Today’s Sunday Telegraph column: feet

Feet have long been a problem for me. I’m quite tall, so they’re relatively big. Size eight. Not grotesquely vast. We’re hardly talking clown shoe territory. But big enough. This first became apparent when I went shopping, aged 10, with my mum for school shoes.

‘It’s nae good duckie,’ said the assistant in the children’s shoe department of John Lewis in Edinburgh. ‘You’ll have tae try the man’s section.’ Which is why I went to my new school wearing a pair of man’s lace-up brogues. Not a look that bowled anyone over in the Scottish borders in the mid-1990s, let me tell you.

A couple of years after that, my grandmother kindly informed me that the NHS funded shoes for people with ‘oversized feet’ and sent me a catalogue of shoes even uglier than Crocs, if you can imagine such a thing.

Then, aged 18, I fibbed to a man I had a crush on when he asked what size my feet were.

‘Er, about a five,’ I said.

‘Thank God,’ he said, ‘I’m not sure about women with big feet.’

So, feet. Always an issue. And never more so than when it’s summer and it’s hot. In the winter, it’s alright isn’t it? Those of us who worry about our feet can hide our gnarly appendages away in socks and boots and no one has to look at them. This time of year, it’s trickier. We have to release our sticky, sweaty feet into the open. Forget all those ads about being bikini body ready, have you seen state of your toe nails recently?

No offence to anyone on the underground’s Central Line with me during the recent heatwave, but glancing around at the floor was like looking at London zoo. Feet that looked fed up and desperate to escape their straps, feet that looked like they needed a bit of TLC. Sad feet. Based on the specimens I saw in that tube carriage, I would suggest that we, as a nation, take our feet about as seriously as we take our politicians.

So, since it’s July and we have several months of foot exposure to go before we can cover them all up again, I suggest everyone spends a quick five minutes inspecting their feet and planning accordingly. If you are going to be wearing any kind of shoe that reveals even the tiniest glimpse of foot, consider a pedicure. Men, do not be alarmed. It is 2017 and these days you too can book an appointment for someone to have a go at your toenails. All you need to do is bring your hacksaw. Just joking, ha ha! They have their own hacksaws.

Next, be careful about walking about all day in a pair of flip flops because someone might assume you’re Australian and I am generally nervous about wearing any kind of scrappy summer shoe in case I am mistaken for a drag act. Instead, I spend most of the summer in a pair of Tom’s, the canvas shoe company that donates a pair of shoes to a child in a developing country every time they sell a pair. The excellent thing about Tom’s, apart from the charitable initiative, is that you can fling them in the washing machine when they start to smell because your feet have been gently marinating in them all day. Sorry, that may have put you off your Grape-Nuts but we need to discuss all this. If you’re unsure about Tom’s, Topshop has some excellent espadrilles at the moment.

Also, a word on trainer socks. I have long disproved of these because they are essentially boil-in-the-bag devices for the feet, but anyone who has a teenage boy in their lives will know that they are preferable to wearing trainers barefoot. So I will reluctantly allow them. Unless you’re a doctor or a nurse, there’s still a total ban on Crocs though. I mean it.