The older person gets and the more experiences they have, the greater the asymmetry between the feet tends to be, and it may be unlikely that the appearance of a client’s feet will return to any real semblance of harmony. However, we can still use their differences to guide us in how and where to work to balance the health of the two sides of the body and mind as much as possible.
Often it is easier to notice problems by comparing and contrasting the two feet. They can be more evident when the corresponding area on the other foot is healthy. When reading the balance between the two feet, use the ways described in the previous chapters: Look for differences in the alignment of their ankles, the shape of their arches and toes, tension in their muscles, skin tones and textures, stress lines, nail health, marks, etc.
As well as using techniques relevant to any foot conditions you see, linking two comparative reflexes on each foot, e.g. ovary with ovary, is an excellent way of feeling the imbalance between them and the body’s energy generally.
The importance of reading the two feet together
When working on the feet, we usually focus on one small area at a time, and this is essential to gauge the health of individual reflexes. But this cannot give us an impression of the overall energy of the client as a whole, and we can only see the bigger picture by looking at the feet together side by side. This allows us to compare and contrast the two sides of the person to see how well balanced they are, both physically and mentally.
Why the two feet differ
It is generally assumed the two feet in a pair look more or less the same as each other, but the more we study them, the more we will notice differences between the left and right, which can often be substantial. When foot reading, it is important to consider the various causes.
The skeleton is never entirely symmetrical, and there is always a degree of difference in bone lengths and shapes between the two corresponding sides of the body, even from birth. Also, the body’s physiological systems are in constant flux as a living organism. So there will always be visible differences between the appearance of the two feet, even in the youngest and healthiest clients.
But otherwise, lasting changes to their appearance happen during physical and/or emotional shifts in the client’s life. And differences that develop between the two feet show that clients have not responded in a balanced way to these challenges. So how many difficulties they have faced in their past and how well they have adapted to them is reflected in how dissimilar the appearance of their feet is.
As clients pass through life and accumulate experience, lasting asymmetries in the feet will inevitably increase (photo 1a., 1b., & 1c. following). Depending on the circumstances, they may develop gradually or sometimes appear almost overnight. But reflexology will always support the client as they respond to life’s challenges, which will help the feet retain their symmetry as much as possible.
Working On Imbalances
As the appearance of the feet reflects an individual’s entire physical and emotional history in their enormous complexity, you may never find out or understand what caused even one or two of the differences between them. (And everyone is born with some asymmetricality.) However, their appearance never lies, even if the differences don’t ‘make sense’ from the perspective of the client’s known physical or emotional issues and symptoms.
The aim is not to ‘correct’ anything, just to work with whatever they are showing you to harmonise the client’s energy as much as possible. And in some cases, the number of differences between the feet is such that you cannot hope to work on all that is visible. So, (after considering your knowledge of the client’s medical history, needs, and wishes), concentrate on those differences that really ‘jump out’ at you, as they are the ones the feet are communicating to you personally on that day.
At the start of each treatment, it is important to spend time looking at the feet together, simply to engage intuitively with the client’s energy. We can often get a powerful sense of the person by using the connection between our eyesight and the subconscious I talked about near the start of the book and simply being present to the feet this way.
It can give us an immediate impression of the differences and similarities in the energy of a person’s left and right sides and a sense of how well balanced they are, both physically and emotionally. It can clearly guide us on how and where we need to work to help return to equilibrium. (In fact, some reflexologists use this intuitive energy connection to guide all or most of a treatment.)
After engaging intuitively with the feet, we can study them with conscious intent. Using all the ways described in detail in the preceding chapters, we can compare and contrast the appearance of all the systems of the body. Firstly by looking for differences in individual matching reflexes (e.g. left kidney with right kidney, etc.), and then between the respective longitudinal and transverse zones. Once we have made our assessment, we can use the techniques for working with each system described in their individual chapters to even out the differences as much as possible.
