Health News Digest

August 6, 2012

Quiet Your Barking Dogs (Not A Canine Story)

Feet on the move

By  Michael D. Shaw

Readers of a certain age will recognize the title of this piece as a riff on the slogan for one of the earliest brands of casual shoes—Hush Puppies. Back in the 1950s, “barking dogs” could also refer to aching feet.

Foot problems in humans are probably as old as spine problems, and date back well over 1 million years, when we became fully bipedal. The American Podiatric Medical Association reminds us that our feet must last a lifetime, and most Americans cover 75,000 miles on foot by the time they reach age 50. But, as with so many body parts, we pay them little attention until trouble occurs. At least two famous Americans would die because of seemingly minor foot problems.

Distiller Jack Daniel, overweight, suffering from what we now call type 2 diabetes, and already an amputee, came into the office one morning in 1911 and wanted to open his safe. Unfortunately, he had forgotten the combination, and in frustration, kicked it. His big toe developed a severe infection, to which he eventually succumbed.

Thirteen years later, Calvin Coolidge Jr., the 16-year-old son of the president, was playing tennis with his older brother John. Hard at it, young Calvin got a blister, which became infected, and he died a week later of septicemia. Some say that this is how “Silent Cal” became even more taciturn.

The Mayo Clinic’s website details a goodly number of conditions that can cause foot pain, including:

  • Achilles tendinitis
  • Achilles tendon rupture
  • Bone spurs
  • Bunions
  • Bursitis
  • Corns and calluses
  • Diabetic neuropathy
  • Flatfeet
  • Gout
  • Hammertoe and mallet toe
  • Ingrown toenails
  • Metatarsalgia
  • Morton’s neuroma
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Plantar warts
  • Stress fractures

Chances are—especially if you are of older vintage—that you’ve had one or more of these. Of course, in nearly all cases, these “causes” are really effects of some greater issue. Poorly designed or badly-fitted footwear is a frequent culprit. And, our old friend obesity pops up, as well. In a recent article appearing in Arthritis Care & Research, it was shown that the incidence of gout in people who are overweight can be 2.1 to 4.4 times higher than in individuals of normal weight, and increases with the extent of the obesity.

The earliest footwear—crude sandals—was completely functional, providing only protection. However, outside the realm of the purely vocational, for centuries, footwear has been more concerned with fashion than comfort, or even ultimate foot health. No doubt, women have been the biggest victims. Indeed, one authority insists that an astonishing 80% of all foot problems occur in women.

Fortunately, there are people who want to do something about this, one of whom is Lisa Masterson, MD of the Emmy® Award- winning series, The Doctors. Dr. Masterson has just introduced the Dr. Lisa Therafit Shoe.

As Dr. Masterson puts it, “I wanted to develop a shoe that would empower women. No matter where they are—at work, at the gym, or just running the countless errands that we do. We need a shoe that multitasks with us, and my shoe does. It taps into the latest technology, with performance that can be customized, and styles that work around the clock. It’s the 12-hour shoe for the 12-hour day!”

Accredited by the National Posture Institute, Therafit shoes use multiple layers and densities for cushioning and support, so that the shock of each step is distributed downward and outward. The outsole can be adjusted to allow an increase or decrease in impact resistance. “I know what it is to be a working mom,” says Dr. Masterson. “Juggling it all and maintaining good health is a challenge. This shoe is a realistic solution for women to encourage exercise, and bring overall wellness into their lifestyle.”

Let’s conclude with a quote from the late dance icon Martha Graham: “Think of the magic of that foot, comparatively small, upon which your whole weight rests. It’s a miracle, and the dance is a celebration of that miracle.”