Fixing Your Feet Ezine – How we Walk, Foot Care, and much more

May 31, 2008 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Foot Care, Footwear 


Volume 8, Issue 5, May 2008

John Vonhof, Footwork Publications

Copyright, May 2008, All rights reserved


This issue has an editorial on You Walk Wrong – Part II and
an article on Footcare for the Seniors in Your Life. It also has information on
foot care resources, an interesting piece on Feet and Fish, a foot care tip, a
question of the month, and a bad feet photo after a wart removal.


The Fixing Your Feet E-zine is published monthly to inform
and educate athletes and non-athletes about proper foot care skills and
techniques, provide tips on foot care, review foot care products, and highlight
problems people have with their feet.

Editorial: You
Walk Wrong – Part II

From April 2008’s newsletter, The article caught my eye. The
April 28 issue of New York magazine had an article “You Walk Wrong” My daughter
in New York had seen a short article, which was a summary of the longer piece –
and sent me the link. Its title was “Feet Hurt? Stop Wearing Shoes” on NPR
Radio. Here is the link for the short article and there’s also a link to listen
to a nine-minute audio interview with the author Adam Sternbergh.

Last month I pointed out the focus on the article. Here is
a brief summary.

“It took 4 million years of evolution to perfect the foot,
and humans have been wrecking that perfection with every step since they first
donned shoes. Everyone who wears shoes walks wrong."

As I read through Sternbergh’s article, I find he makes four generalizations:

Feet good. Shoes bad.

The padded heels of shoes encourage a hard landing as we land
heel first.

The thick soles of shoes encourage a flat foot plodding as we
roll through the stride.

Inflexible shoes prevent our toes from pushing off correctly.

He describes what he calls the shoe paradox: “We’ve come
to believe that shoes, not bare feet, are natural and comfortable, when in fact
wearing shoes simply creates the need for wearing shoes.” Rather then the
natural motion our feet go through as we walk, we do it differently when we
wear shoes. We don’t roll through each step, we stomp on our feet as we walk.
We hit the ground harder because we have extra cushioned shoes. Our feet have
to bend where the shoes want them to bend rather than at their natural flex

Sternbergh likes the Vivo Barefoot shoe line. The website
says their design offers, “… an ultra-high abrasion and puncture resistant sole
and super flexible soles, which allow your feet to work and walk as designed,
and which has made it possible to wear shoes while enjoying all the advantages
of Walking Barefoot!”
In our athletic world, these could be compared to
Vibram’s FiveFingers footwear.

On the FiveFingers website, I found the following
statement. “Motion studies demonstrate that when running barefoot, one
naturally lands on the forefoot, directly below your center of gravity. This
results in optimum balance, increased stability, less impact, and greater
propulsion. According to Dr. Ivo Waerlop of the Vibram Biomechanics Advisory
Board, ‘Running in FiveFingers improves agility, strength, and equilibrium,
plus it delivers sensory feedback that allows runners to make immediate
corrections in their form. This greatly improves running efficiency.’”

I think Sternbergh’s four generalizations above should be
taken with a grain of salt. Yes, some shoes today are big and clunky. Too stiff
and too unforgiving.  Too padded,
too confining. But, people buy them because we read the reviews in magazines
that tell us how good they are. So we buy a shoe based on a few reviews.
Fortunately, we have footwear companies like Vibram and Inov8 that are making
shoes that defy the norm. Others will follow suit. Shoes today are much better
then shoes of the past.

Sternbergh gives a good description of barefoot walking,
comparing it to barefoot running. “Barefoot walking is, in its mechanics, very
similar to barefoot running. The idea is to eliminate the hard-heel strike and
employ something closer to a mid-strike: landing softly on the heel but rolling
immediately through the outside of your foot, then across the ball and pushing
off with the toes, with a kind of figure-eight movement though the foot."

While I have trouble with some of Sternbergh’s ideas, I
agree with what he says about feeling the ground.  “After wearing the [Vivo] Barefoots for a while, though, I
found I really liked them, precisely because you can feel the ground—you can
tell if you’re walking on cobblestones, asphalt, a manhole, or a subway grate.
(Striding along that nubby yellow warning strip on the subway platform feels
like a foot massage.) Of course, it’s not often that you walk around New York,
see something on the ground, and think, ‘I wish I could feel that with my
foot.’ But this kind of walking is a revelation. Not only does it change your
step, but it changes your perceptions. As you stroll, your perception stops
being so horizontal—i.e., confined more or less to eye level—and starts feeling
vertical or, better yet, 360 degrees. You have a new sense of what’s all around
you, including underneath.”