Using other healing modalities
Many foot readers incorporate methods from disciplines besides reflexology to read right-left balance, including ways of assessing the body’s energies by using meridians, doshas, and natural elements, amongst other things. They are outside the realms of the charted reflexes and zones of reflexology. Still, if you are drawn to using any of them, they can add valuable insights to your foot reading practice once you have a solid foundation in Visual Reflexology.
However, they should be studied in their own right to fully understand and harness their healing power. Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurvedic Medicine, and the Four Elements are most commonly used, and the linked websites are of particular interest as they cover how to use each discipline in conjunction with reflexology. I will consider them briefly in sections of this and other chapters.
These are a child’s feet, but already there are very evident differences in their appearance that seem to be a result of lifestyle rather than due to their natural shape.
The right foot has many horizontal stress lines cutting across it and generally appears squashed and compressed. It looks wider, but this impression may be due to the compression of the foot.
These feet are different in multiple aspects. Most noticeably, the arches are a very different shape, and the left foot is twisting and inverting inwards and is further away.
And there is a yellowish-orange area over zones 4-5 of the right lung only and a verruca over the uppermost lung reflex.
Many lines run diagonally across the left core area. The toe pads 3-5 on the left foot are much larger than those on the right.
Here the feet of an older person show a great deal of difference in many aspects. The angle of the ankle rotation, the shape of the arches, the alignment of the toes, the patches of hard skin across the lung reflex on the left foot, etc.
These feet are very different even for an older person and would indicate that they have had many changes in their life that they have not adapted well to.
This has left them very imbalanced, not only in terms of their reflexes. They will literally be imbalanced, and the likelihood of falls due to the extreme physical unevenness of the feet will be greater.
Cupping The Heels
Cupping the heels in the hands simultaneously (video 1. following) is a good way to feel differences in overall energy flow between the two feet and help rebalance them. You can use this technique before you begin working, then at the end (or actually at any point) of the treatment), to see if you can feel if there has been any shift in the energy balance.
It is very simple but beneficial, effective, and very relaxing for the client. In the video, the hands are not held in the same place on the heels, but this is unimportant. (The significance of the dots of colour on the feet is covered later and is not relevant to cupping the heels.)
Different Size And Shape: Causes
Perfect symmetry in the body does not exist; depending on genetics, everyone is born with feet with varying degrees of difference in the length and width of their bones. In some cases, this can be quite marked, but as the body grows, gait is automatically adapted to accommodate this, and as long as correctly fitted shoes are bought, it will not be the cause of any problems.
Larger Left Feet
It is unknown why, but in the population as a whole, it is mostly the left foot that is slightly larger, either lengthways, widthways or both.
This is possibly because the great majority of the population is right-handed, so the left becomes the ‘leading’ foot to provide balance for the body by avoiding lopsidedness.
And as the left foot gets exercised, it gradually grows larger over the years.
But differences caused by trauma to the foot are a different matter, especially if they occurred during childhood while the bones were still developing. Broken bones, muscle strains and sprains, poorly fitting shoes, corrective surgical procedures, or long-term cast wearing leading to muscle wastage can all be difficult for the foot to recover from and cause lasting problems that affect its shape and size.
All these unnaturally developed differences between the size and shape of the two feet reflect one-sided musculoskeletal misalignments. These misalignments will cause imbalances that connect all through the body via the muscle fascia, as we saw in Chapter 11. They can cause aches and pain in the feet themselves as well as the knees and hips and potentially lead to osteoarthritis. They will also impact circulation and the functioning of the organs in the body.
The client should be asked about trauma to the feet if they are very obviously a different size or shape. And enquiring further about the time when the problem occurred can give an additional holistic insight into that period in their life, as physical trauma is always either the cause or result of emotional trauma. So it is important to find out as much as possible about what was happening in a client’s life just before and after it happened.
Sometimes when people get heavier, if they are prone to leaning down on one side, this continuously puts more weight onto the foot on that side, which slowly causes it to grow larger than the other. It is common for weight increases during difficult periods of a person’s life due to comfort eating or hormonal changes. It is helpful to tactfully ask if the person knows why and when they started gaining weight.
