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( Originally Published Mid 1800s )
The present generation of girls should at least have feet free from all defects and blemishes, if not perfect in shape, for all daughters of sensible mothers have been shod for twenty years back with flat, common-sense, heelless shoes. No girl whose feet are thus attired ever has been known to suffer from a corn, distorted nail, or even from a callous spot.
The high French heel is accountable not only for the distortion of the first joint of the great toe, but for innumerable feminine internal complaints -besides which, it is utterly impossible for any woman alive to walk or dance gracefully in high French heels. It is said that a fashionable French woman once asked a famous artist how to acquire a graceful carriage, and was told to take off her high-heeled shoes, place them on top of her head, and practice walking until she could do so without the little shoes showing the slightest quiver of motion. "When you can walk," he said, "with those shoes perfectly balanced, you will have the gait of a goddess, and for the first time since French heels were invented they will really have served to help and not to disfigure a woman."
Du Maurier's description of Trilby's foot has done effective missionary work among us. I give it even though you all may have read it, for it is very pertiIIent to this subject:
"Poor Trilby! The shape of those lovely, slender feet (that were neither large nor small) facsimiled in dusty, pale, plaster of paris, survives on the shelves and walls of many a studio throughout the world, and many a sculptor yet unborn has yet to marvel at their strange perfection in studious despair.
" It is a wondrous thing, the human foot-like the human hand, even moresso perhaps; but unlike the hand, with which we are so familiar, it is seldom a thing of beauty in leather boots or shoes.
"So that it is hidden away in disgrace, a thing to be thrust out of sight and forgotten. It can sometimes be very ugly indeed-the ugliest thing there is, even in the fairest and highest and most gifted of her sex; and then it is of an ugliness to chill and kill romance and scatter love's young dream, and almost break the heart.
"And all for the sake of a high heel and a ridiculously pointed toe-mean thing at the best!
"Nothing else that Mother Nature has to show, not even the human face divine, has more subtle power to suggest high physical distinction, happy evolution, and su preme development; the lordship of man over beast, the lordship of man over man, the lordship of woman over all!"
For those of us who have suffered a martyrdom for past offenses in improper care of the feet, including the tight, French-heeled boot of torture, a word as to the toilet of the feet.
First, and most important of all, to preserve them in a thoroughly healthy and comfortable state, thorough cleanliness is of course requisite. They should be bathed daily, and two or three times a week they should be soaked in warm or tepid water, and well scrubbed with a brush and soap, so that every particle of dust or perspiration which constantly accumulates about them may be removed. The best time for this operation is just before retiring. Once a week at least the feet should be carefully examined after the soaking above referred to-every particle of loose skin should be removed while they are still soft from the warm water-and callosities or indurations should be rubbed quite smooth with a bit of pumice stone, or better still, a Japanese corn file. The nails should also, about once a week, be carefully inspected, cut so that their length is just the length of the toe. The shape of the nail should follow the natural curve of the toe. If they be allowed to grow longer they are liable to be forced back by the pressure of the shoe and to grow into the flesh. Be careful also not to cut the nails of the toes too short, as in such cases the toes lose their natural support. Cutting the nail to the quick has actually caused lockjaw and death, an authentic case being on record of a lady who died of tetanus or lockjaw nine days after cutting the nail by accident into the quick.
Nails that have a tendency to grow sidewise should be kept carefully pared. Where the nail grows into the flesh it may be cured by making a V-shaped cut in the center, the broad part of the V at the top of the nail. For ingrowing nails Monin also advises bandaging the toe with compresses saturated with perchlorate of iron. Despite the protest of many girls who are not yet converted, ingrowing toe nails are invariably produced by pressure or a blow. A shoe too narrow across the toe or tread of the foot, or insufficiently long for ease and comfort, though large enough elsewhere, either cramps or distorts the fore part of the foot and toes or arrests the nails in their proper growth forward, forcing them back upon the sensitive flesh at their roots and sides and causing them to grow in width and thickness only.
The results of tight shoes are not always immediate, but they are sure and very painful.
Corns are horny indurations with a very sensitive nucleus or base, and appear on the exposed portions of the joints of the toes. They are certainly caused by an undue and continuous pressure, and will usually disappear with large, easy shoes-otherwise, though frequently taken out, they will reappear. To remove them, soak the feet for twenty minutes and pare the corns as close as possible to the surface, taking care, however, never to make them bleed, then use one of the following remedies ; they are all effective:
CURE FOR CORNS
Take a lemon, cut off a small piece, then nick it so as to let in the toe with the corn ; tie this on at night so that it cannot move, and in the morning you will find that, with a blunt knife, you may remove a considerable portion of the corn. Make two or three applications, and great relief will be the result.
The pain occasioned by corns may be greatly alleviated by the following preparation : - Into an ounce vial put two drachms of muriatic acid and six drachms of rose water. With this mixture wet the corns night and morning for three days. Soak the feet every evening in warm water without soap. Put one-third of the acid into the water, and the corn will soon be dissolved.
Soft corns may be cured by using the following:
Dip a piece of linen rag in turpentine, and wrap around the toe, on which the corn is situated, night and morning, and in a few days the corn will disappear.
Nitric acid, caustic, and strong tincture of iodine are also used for removing corns.
