By Dave Healy
“I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.”
That statement, or a variation, has been variously attributed to Shakespeare, Gandhi and Helen Keller, among others.
The sentiment—there’s always someone worse off than you—is inarguable. Whether that also means no one has the right to complain about anything seems less certain.
I have feet, but I want to complain about them. For one thing, they’re ugly.
My paternal grandmother once said of her husband, “If I’d seen that man’s feet before I married him, I never would have tied the knot.”
Apparently, ugly feet run in the family.
But unattractive feet are easily hidden. More consequential are the various maladies they’re subject to: blisters, calluses, corns, bunions, hammer toes, claw toes, heel spurs, plantar warts, plantar fasciitis, Morton’s neuroma, sesamoiditis, neuropathy, athlete’s foot, toenail fungus and ingrown toenails. It’s hard to think of another body part so susceptible to ailments.
There’s a line of thinking that lays the blame for most foot problems at the feet, so to speak, of shoes. For most of our history, humans wore no shoes, and they’re still uncommon in some cultures.
In a 2010 “Nature” article, anthropologist Dan Lieberman argued that shoeless running is more efficient and generates less stress on the foot than does running in shoes.
But I live in Minnesota, where going barefoot is an option for, at best, half the year. And in the interests of civic responsibility, I really don’t want to subject others to the sight of my unadorned feet.
So, I wear shoes. Because I have high arches, my shoes are fitted with orthotics—inserts designed to take some stress off the balls of my feet. Because I’m susceptible to athlete’s foot, I use foot powder. These interventions set me apart from many people.
But there’s one foot fact that affects everyone. Feet have toes, which have toenails, which grow. So, no matter who you are or where you live or what you wear, periodically your toenails have to be cut.
Until recently, I managed that task myself. But it grew, so to speak, increasingly difficult. My balky back makes getting a foot into proper position problematic. Toenails thicken as one ages, so they’re harder to cut.
There is such a thing as a nail salon, where someone will trim your toenails. But although I consider myself a reasonably liberated male, I’m not quite ready to be the only man in a nail salon.
What to do?
Enter St. Anthony Park Area Seniors, one of whose purposes is to help seniors thrive while continuing to live in their homes. And one service the organization provides is foot care. SAPAS connected me with Nicole Hendrickson, an RN who specializes in foot care. Now I’m one of her regular clients.
Nicole comes to my house. She starts by soaking my feet in warm water with a bit of soap. After drying them, she goes to work. She trims my toenails and cuticles. She sands down my calluses. She finishes by applying some lotion. She does all this efficiently, painlessly—and professionally.
But the thing I really love about Nicole is that she doesn’t laugh at me feet.
Dave Healy lives in St. Anthony Park and is a former editor of the Park Bugle.