Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Working Foot

I used to have a fairly regular gig designing costumes for a theatre in Maui, Studio H'poko. It was a total "art with friends" set up, since I loved the people I worked with and the challenges of putting together a Shakespeare show on the islands was always fodder for plenty of adventure. The first show I designed was The Tempest, so I needed a batch of noblemen costumes to contrast with the loose-fitting schmattas of Prospero and his crowd. Shoes, I needed shoes.

I collected actors' measurements before I left for Hawaii, so I could assemble some of the clothes and bring them with me. I was struck by the shoe sizes--everyone had really, really wide feet. So I headed off to Maui with a suitcase full of broad, boxy shoes, sure that people were just trying to get away with extra-comfortable footwear. It didn't occur to me that the result of many year of slapping around in flip-flops (rubbah slippahs), would mean all the actors would have very wide feet. And so it was...the shoes fit fine, although there were lots of complaints about having to wear socks (never mind underwear).

My on-island assistant thought my astonishment was hilarious and noted how every time she went home to Ohio, she was always disgusted by how pale and useless-looking everyone's feet looked. She was used to broad, tan, callused, hard-working paws that spent all day on the beach or clambering around the rocks, caked with red dirt and exposed to the elements instead of carefully-manicured tootsies that only saw the sun through leather sandals.

I thought all about this the other day, when I was trying on birthday sandals (love me some Zappos!). Nothing was too short, but all the shoes were too narrow. 5 yoga classes a week? Shoeless swim workouts? Toting an extra 27 lbs. around in the form of a 2 year old? These plates of meat spend a lot of time unshod, so I guess it's not a surprise that things have spread out a bit.

Thanks to Bev in Pukulani, tho, I like to think of my shoe challenges as due to barefeet with lots of responsibility. These guys do a lot of supporting and grounding and spreading of toes throughout the week. Balance is great, ankles are strong, so I guess I'll take bigger feet as a trade off for lots of yoga.

I'm in Wisconsin, so I'm definitely still pro-sock (no flip-flops in February), but hopefully these dogs would pass muster in the Tropics!


Anonymous said...

I like me some high heels but battle to get shoes broad enough. Because I spend all day barefoot too!

And I am really proud of my feet - they are muscular, broad, working feet. Like yours.

I am always struck by the contrast between the feet of yoga teachers in their 50's and 60's and those of people who spend their days shod. By that time, years of foot abuse are really showing up and people often have quite deformed feet. Not hte yoga teachers though. Same with posture in general. You don't see kyphotic yogis much.

PetalsYoga said...

Oh, thank you! I have wide tootsies too and now I can "blame" the yoga for it! Feeling balanced and grounded is well worth the hassle in shoe shopping.



Brenda P. said...

I remember reading an article by Atul Gawande, a doctor that writes for the New Yorker, in which he wrote that he often can tell the state of a patient's health based on the care they give their feet. I love that bit about older yogis' feet, Nadine, it make me think about that article.