Thursday, February 12, 2015

Footsie this St Valentine's ?

Feet are funny things. Stuck away and forgotten about unless they give us pain or it is time for some naughty foot frolics such as a date on St Valentine’s Day. According to the University of Manchester study some years ago we use feet as a means of non-verbal communication and the secret language of feet can reveal a great deal personality. The way we move our feet reveals much about our feelings and researchers discovered. At a social gathering women move their feet towards men they find attractive. An unnatural amount of foot movement signals dishonesty in both sexes and men tend to move their feet more when nervous. Unlike facial expressions or hand gestures people are usually unaware when their feet are moving and apparently most of us are oblivious to the messages our feet send out.

I expect everyone is familiar with the act of flirting or sharing a surreptitious intimacy called footsie or footsie - footsie. Just in case you are not in the know, footsie describes clandestine touching of the feet or leg under the table. Apparently there are several moves involved starting with the toe nudge followed by delicate investigation up under the trouser hem. The less direct method is to rest your foot against your partner but alternate between removing the pressure and pushing again. This needs to be done in a spontaneous manner so the recipient is unsure if the contact is intentional or otherwise. Leg crossing and toying with the shoe are other forms of footsie but a high degree of dexterity is required in this matter, if you are going to be successful. So practice is essential. (I think I may start a class?).

The origin of the gentle art of foot seduction is unknown although unsolicited foot attention is well documented in many cultures. The ancients for example had a preoccupation with feet as ‘object sensual’ with many Roman generals taking their lover’s sandal as keepsakes into battle. Why feet and shoes should be thought sexy in this way is complex but likely to involve a phenomenon known as the Displacement Theory. Simply put this describes what took place after we started to cover up our wobbly bits. Unable to see genitalia because it was covered meant greater significance was placed on clothing as an indication of gender. As part of this process hair and hats; feet and shoes became sexualized. In ancient society the sight of clothes provided the safest distance to judge friend or foe. Clothing served three main functions: decoration, modesty and protection. The word shoe (scoe) is Anglo-Saxon, meaning 'to cover furtively,’ and shoes have a long history of being used as sex toys for safe sex.

In antiquity clothing provided decoration and modesty. Fig leaf mentality from the 3rd century onward may explain why we covered up, but by far the major reason for clothing, was decoration. The essential purpose of decoration is to beautify bodily appearance in order to attract admiring glances. This became a preoccupation of the ruling class and was fiercely imitated by the rising middle class. Only when decoration and modesty are pitted together however do we witness a modern psychological conflict or clothing neurosis. The degree of harmony or compromise between these conflicting interests is clearly seen in shoes. This is where many believe shoes and or feet have much to say about personality. In psycho-social terms there are three types of female shoes. Revealing shoes display feet as objects of frailty. Concealing shoes transmit a suggestive erotic message of tight containment. Both strongly proclaim femininity, individuality and sexual allure. Finally masking shoes play down personality by discouraging notice.

Back in European history to the middle ages when a nameless cobbler crafted a pair of poulaines (long toed shoes) for courtier Rulk Fulkner. Rulk was a dandy and fop and dedicated setter of fashion. Like Posh Spice he suffered painful bunions and had very broad feet. His cobbler crafted the new look long toed shoe broad enough at the bunion area but ending the shoe well beyond the end of the toes and meeting at a point. The fashion caught on and lasted unabated for three hundred years. Extensions became longer and longer (24” longer than the foot) until they were so long as to make walking almost impossible. Young bucks started to stuff wool and moss in the extensions to keep them erect. Indeed the blatant phallic symbol became so long, often they had to be attached to the knee with a chain to prevent tripping. A popular vulgarity was to paint the extensions flesh coloured, allowing them to flap with lifelike mobility. Small bells (hawk bells) were often attached to the end of the poulaine to indicate the wearer was a willing partner in sexual frolic. Footsie-footsie took on a more meaningful importance during this time and many a dinner party would be enhanced with below table shenanigans. This allowed a man to keep three women perfectly happy under the table whilst leaving his hands free to enjoy a healthy repast. Shocked at the overt obscenity of long toed shoes the Church tired to condemn them and when this met with dumb silence sumptuary laws were passed to prevent commoners from wearing peaked toed shoes.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Back to school shoes

On average a child’s foot grows approx 2-3 sizes per year. Growth spurts are normally faster in younger children (1-3 up to three sizes per year); up to 10 years - a couple of sizes per annum ; and thereafter slows down to one size per year up to the age of 17. Conditions do apply the timetable varies with individuals but foot bones do not complete ossification until the early 20s. Not all children hit growth spurts at the same time. The frustration is you buy a pair of shoes and a week or two later the kids have outgrown them. So “Sunday Best” practice is not a good idea with growing children.