It is important to remember that differences in foot shape can also cause problems with physical balance leading to instability and accidents, especially in elderly clients. As a preventative measure, it is good to work the reflexes to the musculoskeletal system of the feet to keep them as flexible and as strong as possible as an aide to better balance.
As well as causing differences in the size of the feet, naturally occurring differences in bone length will also lead to slight variations between the shapes of each of the three respective arches of the feet, which will not cause any significant problem. But traumas such as those listed in the section above can lead to very noticeable differences developing that the body may have difficulty adjusting to.
One arch may be pulled higher because of chronic tightness up the muscle chain and fascia on that side of the body. Or, weakening in the foot’s tendons can result in a fallen arch in one foot (photos 2b. & 2c. following). And even when arches drop on both feet, one always falls more than the other. Bunions are often part of a structural problem involving a fallen arch (photo 2c. following) and further compound problems in left-right imbalance.
When there is a fallen arch, the significant difference between the shape of its curvature and that of the comparative arch in the other foot can cause the feet to appear very different in size. The higher-arched foot curves further from the eye and appears shorter, giving the impression that the foot with a lower medial arch is longer. A flatter transverse arch will tend to accompany a fallen medial arch, making the foot look wider than the other.
This is harder to assess when studying photos as the feet are only seen in two dimensions (photos 2a., 2b., and 2c. following). In real life, it is best to stretch the feet out to check how much the apparent difference in their size is real or, more likely, is telling you that there is a problem with a weaker arch or arches on one side. Arch shape is also very important for seeing imbalances reflected in the nerve plexuses and I cover this in the next section.
The Nerve Plexuses (Chakras)
The concept of chakras comes from Buddhist/Hindu philosophy, where they are considered centres of emotional and physical energy and are an integral part of Ayurvedic medicine. There is a link in the first section of this chapter on how to work with reflexology incorporating Ayurvedic medicine. Also, Reflexology & Colour Therapy, a book by Pauline Willis, teaches how to work with colour relating to the chakra reflexes on the feet.
But it is very interesting to note that the placement of the chakras on the spine is now known to be on or right beside seven nerve plexuses that are directly connected to the central nervous system there (image 3a. following). Therefore even if we do not know much about the chakras, we can still use them while foot reading, as they can be seen within the context of Western A&P as physically identifiable reflexes and I consider them as such in this section. (This website can tell you more if you are interested in learning about the neurophysiology of the chakras.)
Placing the plexuses
The shape of the foot’s medial longitudinal arch replicates that of the spine (image 3b. following), containing the central nervous system. The coloured dots on the medial arches (image 3c. following) show roughly where you would place your fingers to connect with each of the chakras/plexuses. Because of their symmetrical placement on each foot, the plexuses/chakras can be used to gauge right-left imbalance (photo 5. following).
The nerve plexuses are found in the anterior body but are connected to the central nervous system (see image above).
The plexuses’ positions relate to where the chakras are placed on the spine. So direct lines can be drawn from all the nerve plexuses through to the relevant part of the spine. (The exception is the top chakra at the very top of the brain.)
Reproducing the outline of the spine from image 3a., we can clearly see how its shape is replicated by the foot’s inner arch. This means we can find all the chakra points in the equivalent places on the spine reflex.
Of course, the size and shape of clients’ feet will differ, and the following diagram (image 3c.) shows a way to place them using the bones of the foot.
Here are the chakras marked on the spine reflex on the foot itself corresponding to the nerve plexuses. (N.B. The solar plexus chakra is found a little lower than may be expected – it is not aligned to the solar plexus reflex)
There are other ways of marking the chakras on the foot. If you are interested, the previous links will give you more information about combining Ayurvedic medicine and reflexology.
As we have seen, misalignments are often evident in the medial arches showing points of tension in the spine and structural differences in the body. Differences between their shapes will also correspond to where there are points of disharmony between the left and right plexuses/chakras.
