NATURAL SHAPE OF THE FOOT—HOW BOOTS AND SHOES OUGHT TO BE MADE.
A contributor to All The Year Round states that several treatises have lately been published in London by professors of anatomy, especially Dr. Humphrey of the Cambridge University and Dr. Meyers of Zurich, which have been instrumental in instituting a reform in making boots and shoes by the London shoemakers :--
The bootmaker, ignorant of the relative use and importance of the different parts of the foot, has steadily persisted for centuries, and at this day usually persists, in so shaping the shoe that the great toe is forced upon the other toes more or less out of its right line with the heel. Nine civilized people in ten, perhaps, have their great toes thus by a course of submission to misshapen boots and shoes so far turned inward, that a line run down in the middle of them, from point to ball, if continued would not fall anywhere in the heel at all, but several inches away outside the body. The necessary consequence is that the full strength of the natural lever, the toe, for raising the body is destroyed; the effort has to be made at a disadvantage and with pressure, and the act of walking loses some of its grace and much of its ease.
Professor Meyers states that although a shoe may be easy, it is not to be held that it is always made right. The foot may have been distorted by wearing improperly made shoes, and the person may have become accustomed to the bad-shaped shoe. Lasts have usually been made slanting outward at the great toe, and shoes made from such tend to bend the toe out of its proper line. Thus in a foot unwarped from its primitive shape a straight line drawn down the middle of the great toe, from the middle of its tip to the middle of its ball, would, if continued, pass exactly through the middle of the heel. The smaller toes do none of the lifting. They give lateral support, and help in securing a good grip of the ground, especially to those who walk barefoot on difficult ways. The reason why so many persons have enlarged toe joints is because they have been accustomed to wear narrow angular-toed boots and shoes, by which the joints have been thrust out of line in walking.
According to this writer, if a well made pair of boots be placed side by side so that their heels touch their sides also will touch through the whole space in front of the instep from the place of the ball of the great toe to the very end of it. They will diverge only at the rounded ends, where the great toe rounds off into the little toes, along whose line, and nowhere else, any possible pointing of the shape of the boot sole can be allowed. There is no better rough test of the degree to which a pair of boots has been adapted to a pair of feet, than to place them with their inner sides together, and observe the cut of the soles. The more they diverge from each other between the place of greatest breadth and the end of the toes, the worse they are; the more they tend to be in contact along that line, the better they are; and when they quite touch throughout that line, they are what they ought to be. To secure this, to secure also a sole of which the greatest breadth corresponds truly with the greatest breadth of the tread, and which, moreover, is contrived to allow room enough for the play of the foot in walking, including its lengthening or shortening with the ranging curve of its arch, is to secure what we ought to have, by compelling shoemakers to understand the true history of their trade. There must be no inelastic sole, and no tight lacing to impede the free movement of any of the foot joints. The now prevalent use of a light boot fastened only by the imperceptible pressure of an elastic web let into each side over the ankles, and so slipping easily over the instep, is a change in the right direction.