The feet play a crucial role in our overall health, said Frenchman Albin Brion, studio manager and resident podiatrist at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental’s Oriental Spa in Hong Kong.
“The feet are our foundation. The feet are linked to our ankles, and our ankles to our knees, the knees to our hips, the hips to our lower back, the back to our neck. In fact, a neck problem can be traced back to misalignment of the feet,” Brion told Inquirer Lifestyle.
The celebrity podiatrist was in the country as a guest of Conrad Spa Manila’s “Healing Foot Treatments,” specially designed foot care and pedicure sessions that concluded yesterday at Conrad Manila.
Many Asians, he noted, are “handicapped” by wrong feet maintenance due to the proliferation of bad pedicurists who are more concerned with aesthetics while neglecting the feet’s medical aspects. They trim the nails too short on the side, he said, creating ingrown toenails. Cuticle removal has even become an accepted practice, leaving the nail unprotected from bacteria and fungus.
Don’t trim the nails too short, he warned.
“The feet are among the most sophisticated body parts. Each foot is made up of 28 bones, 30 joints and more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments, all working together to provide support, balance and mobility,” he said.
Mirror of one’s health
Feet care, however, varies from country to country, Brion said. In China, for instance, where the feet are perceived as the mirror of one’s health, they pay more attention to feet than, say, Europeans.
Brion is not a fan of flip-flops. Proper footwear—comfortable and anatomically correct—can prevent injuries and problems, he said. Flip-flops do not offer foot support, especially during long walks. This lack of support may cause the arch to collapse. Unfortunately, he said, many people who live in warm countries don’t like wearing shoes.
“That’s why plantar fasciitis is so common in Asia. The type of shoes you wear is crucial to your feet’s health. Sixty percent of any treatment I do depends on the kind of footwear my patients prefer to use regularly,” he said.
When choosing footwear, Brion advises comfort and stability. Calluses, corns and dead skin happen when there’s too much pressure on one part of the foot. When the body weight is distributed evenly, the overall load on the feet will be reduced, and the dead skin should disappear over time.
He recommends a minute-long daily foot massage every evening for optimum feet health. But while a foot massage promotes blood flow and joint mobility, it will not change your body posture. Proper footwear will. When the feet are straight, it realigns the knees and the hips, and tight muscles loosen.
Women who wear high heels all the time put so much pressure on the balls of their feet.
“When you wear high heels, all your body weight will be transferred only to the front part of your feet. There is more pressure and more friction, and that creates a lot of dead skin,” he said. “It is vital to stretch after wearing high heels or pointy shoes.”
High heels can also cause bunions, a bony bump that forms on the joint at the base of the big toe. But that is not to say women should stop wearing high heels, he said. Heels are okay as long as the feet are stretched, massaged and exercised.
“So you can wear high heels, but take care of your feet after,” he said. There’s a piece of nifty equipment called Foot Fitness made of flexible material that one can insert each toe in. Brion calls it yoga for the toes as it creates resistance with each stretch.
More important, Brion said, is to use the right cream during a foot massage. Always choose a water-based moisturizer. The skin of the feet is seven times denser than the skin of the face. Molecules have to be very small to penetrate it, he said.
“Glycerin or Vaseline is too greasy. When you apply them and your feet become slippery, that’s a sign that the cream did not penetrate,” he said.
Brion’s treatment method is based on the practice of podiatrist Bastien Gonzalez—skin treatment, nail care and re-foundation. Remove corns, calluses, and thick skin without damaging the tissue. Nails will be strengthened and buffed with special tools, such as a diamond dust drill, and chamois leather and pearl buffing cream to improve blood flow.
Foot care, Brion said, is an essential part of grooming. A pedicure will get your feet looking good, but proper foot care can ease chronic pain.
Brion is the podiatrist of some of today’s hottest celebrities, including Jessica Alba and Gwyneth Paltrow. He also takes care of the stars’ feet health during the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France.
Born and raised in Paris, Brion was a professional soccer player when a foot injury led him to pursue podiatry.