Corn plasters may be procured of an apothecary or made at home by cutting a small circular bit of leather or kid with a hole the size of the corn cut out in the center. Spread the kid with a corn plaster. The French corn plaster called verdigris is made as follows:
FRENCH CORN PLASTER
Beeswax, four parts; Burgundy pitch, three parts; malt, add Venice turpentine (verdigris in fine powder), of each one part, and stir the mass until nearly cold. This is the old form of " verdigris plaster " (emplastrum aeruyinis) of the Paris " Codex."
Rubbing the soles of the feet with vinegar will ease them when they are sore from walking or standing.
The disagreeable and peculiar odor arising from the feet of some persons is produced from an unnatural perspiration. In all such cases, the greatest possible cleanliness is of the utmost importance. Salt footbaths or baths of vinegar and water are frequently effective. Spirits of camphor may also be applied, and will sometimes cure this very unfortunate condition. Mustard footbaths are advised, the object being to stimulate the circulation and evoke a natural excretion.
Tender feet are caused by wearing stockings too thin for the weight of the shoe, and of course an ill-shaped boot or shoe, or one not sufficiently porous to admit of the escape of perspiration will also cause tender feet.
In this connection patent leather is to be condemned. The process of manufacture makes it impervious to air. The foot perspires and swells and the whole brood of foot ills follows in due course. I have been asked frequently if patent leather shoes should be worn and I have been constrained to answer that they should not be worn but doubtless will be, for some time to come. They surely look dressy but hardly more so than light French calf or kid if properly cared for. The best treatment for tender feet is soaking them nightly in bran and water or salt water. Let them remain in the footbath fully half an hour. Nothing so rests tired feet as the salt footbath.
Coldness of the feet indicates delicate health, and impaired circulation. Cold feet are destroyers of complexions. It is said that rubbing the feet and ankles with the bare hands, pressing just as strongly as the feet can endure, for ten or fifteen minutes every night just before retiring, will cure the most stubborn cases of cold feet.
For profuse perspiration, try dusting the feet, which should be thoroughly washed and carefully dried at least twice a day, with the following powder:
This powder must be sifted through fine silk bolting cloth, so that it is impalpable.
Bunions are the result of an inflammation or swelling of the previously enlarged or di.storted joint of the great toe. A distorted joint is not a bunion until it has inflamed and suppurated. Short shoes and French heels are the almost invariable cause of the distorted great toe joint. The toe is actually dislocated in its effort to adapt itself to a shoe which will not yield in length. There are a number of mechanical appliances exploited for the cure of distorted joints. I have never yet seen a cure effected. The toe joint may be set just as any dislocated bone may be put back in place, and if done immediately, and the patient will forever after wear long shoes and forswear French heels, it will remain in its proper placehalf an hour's confinement, however, in a short shoe or slipper, will dislocate the joint again.
When the bunion becomes very painful, with great inflammation, and a manifest gathering of pus is forming, poulticing should be resorted to. Nothing is so effective as ground flaxseed for this purpose. Make a tiny number of poultices in little linen bags; keep applying them just as hot as they can be borne-spread a little carbolated vaseline over the bunion before putting the poultice on. If the pain be intense, add a few drops of laudanum to the vaseline.
Where the feet are cut or an abrasion occurs, they should be soaked and carefully washed, and further protected either by a little ointment secured with a scrap of lint or a bit of court-plaster. When a blister has formed, it is best to prick or snip it so as to let all the water or serum out; then bind it over carefully, first applying a healing ointment.
To all women who can afford to do so, I advise the weekly care of a good pedicure. The torture which only a corn can produce is easily averted if the feet be cared for, and bunions and other atrocities are unknown to those who early learn, the way to treat those useful members, the feet.
Pointed-toed shoes have certainly deserved a portion of the anathemas hurled at them, but I make a feeble protest for them as proper enough for people with pointed feet. A boot or shoe should certainly conform to the shape of the foot, and about eight people out of ten have feet which are much more pointed than square at the toe.
I cannot see why the hideous square-toed shoe is not quite as grotesque as the extreme pointed tip (called in Paris, "cure-dent"-tooth-pick). There can be but one opinion as to heels-they should be low and broad.
No department of dress, indeed, shows more wholesome improvement during the past decade than foot gear. Most men and many women appreciate the genuine comfort of having the shoe made to conform somewhat to the shape of the foot instead of compelling the latter delicate member to do the stretching and shaping at any cost. A maker of women's boots once said: "It's easy enough to fit the feminine foot, but mighty hard sometimes to fit the feminine head." To-day, happily, it is easy to fit both, for broad, foot-form shoes for ordinary wear are "just the fashion." Whatever ridicule may be aimed at women for following masculine styles, it is certainly well for the feet of the growing generation that mannish styles in foot gear are the vogue among the gentler sex. The shoe a la mode is broad in the right place, i. e., along a line running between the main joints of the great and small toe. Plenty of room here makes an easy shoe and relieves the pressure on the ball of the foot, thus preventing an enlargement of the joint which is fatal to the beauty of the pied de femme.
It is suggested that a woman should always have several pairs of shoes and boots and change them often, thus allowing the leather to dry out and resume its normal condition. The use of shoe forms is also advised, to stretch out the wrinkles and creases. Shoes thus cared for wear longer and always look better.