In the feet in photo 5. following the lower ones look like they are placed reasonably symmetrically in terms of the width between them and their horizontal levels. But from the green heart chakra upwards, they are too close together and are increasingly misaligned vertically.
Linking the individual plexus/chakra reflexes between the respective feet is a good way to release structural tension. And at the same time release blockages in the flow of energy in the central nervous system and between the two sides of the body (video 1. following).
While using this technique, you may become aware of energy disturbances at one or both opposing plexuses/chakras. If this happens, you should naturally spend longer linking these reflexes and working on them individually in other ways, e.g. using finger walking or massage. It may take a while to tune into feeling the client’s energy, especially if you are new to doing this, but like everything else, your fingers will become more sensitive with time and practice. Even if you don’t feel anything, simply holding the points together will still help balance the body’s two sides.
Frequently one ankle will rotate at a completely incorrect angle (photo 1c. & 2c. following). As we have seen in the previous chapter on the musculoskeletal system, this rotation will carry on up to affect the alignment of the hips, pelvis, and lower back and often leads to noticeable problems with the reflexes all the way up one side. This is usually the side of the misaligned ankle but can be referred to the opposite side of the body.
There can be an inversion on one ankle only (photo 1b. and 2a. following). And again, this can be due to structural issues caused by trauma to the foot, typically a sprained ankle or broken metatarsal that has caused the person to alter their gait. The inversion means that excess weight is carried on the lateral edge of the foot, typically causing problems all along reflex zone 5 in the foot and body itself.
These two feet appear to be quite different lengths. The lateral arch of the left foot is higher, and the ankle is inverting, twisting inwards. (Multiple stress lines are running down this edge as a result.)
This reflects weakness in this zone on the left side of the body and may contribute to musculoskeletal problems and accidents due to imbalance.
The right foot appears much broader but shorter than the left. There may well be some naturally occurring difference in size.
However, it is also likely that the right foot’s medial longitudinal arches are much weaker. Thus creating the illusion of a more significant size difference than there actually is, as the right foot appears broader and flatter than the left.
The bunion on the right foot here is associated with many problems on the foot. The medial arch is much flatter, giving the impression that the foot is wider and larger.
It is squeezing the second toe, which will also impact all of zone 2. A large yellowed callous has developed in this zone due to disproportionate weight bearing.
The right foot is lying slightly too upright, but the left is well out of alignment as the ankle is rotating medially.
Toe Shape And Alignment
The toes give us a wealth of information about imbalances between the two sides of the person, physical, mental and emotional. They tell us about connectivity between the left and right lobes of the brain, as well as the flow of energy between them and the rest of the body. And their appearance can show where there are differences between the 10 reflex zones in each foot. So I will cover all these things in the next few sections.
The Two Lobes Of The Brain
If the toes appear bunched up or the angle of their necks is misaligned, as covered in previous chapters on reading the toes, this reflects the tension in the shoulders, neck, and head, which impacts nerves, lymph, and blood supply to the organs therein. This includes the brain, so all the toes – not only the hallux – must appear well aligned and relaxed for a healthy brain and good energy flow between the mind and the body via the neck.
But for optimum mental functioning and emotional balance, it is also essential to have good communication between the two sides of the brain (image 1. following). And the extent to which this is the case with a client can be assessed by the similarity or difference between the equivalent toes on each foot.
For a long while, it was thought that each brain lobe was exclusively responsible for different skill types. The left controlled attributes such as logic, rationale, and reason, and the right was responsible for creative, instinctive, and emotional skills (image 1.). People were even labelled left or right brain ‘types’.
Some forms of foot reading use this approach when reading the toes. However, it is now known that the brain works much more complexly, and the two sides are much more interconnected than previously thought.
Although one side may be predominantly responsible for certain kinds of functions, it is the interaction between the two lobes that matters most when applying those skills and using them effectively.
The two sides of the brain and the skills predominantly associated with them are shown in image 1. following. The image also includes whether they are energies of Yin or Yang according to Traditional Chinese medicine because of the similarities in approach to Western neurological understanding of the brain.
