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Musings of a Podiatrist Aunty

by Aiden

A Birkenstock-shod Aunty Dolly keeps things grounded.

Last week, hubby dear drove his red Suzuki Ertiga over my right foot, supposedly unintended! Luckily, my toes are none the worse for wear, thanks to the solid, impenetrable, and protruding soles of my classic Birkenstocks. Ever since my first pair, which cost me a hefty JPY 8000 in ‘84, they’ve remained my perfect ‘sole-mates’; the ultimate pedes paradiso for my ultra-sensitive, quick-to-tire, and quick- to-ache feet. However, back then, these uncomely and unsexy footwear made me the butt of mirth for my children and grandchildren.

Fast forward 37 years, and I can now claim to be a ‘cool’ mummy, granny, and trend-setter, because the anti-fashion chappals (slippers) I was teased for have transcended the ever-changing trends and become a fashion staple and the Footwear News Achievement Awards’ Brand of the Year in 2020. Now, my kids and grandkids are wearing them to death, as are the big shots and celebrities. The most popular pair is still the one I bought eons ago, the one with the two buckled-straps that tuck your feet snuggly into the sculpted heel-cup of the cork footbed.

I’m not a Birkenstocks brand ambassador, but nowadays, holed up in our homes, comfort is key, and my dear Birks are its ultimate expression. They’ve given my senior feet an easier walking life. Furthermore, this unassuming footwear has proven to be reassuringly reliable and enduring in these times of turmoil and uncertainty. Uggs, Crocs, Hasbens, and FitFlops are just newborns in comparison to Birkenstock’s lineage, which goes all the way back to 1774, preceding the birth of the United States by a whole two years. So, if Birks could survive and persevere through the World Wars, the Great Depression, and even the Spanish Flu; we, too, can and will emerge at the other end of this dark tunnel, a much better and wiser race.

This pandemic has made us sit up and notice that the level of our overall health and wellbeing is not what it could and should be. One reason is neglected feet health. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, were created with podia; a biologically amazing, flexible structure of bones, joints, muscles, soft tissue and tendons, plus a large number of sensory receptors that form a vital foot-to-brain link. However, we’ve disrupted this connection by spending too much time slouched on a soft sofa or in front of the computer, significantly reducing the movements and agility of our feet. By keeping them trapped in shoes and socks, we’ve further robbed them of the much-needed stimuli that enables our species to stand upright, walk, run, and go about doing the things that we’ve taken for granted. That’s right! Our feet strengthen us in our centre.

Our definitive feet-to-brain connection is what makes us feel powerful, safe, and secure in our own skin; confident on our own two feet; supported, stable and balanced in the space we are in, both physical and perceptual; and focused, with clarity of thought and purpose. Regrettably, we’ve treated our feet as an afterthought and that is the reason that we are plagued with chronic and disabling complications like back/knee/joint/muscle pain; loss of strength in our legs; and distorted postures, which disrupt both our gait and our body balance, and hamper the overall fluidity of our movements.

So, let’s take out time daily to pamper our precious feet by bending and flexing the toes; gently caressing and massaging the soles; getting up often to walk; and making time to walk barefoot on surfaces which are natural, whether it’s a patch of grass, the pebbles in our gardens, the sand on the beach, or even the good ol’ parquet floor in our homes. This is called grounding or earthing, feeling with our soles the direct connection to Mother Earth, who opens up and embraces us towards her bosom. She then sends her healing energies through the soles of our feet to detoxify our overloaded biological systems; synchronise our internal clocks to fix our hormonal cycles and physiological rhythms; and overcome the present-day, silent but crushing maladies of the mind. As the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.”

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