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High-style shoes get their walking papers Feet: Given the way we treat them, it's no wonder they're painful and misshapen.


It's the shoes, silly.

Some 80 percent of all foot problems are caused by shoes, so it's no surprise women have about 90 percent of all surgeries for common foot problems.

Stephanie Tourles just wrote the book on feet, or at least a book on feet, and it doesn't take much to get her started on the topic of shoes.

"It's the style, the narrowness, the point of the toe," says Tourles, who published "Natural Foot Care, Herbal Treatments, Massage and Exercises for Healthy Feet" (Storey Books, $14.95). "It's the fact that the fashion industry thinks all of our feet should be pointed, and as a result, after years of wearing [stylish shoes], we end up with elfin-like feet."

Tourles, who is also a licensed aesthetician, an herbalist and the author of "The Herbal Body Book," asks, in her new book: "If women were meant to wear heels, wouldn't we have pointed heel bones?"

Nor are men exempt from her ruthless scrutiny - athlete's foot, heel pain and men's socks get equal coverage.

The book covers the gamut, from bunions to corns to hammer toes to stinky feet to dry, cracked soles. It is filled with exercises, massages, soothing treatments and irresistible trivia (the average woman owns 25 to 30 pairs of shoes, compared to the average man's five to six pairs; the average temperature inside your shoe is 106 degrees).

Need a really thick foot cream to fight winter dryness? Over very low heat, blend 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon castor oil and 2 teaspoons beeswax in a small saucepan. Remove from burner and allow to cool a bit. Add 15 drops of peppermint essential oil and 15 drops of rosemary essential oil to the bottom of a 2-ounce jar, then pour in the beeswax/castor oil mixture. Apply the lotion to your feet each night and wear socks to bed. Yield: Soft feet that don't dry and crack.

Want to work on callouses? Mix a tablespoon of salt with a tablespoon of oil, such as vegetable, olive, soybean or almond oil. After a shower or bath, when the feet are softened, rub the mixture onto feet; the salt removes dead skin while the oil softens the feet.

Foot odor is an embarrassing problem. "It used to be mainly a guy thing, back in the '70s before women started working out," says Tourles. Now women's feet can smell even worse, since the women work out and then run an endless stream of errands. So during those errands, stop and pick up an 8-ounce bottle of witch hazel and 10 to 15 drops of essential peppermint oil. Combine them and spray onto the feet; the mixture is cooling and kills odor. It also doubles as a nice facial.

But be warned, although the book is full of advice, the bottom line is that women who want healthy feet will have to forgo fashionable, painful shoes. "Men don't like to see a shoe that doesn't make your leg look long and pretty and sexy," Tourles says, laughing. "You go and put your lingerie on and come out in Birkenstocks, and it just doesn't cut it."

In the back of the book, she recommends companies providing good shoes, noting that Naturalizer and Easy Spirit make dress shoes that offer relief. When shopping for shoes, trace the bottom of your foot, and then take it to the shoe store and compare it to the sole. When you try the shoes on, make sure your toes can wiggle freely.

"It won't be aesthetically pleasing," warns Tourles, "but your feet will be happier."

The gender advantage in dealing with nail fungus

Men put off calling the doctor, as any woman will tell you. That reluctance, in the National Basketball Association, gives women players an advantage when it comes to nail fungus, a seemingly minor complaint that can sideline a player.

A recent survey found that players in the Women's National Basketball Association suffered much less from onychomycosis, or nail fungus infection, than their NBA counterparts. Although in general men and women have about the same rate, only 17 percent of WNBA players were suffering from nail fungus, as opposed to 28 percent of NBA players.

"What it likely came down to after talking with players is that

women players tend to pay more attention to their feet," says John McNerney, team podiatrist to the New Jersey Nets and consultant to the New Jersey Devils and the New York Giants.

In part because they like to wear open-toed shoes, the women players are more self-conscious about callouses and unsightly nails, and seek treatment quickly. They also regularly use moisturizing creams after showers and go for manicures and pedicures.

Men tend to ignore the thickening, increasingly brittle nail until it starts to cause pain from the downward pressure of the shoe. "That's usually what ends up bringing NBA players to the doctor," McNerney says.

Years ago, there was little treatment for nail fungus, but now a new oral medicine, Lamisil, is available. Still, McNerney points out, "The earlier you catch it, the better the medicine works"; so once again, women players have the advantage.

Pub Date: 12/06/98

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