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Since podiatry school, "why feet?" is the number one question I get on a daily basis, and it's usually followed by a statement of disgust by the asker.  It's true!  Yes, my wife does usually ask me daily how my day was, but I get asked at least two, three or fifteen times a day: "why would you ever want to look at feet all day?!" 
I've always thought feet were fascinating from a mechanical standpoint; they hold our entire bodyweight and move us around the earth.  DaVinci marvelled at their engineering. Unlike other podiatrists, I've never had a major foot problem that pushed me into the field.  The connection between medicine and mechanics, as well as being able to treat children to athletes to the elderly persuaded me into the field.  (I'm going to print this to make handouts for the office). 
Why is it that we hate feet so much? Here are the typical reasons:
1. They look gross.  Well, that foot of a chinese foot binder definitely looks gross, but I guess culturally attractive in context.  Our feet definitely look gross in part due to our shoes.
2.  They smell.  The average smelly foot doesn't make me flinch, but the average person is very self-conscious about how their feet smell (once they've smelled a raging diabetic foot infection teeming with maggots, they may re-evaluate though).  Why do feet smell? Because they sweat, like other parts of our body, but we cover them with moisture-absorbing socks and boxes because society tells us that its proper and civilized to incubate fungus on our feet.  Those lovely conditions allow fungal skin and nail infections that most of the shoe-wearing population deals with at some point. 
3. They're ugly.  (different from gross, I'll explain).  Who tells us what's ugly and what's pretty?  Because, back in 1200, the skinniest, tannest women were not in the king's court but out toiling away in the fields.  We think a foot crammed and mangled in a $1200 shoe is pretty.  We need to forget fashion and focus on functionality. 
So, I think shoes are a big reason to blame for why we hate feet so much.  Just for kicks, lets visit an alternate reality and see how we'd think about hands if they were treated like feet.....
In this parallel universe, people have placed rigid gloves on their hands for hundreds of years.  We don't need our hands anymore because robots do everything for people in this alternate course in the space-time continuum.  Men wear really big and bulky gloves to give the appearance that they're larger then they are; women wear gloves that pinch their hands into little points and bend them outward at fixed 90 degree angles, to give them the look of beauty that's popular at this time and place.  They go to the hand doctor and ask why he/she would ever want to look at disgusting hands all day.  Taking the gloves off exposes a small, moist little hand, often with fungal infections of the nails and skin.  The average hand is clammy and weak; it can barely make a noticeable squeeze on exam.  Some people wear a light glove that exposes their flimsy, frail little "hammerfingers" within when the weather is nice and there is nothing dangerous around that may result in a devastating splinter or paper cut (paper has been banned for public fear of inadvertent digital amputation).  But typically, someone not wearing gloves in public is villified, and on occasion men, women and children vomit at the sight of an exposed hand.  Many years ago, poor people and people in other countries used to be uncivilized and gloveless, but now everyone can afford gloves and a robot! Typically people don't question why they wear gloves, since its the only reality they've ever known, and they don't question why they spend millions on gimmicks to make their frail hands feel better.  They don't think of ever using their hands again, because the robots make life so easy. Why walk when you can drive, and why go through  the difficulty of using your hands when  you have a robot to do everything.  It frees up time to use the voice-activation system to look for new gloves on the internet, and catch up on "what not to wear...on your hands" and "jersey shore gloves" on the television.  
Why hands, indeed....disgusting.



Becster
11/28/2011 07:52:01 am

I once had a doctor tell me I had the toughest feet he had ever seen. I thought it was the best compliment since I hate wearing shoes and tend to only wear them when society demands. My little locomotion generators have tacked most of mt. Washington bearfoot and they could not be happier.

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12/2/2011 02:28:15 am

Sounds like you had a very smart, interesting and cool doctor, Becster! Still have to get up there one of these days!

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5/5/2013 09:18:03 pm

I really enjoy reading your blog.
I was interviewed on a recent barefoot hike by a local TV channel and used the very same analogy of the gloves to explain what it feels like to go everywhere barefoot.

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12/23/2014 12:30:15 am

Yes, my wife does usually ask me daily how my day was, but I get asked at least two, three or fifteen times a day: "why would you ever want to look at feet all day?!"

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12/26/2015 11:00:46 pm

Well, that foot of a chinese foot binder definitely looks gross, but I guess culturally attractive in context. Our feet definitely look gross in part due to our shoes.

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