks and shoes could give them a boost of new energy, and prolong their stamina. Those who have had surgery on their feet will tell you that it threw them off balance so much they had to learn to walk again afterwards. So we must take care of our feet, our health depends on it. Those who are unable to stand, or have no feeling in their feet know that it is still important to care for them, as injury could affect their health. Massage your feet, get to know them and all their lumps and bumps. Pinch the flesh between the toes. Exercise them. Give them contact with the Earth. Massage each other’s feet.. Partners, children, parents, friends.. they all need it, and yes, you will come to love your feet!