By Brigitte Mars
Our feet support, ground and connect us to the Earth we stand upon. On an emotional level they represent our foundation, security, and inner strength. Our feet bear the weight of our entire bodies some 1,500 times for every mile we walk. Each foot contains over 7,000 nerve endings, 107 ligaments, nineteen muscles and twenty-six bones (one fourth of all the bones in the body). For many people, feet are a low priority when it comes to the care and attention we give our bodies. And yet, all it takes is an irritation on the tiniest toe to give discomfort to our total being. Here are a few ideas to let our feet know we appreciate them.
Make sure shoes fit well and don’t cause unnecessary pressure. Avoid buying shoes in the morning, as the feet expand during the day. What fits perfectly at 10 am, might seem too tight by 6 pm. When trying on shoes, wriggle your toes to make sure they are roomy enough. High heels can cause postural problems as they create a forward lunge and shorten the hamstrings. If you walk to work or to the bus, wear sneakers and then change into other shoes for work if needed. Wear natural fiber socks that are changed often and shoes made of natural materials that allow the feet to “breathe.” Alternate the shoes that you wear so that shoes have the opportunity to air and dry out between wearings. Pour some dried beans into a shoe and walk for a few minutes as a foot/massing exercise. Remove socks and shoes after exercising. Air your feet out in the sun for short periods of time. Go barefoot when it is safe and practical.
After being on one’s feet all day, it feels delightful to soak the feet in a basin of warm water to which essential oils or herbs have been added.
Herbs that can be used in footbaths include:
Catnip herb: Relaxes stressed feet.
Chamomile flowers: Calms sore, swollen feet.
Eucalyptus leaves: Invigorating and deodorizing.
Ginger root: Warms feet that feel chronically cold.
Horsetail herb: Reduces perspiration.
Juniper berry: Antifungal.
Lavender flowers: Refreshes tired feet.
Lovage root: A strong natural deodorant.
Marjoram herb: Invigorates tired achy feet.
Mustard seed: Warms feet that feel chronically cold.
Peppermint herb: Stimulating, for tired feet. Cooling to hot feet.
Pine needles: Refreshing and deodorizing.
Rosemary herb: Deodorizing and relieves soreness.
Sage leaves: Antiperspirant and deodorizing.
Thyme leaves: Antifungal and refreshes tired feet.
Simply prepare a tea, by bringing 1 gallon of water to a boil, removing the water from the heat and adding 16 heaping teaspoons of herb. Cover and allow to steep for about ten to twenty minutes. Strain, and soak the feet in a basin of the warm tea. A simpler alternative is to add 5 drops of essential oil made from any of the above plants.
Other kitchen remedies to add to a foot bath include one forth cup of:
Apple cider vinegar: Antifungal and deodorizing.
Baking soda: Deodorizing.
Bran: Soothes feet that feel burning.
Epsom salts: Relaxes tired achy feet.
Some people find it helpful to fill a container with marbles and walk around in it to take the ache out. Plunge the feet into a cold bath filled just and inch or two of water and five drops of essential oil of peppermint when the goal is to revive and refresh yourself.
A foot massage feels heavenly! You can give one to yourself or show the one you love just how pleasurable this can be. Then you can trade. Natural foods stores also carry helpful foot massage tools you can use on yourself or others.
A simple exercise for weak feet and tender ankles is to put 12 marbles on the floor. One by one, pick them up with your toes and drop it into a cup. Try towel curls. Place a small opened towel on the floor. With your toes, grasp one end of the towel, curling it under the feet. Continue gathering it till the opposite end is reached. Repeat five times on each foot. Flex your ankles back and forth and practice clockwise and counterclockwise rotations several times daily. Spend some time with your feet elevated by lying on a slant board or spend a few minutes a day in the shoulder stand yoga posture if you are adept.
You don’t have to be an athlete to suffer the itching irritation of athlete’s feet. Those that frequent public pools, gyms and shower rooms, get exposed to prolonged moisture, sweat a lot, wear tight nonbreathable shoes, or are prone to nail injuries and cuticle damage are the most likely to develop this problem. Be aware that this fungal infection can easily be spread, so avoid sharing pedicure tools like nail clippers. This disorder is actually a form of ringworm, which thank goodness is not a worm at all, but a species of fungus, Trichophyton mentagrophyte. It is easily spread, wear rubber thongs when showering in public places. Athletes’ Feet can be a symptom of yeast overgrowth in the body. Sugar, fruit juice, alcohol and yeasted breads may all contribute to a yeast overgrowth in the body. Take a probiotic supplement. Try soaking your feet in the recipe below. You can also massage a handful of coarse salt into the feet. Dry the feet well, especially between each toe and apply some tea tree or lavender essential oil, both excellent anti-fungal agents to the affected area.
Antifungal Foot Soak
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
5 drops tea tree oil
5 drops lavender oil
Mix the ingredients together. Add to 1 gallon of comfortably hot water. Soak the feet for ten minutes. Dry thoroughly.
If foot care problems persist, please seek out the help of a competent health professional. Happy trails!