The Structure of the Foot

If you want to get technical about your feet, first have a look at the illustration of the bones of your foot to the right, mentally add muscles, tendons and sinews, and then cover it all with skin. That's your foot. Complex little beast, isn't it? It get

If you want to get technical about your feet, first have a look at the illustration of the bones of your foot to the right, mentally add muscles, tendons and sinews, and then cover it all with skin. That's your foot. Complex little beast, isn't it? It gets worse: there are so many variations in foot shape.

Some of these variations have to do with the shape of the sole, and it may be worth knowing what sort yours is. If you wet your foot and stand on a bit of paper you will get a 'footprint'. This will reveal whether you have a low, average or high arch. In itself this doesn't matter too much, but it does show what sort of arch your foot has. A very low arch may mean you have 'flat feet', or just weak foot muscles. That's not all that you might find out about your feet: the footprint will also tell you whether you have wide, average or narrow feet. Well, so I am told, but in my experience Australian walkers have either wide feet or very wide feet. Whatever shape your feet have, that's what you have got, and they should work just fine.

One could go into great details about various foot problems you can have: bunions, bent toes, lumps out the sides, and so on. However, if you have those sorts of problems you are best off getting professional advice from a good podiatrist. On which subject, you could check the special section further on about Orthotics and Foot Problems. However, the experience of some readers has been that not all podiatrists are sufficiently experienced in the area of sports medicine, which is what we need. If you go to a podiatrist and are not entirely happy with the diagnosis, get a second opinion - maybe through the Sports Centre at the nearest University.

What is all this leading up to? Consider what would happen if you had to work hard with your arms tied tightly behind your back, or if there was a stone wedged between your shoulder and the strap of your pack - or for that matter wedged in your shoe. In each case you would expect to be in agony after a short while, and would do something about it. What causes the agony? Too much pressure on a small area of skin, or too much pressure on a joint. Exactly the same thing happens to your feet when they are jammed into boots: the bones, tendons, skin and so on are sensitive to pressure and rubbing. The only part of your feet which have evolved to take continuous pressure are the soles, and even those have their limits. So badly fitting footwear is going to spell trouble. The problem is, not everyone realises what a 'good fit' really means. So now we look at what can go wrong.