Worry about feet, not shoes

When twentysomethings think about their feet, probably the last thing that comes to mind is actually caring for them. After all, we’re the people you see navigating the Old Port in sparkly, studded, sky-high stilettos, mixing alcohol and cobblestones.

We are not invincible, ladies.

Taking care of your feet is a bigger (and often forgotten part) of taking care of yourself, and there’s no time like the present to start.

Reflexologist Lynn Marie Danforth has been working on hands and feet for 12 years and is a member of the Maine Council of Reflexology.

Her advice for us is simple: “Establish a habit of self-care.”

“Self-care is huge for women because we don’t take care of ourselves – we’re nurturers. It’s really important that twentysomethings start now; it will take them through the rest of their lives,” she says.

A huge part of self-care, especially for the twentysomething set, is relieving stress.

It can be as simple as soaking your feet (or your whole body) in warm water and Epsom salts for 20 minutes after a long day at work.

“Soaking feet brings the stress levels down,” Danforth said.

Post-soak, slather your feet with lotion and invest in nice socks.

While more expensive than a foot soak, reflexology can be the answer to reducing stress and pain. It’s massage used to relieve tension and treat illness, based on the theory that there are reflex points on the feet, hands and head linked to every part of the body.

Don’t forget the proper nail care. With winter quickly approaching, feet will be buried in boots and wool socks. It’s an easy time to take a break from the nail polish and let the nails breathe.

Danforth also stresses the importance of proper footwear.

This might be the hard sell for quarterlifers.

After all, your 20s are filled with adventure, fearlessness and the confidence to try (or wear) anything. Your 20s are the years when you’re most likely to live and breathe outrageous fashion trends and be a slave to style.

We grew up on what I like to call the Bradshaw effect. Seeing Carrie Bradshaw of “Sex and the City” strut in the most garish and ridiculous footwear week after week (or living in infamy through the DVDs) made us realize we all had to step our game up. It also made some of us (foolishly) believe, we, too, could be a writer and afford Manolo Blahniks.

The successor and all-mighty queen of the Bradshaw effect is fellow quarterlifer Lady Gaga. She made us all step up our shoe game when she wore Alexander McQueen’s Armadillo shoes in her “Bad Romance” video. If you haven’t seen the shoes, they are 10-inch heels in the shape of a lobster claw, where you slip your ankle in the meaty part of the claw and the pincher points serve as heels. Three models quit the runway show where they were debuted for fear of injury.

Then there is taking care of our wallet when it comes to caring for our feet. While the 20s are can be a time free of responsibility and filled with disposable income, it could also be the decade of total destitution from student loans and a tough economy. It can be a difficult time to want to spend more on proper, supportive and often expensive footwear.

Online shopping changed the shoe game years ago, and staples like Zappos, Amazon, eBay and Piperlime are as relevant and popular as ever. In the past few years, the trend of discount websites offering high-end shoes changed it again.

Sites like Gilt.com, ideeli.com and ruelala.com offer deep discounts for a limited time. Shoedazzle.com offers their own brand, where every pair of shoes is $39.95 or less. Similarly, shoemint.com offers their brand of shoes at around $80 per pair, but a free membership is required and one-time purchases aren’t allowed.

Perfect for a Bradshaw wannabe on, ahem, an actual writer’s salary.

While the Internet and chain stores make shoes more accessible, it’s important not to forget there are still local shoe stores that properly measure, fit and let you try them on without fear or hassle of online returns. When was the last time you saw a Brannock Device anyway?

Quarterlifers also use footwear to share passions or spread a message. We’re the Obama generation, after all. Along with the popularization of vegetarianism and veganism comes vegan footwear – shoes made without leather or any animal ingredients, often made out of sustainable, non-toxic or recycled materials. Many companies that make vegan footwear also use fair trade and fair labor practices. As the trend continues to grow, everyone from Amazon, to Payless, to Zappos carries brands that feature all styles of vegan footwear.

The shoe company Toms donates a pair of their shoes to someone in need with every pair purchased.

Flats, like Toms, or the seasonal favorite, the flip-flops, don’t offer much in the way of support. Just as there are many places (both real and in cyberspace) to buy shoes, there are as many styles that emphasize fashion and support that cradle the foot.

But the other side of the argument is opting for more flexible shoes, like flat boots and Vibram Five Finger shoes, that strengthen the muscles in your feet, another important aspect of your 20s.

“Treat your feet with love,” Danforth said, “because what would we do without our feet? That’s all I have to say to a person, what would you do if you didn’t have them?”

A detailed view of the 10-inch heels Lady Gaga in her “Bad Romance” video, wears Alexander McQueen’s Armadillo shoes.

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