I agree because I think back to when I ran Western States in the late 80s. I liked running at night on the trails. I found that I shown my
Maglight ahead of me rather than down at my feet. As I ran, I sensed where Img1-large
feet where and what they needed to do as they encountered roots, rocks, and an
undulating trail. I could feel the trail. I was connected. I wore regular
running shoes, but I still “felt” the ground. I think Vibram’s FiveFingers
would give me even greater feeling.

Sternbergh ends his article
with a great suggestion for all of us. “We’re going to wear shoes. So even if
shoes are the enemies of our feet, what have we really learned? What you can do
… is stop taking walking for granted and start thinking of it like any other
physical activity: as something you can learn to do better.”
That is good
advice for walking and running. I for one, will spend more time barefoot, and
will definitely try the FiveFingers. How about you?

If you want to know more about going barefoot, check out
the following links:

Society for Barefoot Living  

Barefoot Ted’s Adventures 

Running Barefoot 

Barefoot Rick’s Barefoot 

Here’s the link to Sternbergh’s full article in New York
. It was published on the web on April 21st and since the
site allows comments, it has received many reader comments. Some of them are
quite interesting.

Lest you think walking barefoot is always safe, be sure to
read Brad’s story below in the Bad Feet Photo section of the newsletter. He
sent his story and photo in response to last month’s article on You Walk Wrong.
Another response is in the Reeder Feedback section below.

If you want to comment on this piece, please send me an


The 4th edition of Fixing Your Feet can be
ordered through my web site,, or Completely updated, it has three new chapters and lots of new
sections. The retail price is $18.95 but most sites, including mine, has it at
a reduced rate.


Please take a moment and forward this issue to a friend or
two and encourage them to subscribe.


Subscribers of Ultrarunning can find my article “Foot Care
for Optimal Performance” in the March issue on page 24. Those of you with the June issue of Trail Runner can find my article “Blister Battle” on page 30.


“Let the minnows nibble away and take care of your tired feet.” So read the
title of an article in
The Star online, Malaysia's most widely-read
English-language daily. Read on and see what you think. The picture is worth a thousand words.


They know something we don’t,” reveals Dr Francis Ng, a partner with the
mobile units of Foot Master fish spas, which can be found operating in shopping
complexes. The idea of foot care and the link with the thousands of tiny fishes
swimming in two large inflatable pools has been playing in his mind for some
time now.

Though the minnows would swarm round those tootsies by the hundreds, they
were toothless and could therefore, only nibble on the skin of the soles with
the outer rims of their lips. And according to Francis, 30 minutes of this fish
nibbling session does the job of ridding the soles of dead skin cells and
cleans the various pressure points. “These fishes will micro massage your
he promises.

The result
of such sessions, he claims, will leave the guest with a feeling of well-being
and freshness as the nibbling action also promotes blood circulation. He also
claims that these minnows secrete an enzyme called dithranol which has the
ability to repair and normalize the skin after the dead skin has been nibbled


Paul Langer, DPM, has written a great book on footcare and
footwear for healthy aging. What’s that you ask? How does this apply to you as
an athlete? Well, I want to take a moment and ask you to read this Great Feet for Life
article and
send it to your parents, aunts or uncles, or grandparents – the “seniors” in
your life. Their foot care is just as important as your is. Paul is a friend of
mine and his book is good. Here is his article.

Research shows that our quality of life is directly related
to our ability to stay active and nothing is more important to remaining active
than maintaining the health of our feet.   Simple, regular self-footcare and proper footwear
choices can go a long way in keeping our feet healthy.

Foot Hygiene – The single most important thing one can do
for foot health is to maintain good hygiene.  This means washing the feet daily with soap, wearing clean
socks and caring for the skin and nails on a regular basis.

Skin Care  – The
skin of the feet must be resilient enough to withstand thousands of footsteps
each day.  Bathing the feet daily,
applying moisturizing lotions to dry skin and managing calluses with lotions
and pumice stone helps our skin hold up to the demands of an active
lifestyle.  Never ignore rashes,
painful calluses or skin that is red or tender as this can be a sign of
infection.  For those who’s feet
sweat excessively, foot powders and socks with less than 30% cotton are best
for keeping the skin dry.

Nail Care – Toenails tend to become thicker, discolored and
more brittle as we age.  This can
make it more difficult to trim the nails and contribute to painful nail
conditions such as ingrown nails or fungal nails.  Nails should be trimmed straight across and rough edges or
nail thickness should be reduced with a nail file.

