Feels like I am walking on air….

Do you remember a time as a child when getting a new pair of shoes was just the most exciting experience ever.  That whole magical process of visiting the shop, getting your feet measured in the strange automatic machine thing, waiting for the assistant to return with ‘your size’ & then finally walking home admiring your most recent prized possession – your new shoes.

But why should this process make you feel all warm & gooey?  After all the assistant simply fitted you with a new pair of shoes.  But is there more to this than meets the eye?

As a Podiatrist, I ‘maintain’ peoples feet for a living.  I clip toenails, cut corns, chisel off hard skin, etc, etc.  It always amazes me when my patients say “Oooo my feet feel lovely – you can do that all day”.  So what exactly is it that makes them feel so good?  Is it A) having a suave, sophisticated, young(ish) gentleman performing the treatment, B) that podiatry maintenance treatment alone does actually make them feel good or C) activation of ‘happy’ nerves within the feet.  Perhaps 2 out of 3?

It is well documented that the feet & palms contain an abundance of sensory nerve endings that provide feedback to the brain about a variety of stimuli.  Common examples of stimuli are touch, vibration, pressure, temperature & pain.  We also have deep receptors (proprioceptors) within the feet & legs that informs the brain about what position our feet are in.  This sensory feedback is extremely important with regard to staying up on two feet & preventing damage to the body.  So my question is, are there such things as ‘happy’ sensory nerve endings in the skin that when stimulated promotes the feel good factor?  How does the act of fitting a shoe or massaging a foot produce such an beneficial experience?  Now before you think what a load of toe-fluff, have a think about tickling.  Some of us are cursed with ‘tickle’ nerve endings, which are usually activated by annoying siblings who think its hilarious to tickle the feet of their younger brother.  But how does that work?  What exactly is a tickle? Why are some people afflicted & not others?  Nobody really has a clue – but a tickle is a tickle.  An interesting point is that some of my patients who earlier in life could not bear having their feet touched, now in later life, find having their feet massaged an amazing experience.  How bizarre…

So whatever the precise mechanism of how it all works, the fact is that little children will still enjoy having new shoes & big children will enjoy having their feet professionally messed around with.  And if it makes them walk on air, who am I to argue…

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