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In the history of shoe making, no cobbler has cobbled a sandal that can match the beauty of the sandals wrapped in tissue paper and resting quietly in a box on the bottom of my closet. Black satin Betsy Johnson’s, they feature a row of multi-colored rhinestones on top, two-inch heels and leather soles covered with the image of rose buds. They called to me five years ago from the corner of Emerson and Ramona in Palo Alto, where In Her Shoes had a temporary shop. It was love at first sight.

Who cares if, as a yoga teacher, I spend most of my life barefoot. I had to have them. In fact it was obvious my purchasing these toe-cleavage creating wonders would change the very trajectory of my life. Giddy with excitement, those glittering Betsey Johnson’s were coming home with me.

I wore my darling sandals for the first time on the 24th of November, 2008. I was with friends, celebrating a landmark birthday.

I never wore them again.

But sometimes, when I’m feeling a bit blue, I’ll pull them from the bottom of the closet and hold them. I’ll run my finger across the rhinestones and dream about what could have been.

Sometimes I’ll slip them on and try to coax my little phalanges into believing they can handle a heel.

They can’t. And if my phalanges aren’t happy, I’m not happy.

Our feet are under-appreciated.We smoosh them into ill-fitting shoes and then expect them to carry the weight of our bodies as we stand all day and dance through the night. And when the mood strikes we dig out the old runners—the ones with the pronated soles that haven’t seen the light of day for a year—strap them on and pound the pavement for as long as our inner weekend warrior can manage. The massive force of each poorly supported footfall is enough to make a high arch cry. Our loyal feet, who have never done anything but support us, finally give in. They become sore and tired and blistered. They grow corns and develop bunions. We act surprised and wonder why but the truth is our feet deserve more than the cursory care we offer.

They deserve real care. Pedicures are pretty but they don’t offer deep healing.

Reflexology is a massage and pressure point technique that will improve the health and condition of our feet while encouraging vitality and wellness throughout the entire body. Similar in theory to acupressure massage and acupuncture, reflexologists believe the soles of the feet mirror the human form; they believe gentle manipulation of the thousands of nerve endings on each foot will have an effect on a corresponding part of the body.

It is thought reflexology calms the nervous system and supports our body by stimulating sluggish energetic pathways and calming overactive ones. This creates “energetic space” for the body to begin the healing process. Anecdotal evidence suggests reflexology may help to reduce our recovery time from emotional or physical trauma. It reduces stress and encourages restful sleep.

Reflexology divides the foot into ten vertical and three horizontal zones. The zones act like a guide for the reflexologist—a “foot map” of sorts. A “blockage” in one part of a zone correlates to a particular organ but also influences everything else in that zone.  Working the appropriate and specific foot reflex within the zone will stimulate subtle muscular contraction and subsequent release throughout the zone.

To the reflexologist, a “blockage” feels like a grain of sand underneath the skin that may be slightly sensitive to the client. Sometimes it’s more like an unexplained change in texture or a thickening. For example, if your immune system is compromised—if you’re coming down with a cold, are under more than the normal amount of life stress or simply haven’t paid careful attention to your diet, your spleen reflex (on the lateral side of the left foot) can feel a bit spongy or rough. The reflexologist may apply increased pressure with her fingertip or knuckle to the area.  She might also work additional “helper” reflexes. Her touch will be specific and she will stimulate reflex points with precision. At the end of the treatment she might offer advice to strengthen a depleted immune system.

Remember, however, that the reflexologist is not there to diagnose nor is she qualified to diagnose. She can report what she feels and explain what that suggests according to reflexology theory. Nothing more.  Reflexology is an opportunity for healing.  It is not a cure.

As with acupuncture and acupressure, however, it offers further proof of the mind/body connection.
Reflexology supports general well being but a good therapist will be trained to design a program that addresses specific concerns and conditions. For instance, reflexology is excellent for digestive issues and sleep disturbances. It might also be of benefit for anyone suffering from chronic headaches and has been shown to provide relief from fibromyalgia. In fact, reflexology may have a positive effect on many chronic problems. And while it isn’t a substitute for medical treatment, it is a powerful complement to an allopathic approach to illness.

Those of us with a more skeptical nature may not buy the notion of the soles mirroring the body. They may not believe reflex points exist or that manipulating the base and medial edge of the big toe will produce a relaxation response in the neck. That’s all right. But a skeptical nature should not stop anyone from having at least one experience with reflexology. Because the bottom line is, reflexology is a wonderful introduction to touch therapy. It feels good, and even the most skeptical among us want to feel good.  Plus, the gift of an hours quiet relaxation enables us to more ably cope with our  frenetic pace of life.

There’s a part of me that wishes I could convince my feet to love wearing heels. But it’s not going to happen. My metatarsals are right. Heels hurt the body in too many ways to count.

Nope. I’ll keep my Betsy Johnson’s in the closet and wait for the day when being “fashion forward” means wearing flats. In the meantime, I’ll keep my feet happy with reflexology.

Mimm has been a yoga teacher, massage therapist, reflexologist and writer. When she’s not balancing in Ardha Chandrasana or wrestling with a sentence, Mimm’s either playing her guitar or doing homework. She is working towards a master’s degree in transpersonal psychology.