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Sole Survivor

By: Annet King
Posted: October 2, 2013, from the October 2013 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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Shoes also often create drama for the under-appreciated foot. Of course, the narrow pointed toe and high heel of the coveted Louboutins and Jimmy Choos can crush toes, create corns and bunions, and cause painful, long-term muscular shortening. Flip-flops are frowned upon by orthopedists, because they offer the foot no support. And even sensible closed-toe shoes, including the ubiquitous sheepskin boots, may invite toe fungus if the feet frequently get sweaty during the day.

Many other issues may threaten the well-being of the feet, affecting the overall well-being of the person. Foot treatments given in skin care facilities must not address serious medical conditions, but instead should be positioned as part of overall wellness, well-being and a source of therapeutic touch.

The metaphysical foot

In the modern industrial world, feet tend to be viewed as dirty and somehow less than noble. This was not the case in the ancient world, including classical Egypt, Greece and China, where foot-bathing and foot-anointing had a sacred element.

Throughout Asia, enlightenment is symbolized by the iconic footprint of Buddha. Not coincidentally, the word dharma often translates to mean “path,” a key concept in Buddhist practice that often discusses the steps and footprints of Siddartha, the founder of Buddhism. In many ancient healing systems, including ayurveda, an understanding of the feet was considered essential to understanding and treating the overall health of the individual. This led to the current concept used in reflexology that every zone of the feet, as well as hands, corresponds to an internal organ, system or area of the body. By applying pressure to the appropriate area or point along a meridian, inner imbalances may be corrected for improved function and health.

Today, reflexologists reference a very complex map of the soles of the feet, where each area of the foot corresponds to organs and systems. Many with a specifically Taoist focus believe that contact with these areas alters the flow of the concept of life energy, qi or chi, and thus can prevent illness and support healing. Even more traditional Chinese beliefs assign esoteric meanings to the length of the toes and more.

The West weighs in