By Gerry Ellen
However we define “wellness” in this day and age is a reflection of how adaptable we are to the changing tides of life.
It’s a broad term, no doubt, yet one that always has me starting with where I’ve planted my feet, and their basic health in general.
The soles of our feet are the most vulnerable part of our bodies; they stand on the earth first. Once ingrained in the soil, each metatarsal has the capacity to shift and morph into what will become our ultimate journey.
As the eyes are the window to the soul, the feet are the wisdom sources from where our hearts span out.
We need them free and clear for every action we take—from yoga to weight bearing exercises that might have to squeeze into supportive shoes, to the doorways that we call home. A common tradition in the Hawaiian and Asian cultures is to remove your shoes once entering an establishment. Leave the covers to our soles at the mat upon gracing another’s presence and security. It’s almost as if the shedding of shoes has shown us the tired, the true, and the unhealthy buildup of gunk over the years. Bare and naked feet have all the answers, and when we release all the prettiness of how they are supposed to appear based on society’s standards, we find they have so much more to offer as their exposed selves.
Have you ever noticed that not wearing shoes for an entire day puts you in touch with nature first and foremost?
Not coming up with excuses such as, “Oh, there might be glass on that field,” or “I’m so used to my orthotics I can’t imagine walking or running without shoes,” and “I’m embarrassed that my toes look ugly and unappealing, so I would rather keep them covered up.” These are all reasons of why we need to show our toes and respect our soles and ground them into the sand and dirt.
The way a foot spreads when it’s loose is almost a sight to behold.
There’s been a saying for eons that says, “If our feet hurt, our entire body hurts.” Think about that for a moment. Every nerve ending and cell regeneration happens with the foot first. The instant we take a step in any direction, our feet have to be well and ready. If they are always encased and scrunched in footwear that is too encumbering, we might never get that splendor in the grass feeling of freedom and wildness.
It’s an entire metaphor, really.
We take “baby steps” in life. One giant “leap” and we are off in a new direction and risking it all. “Step by step,” is the most commonly used phrase when pondering the workings of life and how it all affects our innermost challenges. Yet, it begins with the true authentic health of the feet and their natural tendency to rise to any occasion, despite niggling aches and pains here or there.
Many people in all walks of life (no pun intended, or maybe it was?) work in jobs on their feet all day long. They aren’t the cubicle corporate types, relegated to a chair and walls and barely a window to view the sun and clouds. People of service stand and walk and take action. They are the ones leading the pack and pioneering new ideas in health and humanness. They are here to help and be where they are needed.
This requires solid foot stability, yet light enough so as not to linger too long in one place. Being light on our feet is another phrase that sets apart the notion of willingness and agility. The dexterity of an athlete who is graceful and poised in their chosen field is a prime example of awareness of the feet. Without a nourished sole (soul) their passion and perseverance wouldn’t carry them very far. They need healthy feet to step into any arena where their talents shine.
I began as a child athlete: gymnastics, ballet, basketball, volleyball, soccer and track.
All of these sports demanded that my two feet were in pristine condition, or the competitiveness that I was so entrenched in would suffer. I didn’t know any better back in those days; it was simply to lace up a pair of shoes, or stuff some cotton in the toes of other shoes, or chalk up the bottoms of my feet for traction, and off I went to participate and come out a winner (in many cases).
But I ran myself ragged.
The competition and traveling and overall lack of care that went into my two most precious body parts were nil. Everything I paid attention to was from the knees up. Sure, I had the wherewithal to understand when a new pair of shoes was warranted based on research and guidance, yet 20 years of competitive sports and it took a toll on my feet.
I am in a whole different phase of care now.
I allow my cherished feet to lead the way. I walk more than I care to admit, every single day. I massage my feet. I sink them into water every day. I allow them to bend with thoughtful movements. I don’t wear any close-toed shoes in an effort to keep my arches and the entire structure of the foot healthy and strong. Too much support and the feet lose their integrity.
I walk barefoot in the sand, and once my toes sink in, I breathe a deep sigh of relief and calm, knowing that wherever my two soles take me they are always first and foremost in my health bucket.
They’ve been stepped on, blistered, black-toed, bunioned, arthritic, calloused, and just about the happiest feet I think I’ve been honored to say “all is well.”
Editor: Dana Gornall