So whatever an individual’s mental strengths and weaknesses may be, the connectivity between and harmony in the functioning of the two sides of the brain is of the greatest importance. Visually this is reflected by consistency in the appearance of the toes of each foot. If there are notable differences between them, it indicates dissonance between the respective brain lobes and, therefore, the sides of the body they control (photo 3a., 3b., & 3c. following).
Assessing and then working on differences in the appearance of the toes of the two feet will help improve lobe interaction, overall brain function and mental equilibrium. So compare the alignment, colour, skin texture, lines, etc., of all the toes. Then work to balance and harmonise their appearance on both feet as much as possible using the appropriate techniques described in the preceding chapters.
However, some clients may need additional help and support with cohesive thinking, developing mental and emotional skill sets, or improving their capacity for using predominantly ‘left or right’ brain thinking. In this case, this article is an interesting and amusing read and provides some self-help suggestions you could make. (The flow of energy through each of the 10 zones is also reflected in the toes, but specifically in the appearance of the individual toes at the head of each zone, and I look at this in a later section.)
The big difference between the toes of these feet is that those on the left are all very splayed out and separated from each other, while those on the right are much closer together.
They look agitated and as if on constant ‘high alert’. This would indicate more stress in the left side of the brain/right side of the body. This difference between the two sets of toes also shows mental disharmony.
Here, all the toes of the right foot are pulling away, so they are flexing dorsally. Those on the left are relatively flat.
The right toes also look smaller, maybe because they are further away. But the toes on the left appear much more puffed up in the pads, especially toes 3-5.
This would indicate a lot of congestion in the left brain, possibly due to bottled-up thoughts and emotions that are not being expressed.
The left big toe is larger and quite a different shape to the right one. Both big toes are leaning away from each other, especially the left.
These toes look imbalanced in many aspects. Those of the left foot are very bunched up, while those of the right are straight and apparently better aligned.
So there is much more emotional tension and anxiety on the left side, particularly in zones 2 & 3. But the big toes also pull away from each other in opposite directions, showing conflicting emotions and mental uncertainties.
Zone-wise, both the big toes are very separate from the second toes, showing a disconnect between zones 1 and 2.
The Nervous System
Brain-Body nerve connection
Because they contain the reflex to where the nerves leave the brain and pass into the body (image 2a. following), the appearance of the big toes in particular can show whether there are problems in the connection between the mental and physical aspects of a person.
Decussation And The Reflexes
However, the nerves of the left brain supply the right-hand side of the body and vice versa, with each lobe connecting to the opposite side of the body. The nerves cross over – or ‘decussate’ – at the very top of the spine (image 2a. following). Because of this, there is some disagreement among reflexologists on the placement of the reflexes to the nervous system in the brain:
1. Some believe that the reflexes to the brain for each side of the body are found in the toe pads of the opposite foot.
2. Some think because of vertical zone therapy, the left brain and nerve reflexes are still found in the left toes and those of the right brain in the right toes. (So it is still ‘correct’ to work up and down the 10 zones for energy flow in the nervous system between the mind and body.)
3. Whereas in Limbic Reflexology, the reflex to the brain itself is considered to be on the toes of the same foot, and the reflexes to the nerves are found on the opposite foot.
While approaches 1 & 3 may be more accurate anatomically, the zone therapy approach is still relevant in a purely energetic sense. So I think there is value in each, and there is no reason why more than one cannot be applied, even within the same treatment. But purely in terms of visual reflexology and foot reading, whatever a reflex may relate to, what really matters is the appearance of the feet. This will tell you what is happening to the person and how to work, regardless of disagreements amongst reflexologists over what may correspond to what anatomically.
Reading imbalances at the decussation point
As we saw in previous chapters, in many instances, at least one of the big toes is leaning laterally, and frequently both of them are (photo 4a. & 4b. following). This indicates that the head is prone to leaning laterally to one or both sides. But it also means a disconnect in the thought processes between the right and left lobes of the brain, reflecting confusing and conflicting thoughts that will make the brain functioning less cohesive. (This is also relevant for emotional balance and I look at that in a later section.)