Footwear – For those who are vulnerable to foot pain whether
is due to arthritis, previous injuries or toe alignment issues such as bunions
or hammertoes, it is imperative that you wear shoes that fit well, provide
proper support and are not excessively worn.  Poorly fitting shoes contribute to many of the most common
causes of foot pain.  Take the time
to visit a reputable footwear retailer and spend the time necessary selecting a
comfortable, supportive pair of shoes. Do not overlook the importance of
footwear for at-home use.  Flimsy
slippers or flip-flops may not provide enough protection for those with foot
pain when they are at home.  

Falling Risk and your Feet – Risk factors for falls include:
poorly fitting shoes, shoes with elevated heel height, excessively worn shoes,
sandals or shoes with unsecured heel

by Paul Langer, DPM


I recently received the summer 2008 issue of Outside
’s Buyer’s Guide. I love these special issues because they have all
kinds of equipment reviews. If you don’t have a copy, I recommend buying one.
Lots of footwear reviews. Inside was a page of five backcountry tips from
Conrad Anker. In addition to being a world-class climber, Conrad has been a
runner too, including ultras. I liked what he wrote for his second tip:

Watch Your Step – "I’m a borderline fanatic about my feet.
I wash them almost every other day on expeditions with soap and hot water, and
then I wash them again with hand sanitizer to make sure all the germs between
my toes are killed. I let them air-dry completely and then slather them with

Burt’s Bees moisturizer
($9.00 from Burt’s Bees). I duct-tape blisters, and I
wear one pair of socks, not two.”


Brad emailed me with a photo of
his foot after a wart removal. He wrote: “Enjoy the articles. I'm an orienteer,
and would get really nasty heel blisters, which is how I discovered your book
and e-zine. I finally came up with a taping method that is working fine, but
still read your e-zine as it remains interesting. The April issue was
interesting. I used to be that guy who didn't wear shoes – played volleyball
barefoot, went Brads wart resulys
around the house and yard barefoot, and took showers at the gym
barefoot. Not sure where it happened, but somewhere I picked up a wart. Not
just any wart – but a wart that wouldn't respond to any kind of treatment.

I did the treatment with salicylic drops.
Moved to salicylic acid patches. Then to the podiatrist: He did three rounds of
blistering agents, four rounds of bleomycin injections. While waiting for
surgery, I did the duct tape method. Needless to say, nothing worked, and the
wart just kept growing and shooting off satellites. Finally, after an incision
of about 3-cm wide by several mms deep, and seven weeks of recovery, I think
I'm finally wart free.

Needless to say, at least in the gym
showers and other questionable patches of real estate, I'm keeping my thongs
(zorries) on, thank you very much.”

Just think; your feet could be featured in this e-zine for
everyone to see! Submit your photo or short story by email or snail mail.
Stories should be no longer than 250 words. Send them to me by email.


Mary wrote me in mid-May and
mentioned she was going to be running Badwater this July. She wrote:

“I have to admit that one of my
fears about doing BW is blisters – I rarely get them so I do not have much
education in dealing with them. Yet I assume that since so many others have
blister problems in Death Valley that I will too.
  I am lucky in that my crew are pros with blister care, so if
and when problems develop they can step in. Perhaps I'll be on one of those
cots in Stovepipe with you trimming away the dead pieces and taping up the live
ones on my foot. But if I am lucky, I'll just stop in Stovepipe to say
"hi," cool-off
  in the
pool and move on.”

I gave her the following advice.
It’s not good for just Badwater runners, but anyone planning a 50- or
100-miler, a multi day hike or an adventure race.

“Here are a few thoughts. If you
are prone to toe blisters, or fear them, Injinji socks may be a good choice. I
would highly recommend getting Drymax socks. They are rated higher in moisture
control than any other socks. Get some Kinesio-Tex tape for blister control. I
believe this is the best tape for what we do. As you may recall, I used it on
Jon's heels last year at Badwater when he had the worst blisters I had ever
seen – at 17 miles, and he finished. Hydropel is the best lubricant with
moisture control. Spend some time reducing any calluses to avoid blistering
under the calluses. Spend time filing your toenails. Feel free to ask any
questions. Zombierunner has the tape and Hydropel. 


Mark wrote: “I just read your
walking wrong article. I know the man you quote may seem radical but he is not
the first to approach this subject. “Running Fast and Injury Free” is an ebook
that has saved my running. You made a good point, if there were no shoes there
would be no orthotics, not because you have no where to put them but because
they would be totally unnecessary. I changed my running style two years ago to
a fore foot style as the foot was designed to work and it solved all my foot
problems including planter fasciitis and blisters and well as stopping the pain
in my hips and knees. Try running in bare feet, I bet you never land on your
heel as you have to do in the latest Nike's. Something IS wrong with today’s
shoe manufactures and a few people are beginning to realize it.”

