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Chinese Foot Binding

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As a life long learner of all things feet, I am intrigued by both up and coming trends in podiatry as well as findings in podiatric history.  One thing that has fascinated me recently was a story on National Public Radio’s show Morning Edition about Chinese foot binding.  I have included the link to the story here, but below are some troubling and controversial facts about a centuries old tradition in China.

According to the British Broadcast Corporation article, “Chinese Foot Binding”, small feet were considered beautiful and elegant to the Chinese. A foot measuring a perfect three inches was called a 'lotus of gold'; a four-inch foot was considered 'silver'; and one measuring more than four inches was an 'iron lotus'.

The process normally began when a girl was between the ages of three to eleven years old.  The justification for this age range was that the pre-bone cartilage of the arch, which was predominantly water, would be more easily molded than matured bone. The mothers or more experienced female relatives who performed the foot binding were at least thoughtful enough to carry it out in late fall or winter when the foot was generally numb so that the pain would not be so severe.

During the foot binding process, all the toes on the foot, except for the big one, are broken and folded under the sole, and then the toes are bound in place with a 10'x2" silk or cotton bandage. These wrappings are removed every two days to allow the washing and meticulous manicuring of the toenails to avoid infection. Immediately after the pedicure, the bandages go back on, only tighter. Eventually the arch of the foot is also broken and the foot is pulled straight with the leg. The shoe sizes are also reduced gradually to accommodate the shrinking feet.

To encourage the feet to achieve the desired conformation, the girls may be made to walk long distances so that their own weight crushes their feet into shape. At the end of two years of excruciating pain, what you get is a pair of tiny - although grotesquely folded - feet. Of course, it doesn't just end there. Because feet will tend to conform to nature and grow, this foot-binding process is carried out for an additional ten years or so to make sure that the toes stay in place.

No one should ever have to go through that kind of torture.  When your feet hurt, your entire body hurts.  If you are in pain, give us a call at 309.661.9975 and we will have you walking tall in no time!

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