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THE STRUCTURE OF THE HUMAN FEET, ETC.
HERE is nothing more beautiful than the
structure of the human foot," says Sir Charles Bell;
nor perhaps any demonstration which would lead a well-educated person to desire to know more of anatomy than that of the foot. The foot has in its structure all the fine appliances you see in a building. In the first place, there is an arch, in whatever way you regard the foot; looking down upon it, we perceive several bones coming round the astralagos, and forming an entire circle of surfaces in the contact. If we look at the profile of the foot, an arch is still manifest, of which the posterior part is formed by the heel, and the anterior by the ball of the great toe; and in the front, we find in that direction a transverse arch: so that, instead of standing, as might be imagined, on a solid bone, we stand upon an arch composed of a series of bones, which are united by the most curious provision for the elasticity of the foot; hence, if we jump from height directly upon the heel, a severe shock is felt; not so, if we alight upon the ball of the great toe, for there an elasticity is formed in the whole foot, and the weight of the body is thrown upon this arch, and the shock avoided.”
Another writer, on the. “ diseases of the feet," thus alludes to the beauty and perfection of the human foot in its natural state :
“The matchless forms of sculptured beauty which the destroying hand of time has left us in the works of the mighty masters of the classic time, exhibit to us the finest specimens of what the foot would be, if allowed its free and uninterrupted action.
“We are immediately struck with the admirable manner in which it is organized, both for the support of the frame and for motion ; its flexibility, its power of action, its form, seem all to have been the result of the examination of the most perfect human models. We see that there have been no artificial coverings, no compression, no restraints ; that the gait must have been free, firm, and elastic; that the natural and healthful action of every muscle, tendon, joint, and bone, was fully studied and expressed. There is no stiffness, no contraction of the heel or the sole of the foot; to the toes are given their
proper functions; we see that only the sandal has been worn, merely to cover and protect the integument under the broad and expanded foot, there have been no ligatures, no unyielding bandages, no cramping compresses —all is alike free, healthful, natural.
“We well can comprehend, on examining them, how the Macedonian phalanx or the Roman legion, performed its long day's march. We can see how ten thousand Greeks pursued their daily wearying course through the destroying climate of Asia, marching firmly, manfully, alike across the arid sand, the mountain pass, or the flinty plain.
“ We are almost led to the wish to see the European soldier similarly prepared for his toilsome march, unencumbered by the unyielding shoe, which sometimes becomes in the day a source of greater annoyance than of comfort to him. He would be enabled to undertake fatigue and privations for which he is now totally unprepared. He would find an elastic tread, a firm command over his muscular system, follow upon such a plan. He would be capable of making a charge upon the enemy with greater steadiness, and enabled to bear the shock which he is now less capable of resisting. In this respect we should do well to imitate the native soldier of India, who, under the English banner, has followed a Clive, a Hastings, or a Keane, when the British soldier has almost sunk
from the insuperable difficulties which attend wearing all parts of the dress he has been accustomed to do in England, forgetful of the climate in which he is placed."
For upward of twenty years as a bootmaker, I have made the feet my study, and during that period many thousand pairs of feet have received my attention. I have observed with minute care the cast from the antique as well as "the modern instances,” and I am obliged to admit, that much of the pain I have witnessed, much of the distortion of the toes, the corns on the top of the feet, the bunion on the side, the callosities beneath, and the growing-in of the nails between, are attributable to the shoemaker. The feet, with proper treatment, might be as free from disease and pain as the hands; their structure and adaptation to the wants and comfort of man, as we have seen, is most perfect. Thirty-six bones and thirty-six joints have been given by the Creator to form one of these members, and yet man cramps, cabins, and confines, his beautiful arrangements of one hundred and forty-four bones and joints, together with muscles, elastic cartilage, lubricating oily fluid, veins, and arteries, into a pair of shoes or boots, which, instead of protecting from injury, produces the most painful as well as permanent results. Many volumes have been written on
the cause of corns, and it has been my lot to wade through many of them, without gaining much for my pains. I have therefore arrived at the conclusion, notwithstanding all that has been said to the contrary, that corns are in all cases the result of pressure.
I am confirmed in this opinion by one of the most respectable chiropodists of the present day (Mr. Durlacher), a gentleman who has had a considerable experience in the treatment of corns and bunions. He
says : “Pressure and friction are unquestionably the predisposing causes of corns, although, in some instances, they are erroneously supposed to be hereditary. Improperly-made shoes invariably produce pressure upon the integuments of the toes and prominent parts of the feet, to which is opposed a corresponding resistance from the bone immediately beneath, in consequence of which the vessels of the dermis are compressed between them, become injured, congested, and, after a time, hypertrophied.
“When corns are produced by friction and slight pressure, they are the result of the shoes being too large and the leather hard, so that, by the extension of the foot, the little toe, or any prominent part, is constantly being rubbed and compressed by its own action,