Scott wrote: “I recently subscribed to your blog, and it has
helped me in many ways.
advice works no matter the footwear, be it a work boot, hiking shoe or even my
hunting boots. I recommended it to all my friends, though they thought I was
crazy till they read a few articles. Now they just rave about it. I would like to
thank you for the advice because my feet being happy throughout the day makes
the rest of me happy.”

Sharon sent me an email, “I refer
to your book often as I am blessed with feet that are unhappy long distances.”

Reader feedback to this E-zine and its articles is welcome
and encouraged. Please email any foot care ideas or tips that you have tried
and would like to share with others, or ideas for an article for the ezine.


Those of you with the 4th edition of Fixing Your Feet can get a
free copy of my booklet, Happy Feet: Foot Care Advice for Walkers and
. Click on Amazon or Barnes & Noble to go to the book’s page—and
write a review of the 4th edition. Then send me an email telling me
which site the review is on and your snail mail address. I will mail you a free
copy of this 36-page booklet. Use it yourself, or give it to someone else. The
booklet is described below and has a $5.00 value. Sorry, but because of
postage, this offer is good only in the U.S and Canada.


If you like to stay informed about foot care issues and
information – on a more regular basis than this monthly newsletter, check out
my blog, Happy Feet: Expert Foot Care Advice for People Who Love Their Feet.
This is different from this ezine. The Happy Feet blog will have a new short topic
every week. Click here for the Happy Feet blog.


I am always on the look out for stories to share about
their adventures with some type of connection to feet. If you have something to
share, please send me an email


You are subscribed to the Fixing Your Feet E-zine because
you subscribed to it. If you wish to be removed from this mailing list, you can
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If you like this E-zine, please pass it along to others
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Pre-Summer Foot Care – Part 3 – Athlete’s Foot

May 27, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Uncategorized 

The facts are startling: 70% of people will be affected by
athlete’s foot in their lifetime, 45% of people with athlete’s foot will suffer
from it in episodes for more then 10 years, and seven out of 10 people with
athlete’s foot are male.

Athlete’s foot, technically called tinea pedis, is a skin disease caused by a fungus. The hot
weather and foot perspiration that athletes typically encounter can make
athlete’s foot a common problem. The combination of a warm and humid
environment in your footwear, excessive foot perspiration, and changes in the
condition of the skin combine to create a setting for the fungi of athlete’s
foot to begin growing. Athlete’s foot usually occurs between the toes or under
the arch of the foot. Typical signs and symptoms of athlete’s foot include
itching, dry and cracking skin, inflammation with a burning sensation, and
pain. Blisters and swelling may develop if left untreated. When these blisters
break, small, red areas of raw tissue are exposed. As the infection spreads,
the burning and itching will increase.

Treatment includes keeping the feet clean and dry; frequent socks
changes, antifungal medications, and foot powders. An antiperspirant may also
help those with excessive foot moisture.

Check your local drugstore or pharmacy for a complete line of athlete’s
foot antifungal ointments, creams, liquids, powders, and sprays. See your
doctor if your feet do not respond to treatment with over-the-counter
medications. If the fungus returns, alternate medications since it can
sometimes build up a resistance to a particular fungicide.

Pre-Summer Foot Care – Part 2 – Toenails

May 17, 2008 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Footcare, Footwear, Health, Sports, Travel 

Summer means sandals and flip flops, and going barefoot. All of those means your toes are in full display – which means your toenails should be well cared for. By that, I do not mean they have to be polished, but clean and trimmed.
     How hard can it be to trim your toenails? In all the years I have been patching feet, I have observed that untrimmed toenails are the number one cause of problems leading to toe blisters and black nails. Socks will catch on nails that are too long or that have rough edges. This puts pressure on the nail bed, leading to blisters under the toenails, at the tips of the toes, or painful toenails as they are pushed back Img_1455_2into the cuticle. Nails that are too long are also prone to pressure from a toebox that is too short or too low. The toenails in this photo belong to an ultrarunner who successfully completed the Atacama Crossing, a seven-day foot race in Chile. Even at the end, here toe looked great.
     Toenails should be trimmed regularly, straight across the nail—never rounded at the corners. Leave an extra bit of nail on the outside corner of the big toe to avoid an ingrown toenail. After trimming toenails, use a nail file to smooth the top of the nail down toward the front of the toe and remove any rough edges. If you draw your finger from the skin in front of the toe up across the nail and can feel a rough edge, the nail can be filed smoother or trimmed a bit shorter. Remember though, the shorter you trim your nails, the greater the likelihood that you will experience an ingrown toenail. Conversely, nails that are too long can rub against the front of your shoes and catch on your socks, which can lead to a black toenail, wear holes in your socks, cut into other toes, and crack the nail when you run downhill. Shoes that are too tight in the forefoot or too short can cause the nail to press into the sides of the toe.
     Use a regular nail file or emery board from your drug store, you know, those cheap “use it a few times and toss it” file. Better yet, invest a few bucks in a nice metal file that will last a long time and serve you well. If you need clippers, there are regular large clippers and for thick nails, and nippers and scissors made exclusively for toenails. If your local drug store or pharmacy doesn’t have them, check out for a great selection.
     A little bit of care in toenail trimming goes a long ways in preventing toe blisters and black toenails, which means they will look good in sandals, flip flops and barefoot.