Shoes and feet are not as compatible as you might imagine and getting the perfect fit is an almost impossible task for some. The reasons are compounded because humans are not symmetrical (same size on each side) but shoes are. Matching feet to shoes can present problems especially when issues such as narrow feet or different size feet arise. It makes sense therefore to have children’s feet measured and fitted for school shoes by qualified shoe fitters. However fitted footwear is more expensive and so most people on a limited budget will avoid it. There is some debate about having feet measured weight bearing whilst most retailers have the child sit, however manufacturers do add extra length to their shoes. More and more shoes are bought on line and the potential risk of poorly fitted shoes for children has become more common. Best advice is when buying off the net is to follow the sizing instructions carefully. A good idea when shoe shopping (with our without junior) is to take a cut out footprint of their feet to slip into the shoe to measure compatibility. All available research indicates the only way to assess best shoe fit is on a comfort scale, so always best to have junior there. Experts now believe the heel of the shoe helps stabilize the kinetic foot and should give a firm grip and added support to the rear foot - so if you want to prevent instability at the forefoot a snug fitting heel cup is preferred. Once fitted it is important to have your child walk and run comfortably in the shoes without tripping or stumbling.

Shoes size is classified by heel to ball measurement (length); and breadth (width across the ball of the foot). Sadly there is no standard size system (due to fierce commercial rivalry) and this makes buying shoes unnecessarily complex. There are plenty resources on the internet to help compare the size systems of different countries but these are not always available to the consumer at the point of purchase in a shoe shop. Most mass produced shoes have less breadth options and half sizes are not always available. Parents want shoes that will last the whole school term and shoe sellers recommend an adult thumb's width of space between the end of the toes and the front seams of the shoes while the child is standing ( approx. 1.5 – 2.00cm). Time was, not so long ago kids went to their local shoe shop and could see an x ray of their feet. The fluoroscope is no longer available because of the danger of radiation. Some high street venues offer technical biomechanical analysis usually with claims they can fit any foot. As with all programmable software however this generally means all feet measured can be matched to the current range of footwear available for retail at that venue. So consumer beware conditions do apply.

Provided the shoe is comfortable to wear and fit for purpose (walking running and sports etc.) then that is as good as it gets. Sweaty feet can benefit from the addition of added eyelets. Children and their parents are as prey to marketing as any consumer (some may say more so) and there is often social pressure to comply with fashion fads which invariably are expensive. Designer trainers represent the high end of the market but hold no magic when it comes to growing feet. Personally I am not a great fan of school uniforms but I do have sympathy when dress codes prevent bullying and playground marginalization caused by trendy footwear. Crossover from classic school shoe to trainer is now possible because of the new polymers which make lightweight hard wearing and durable footwear possible with the added advantage of complying with school requirements as well as give the feel of comfortable kicks.

Parents need to prepare junior(s) before going shopping for shoes. Makes sense to trim the toe nails before hand and have the socks and orthoses etc. with you for fit checkout. Most shoes have sufficient dead space to include cushioned insoles, foot orthoses without need to for extra big shoes. Always avoid busy shopping days (Monday morning is the time most buyers return their shoes); and shop in the afternoon when foot volume is maximum. Have the child try the shoes on and check for length, breadth and comfort. Get the child to stand on their tiptoes and check for heel grip. If the heel pops out at this point the shoe is most likely too long. There should be no need to “break shoes in,” and they should be comfortable from the beginning. It does make sense however to let the child wear their new shoes for a day or two before sending them off to school.


Simple anthropometry: Foot sizes and height are co-ordinated and so if your children are interested you can keep a record of growing. This is simple to collect and provides interesting feedback from a familial perspective as well as the collected data can be used in school projects for simple statistical analysis. From time to time some shoe retailers do use promotions such as a foot passport to encourage parents and children to have their feet measured.

The UK Shoe Size System for children is divided into 13 parts. Sizes start at five inches long (width across the knuckles or 13 barleycorns) and every fourth part of an inch thereafter until, size 12. Size 13 or short 13 and consists of length of 8 inches and a quarter (span of the hand) . This measured the average length of a child's foot at puberty. This also starts the Adult size 1.