Pre-Summer Foot Care – Part 1 Callus

May 9, 2008 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Uncategorized 

Summer is right around the corner and with it comes more time spent outdoors. Activities like running, walking, hiking, adventure racing, backpacking or fastpacking – all stress our feet. Now is the time to start pre-summer foot care. We’ll talk about this in several parts. Part one will talk about calluses.

     Calluses are controversial. A callus is thickened skin caused by recurring pressure and friction—usually a sign of ill-fitting footwear. Many people feel calluses help protect their feet from blistering. Jan_herrmann_right_foot_17_days_aft They can – but they again, they might not. The problem is that when, not if, you blister underneath calluses – these deep blisters are almost impossible to drain and treat. The hard callus rubs against any pressure point in your shoe (side of the heel or forefoot, ball of the foot, bottom of the toes, etc.) and when the rubbing has continued long enough, and/or with enough pressure, the callus begins to move against the deep layers of skin – and you have a blister.

     My suggestion is to work at reducing your calluses with creams and file them as smooth as possible. Some small callus is okay, but I would keep them fairly soft and thin. The thicker and harder they are, and the longer it takes to reduce them.    

     Buy an inexpensive callus file at your local drug store, or a pumice stone, and file the callus after showering or bathing. You also should also purchase a callus cream to apply after using the file.

     A bit of foot care before summer will help your footwear fit better and your feet feel more comfortable.

Features to Avoid in Shoes? Excuse me…

May 1, 2008 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Footwear 

I found the article in the Pedorthic Newswire Issue # 228 a few days ago. The title of the article was “The Proper Fit: What athletes need to know about shoes.” It first appeared in a newspaper’s website in Ontario Canada and was written by a certified pedorthists.

     The article started by telling the reader, “When selecting a running shoe, or any shoe for that matter, there are a few important features to look for.” It then went on to talk about a strong heel counter, a strong shank, the best time of the day to shop for shoes, wearing the same socks that you plan to walk or run in when trying on shoes, and measuring your foot every time you purchase new shoes. This is all great advice. I have talked about this stuff for years.

     It was the next paragraph that I did not agree with. It read, “Features to avoid: Airbags, liquid gel, "shocks," "rebound," "bounce," although aesthetically pleasing, are characteristics that should be avoided. These features can create greater instability with walking and running if any biomechanical abnormalities are present within the gait cycle. Also, if there is a breakdown of the airbag, liquid gel, "shock," "rebound," or "bounce," the shoe itself becomes unstable, which places the foot in an undesirable position, leading to pain and discomfort in the feet, legs and lower back.”

     Excuse me… I have owned many pairs of Nike Air running shoes with their little air bags. I love them. Several are many years old and still hold their shock absorbing value. Not to say one of the airbags could never blow or be punctured by a thorn, but I’ll take that chance. The same goes for the gel and other shock absorbing devices. If there were problems, I know the shoe companies would rework the shoes.

     Here is an image from a patent website for United States Patent 6562427. It shows a schematic for a shoe airbag. It’d give you the full description but it would probably bore you. Here is just a bit of the 65624270display text from the abstract for 6562427:

     “An airbag for shoes has a plurality of elastically compressible cylindrical cushion members which are interconnected in a predetermined array by a connecting plate. The cushion members/connecting plate combination is encapsulated in a casing. The cushion members, connecting plate and casing are joined together to form an integral unit. The cushion members have a spiral groove formed in their outer surface which increases their compressibility during the initial phase of compression.”

     Shoes with these features are valuable to those who need them. I think most of us are smart enough to know if the shoe suddenly felt “funny” or bottomed out because of a system failure, we would stop wearing the shoes. I will continue to buy any shoe that fits well and works on my feet – regardless if they have any one of the aforementioned features. I hope you will too. After all, my main goal is to keep my feet happy.

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