It has also been noted that the hallux often has hard skin over the reflex area at the base of the brain corresponding to the cerebellum reflex area (photo 4b. following), just beneath which the nerves decussate. As hard skin is a barrier, this acts as an impediment causing interruption to the flow of energy and information at the reflex where the right mind connects to the left body and vice versa.
There is also frequently a discolouration in skin tone beneath this hard skin, with yellowness indicating toxicity in the thought process and redness, irritation or anger. So if these colours are present, the related feelings are involved in any imbalance in the emotions or mind-body harmony that the person may have.
The green stripe shows where most of the nerves cross over at the skull’s base to serve the body’s opposite side.
This area is deep inside the skull, and in reflex terms, this is found at the medial edge of zone 1 of the pads of both toes at the joint (photo 4a. & 4b.).
Toes leaning in opposite directions, such as these, show a lack of connection and harmony between the two sides of the head.
This indicates physical misalignment of the neck, but it also shows poor connectivity between the two lobes of the brain, indicating a lack of clarity or conflict in thought processes and emotions.
As well as the big toes leaning in opposite directions, there is also a build-up of hard skin around the area of decussation, especially on the left.
This indicates that it is more than just a disconnect; there is a barrier to connectivity between the two lobes of the brain. It also forms a barrier to energy flow between the mind and the body.
The Reflex Zones
Another way of looking for imbalances between the two sides of the body is to compare and contrast each foot’s vertical and horizontal zones to assess how much discrepancy there is between them.
The Vertical Zones
As each toe is at the head of a zone, we can look for differences between it and the equivalent toe on the other foot to identify imbalances between the zones of the left and right sides of the body. Using the ways of assessing the appearance of the toes covered extensively in the chapters on ‘Reading the Toes’, we can compare and contrast their shape.
When there are deformities or foot conditions present in a toe, sometimes it may be obvious how the energy blockage they reflect affects the zone and causes the imbalance further down (photo 6a. following). In other cases, it may not be apparent where the problem is (photos 6b. & 6c. following). But in both cases we still need to spend more time palpating up and down the zone to see where there may be problems and to help the energy move freely through it.
There is a very good technique for feeling imbalances in the head and brain and then working to balance them. It is quite simply to work on both left and right toes simultaneously using one hand on each foot, starting with toe 5 and working inwards through the smaller toes up to the hallux. Then do this in reverse.
A good time to use this technique is when you have finished on the right foot, as working both sides of the head/brain and the equivalent zones together is a good way to segue into working on the other foot.
As you work them together, note how each toe feels compared to its partner toe on the other foot. This makes differences between the two sides and any abnormalities in shape, tension, and toe textures more obvious. It is also very calming for the mind, so it is a great way to work on anxious or mentally overactive clients.
There is, in fact, a whole system of reflexology known as Duopody taught by the Inspira Academy, which works both feet simultaneously in their entirety. I have not studied it, but it sounds like a very beneficial way of working, especially for balancing the two sides of the person.
Both second toes are being squeezed out dorsally, but this is quite extreme in the case of the left foot. We can see a mass of stress lines running down zone 1-2 from the toe through the plantar thyroid reflex.
This is interesting as the client had just been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. However the other foot and zones are not affected in the same way.
Toes 3 & 5 of this foot are both curling under. All the other toes on the foot are quite straight. It is common for toe 5 to bend under because it is squeezed by the next toe and/or reflects the tension in the jaw/shoulder joint.
But it is unusual for toe 3 to do so, and it is very clearly curving inward beneath the next toe. And this will affect the whole zone.
It would be unlikely the toes on the left foot were doing the same. So it would be important to look carefully at their alignment and compare them to the ones here.
Toes 4 & 5 on the right foot are much more bunched up than any other toes. Certainly these toes on the left are not affected this way.
It is not immediately obvious what this is connected to within their zones. But regardless, more attention needs to be paid to these reflexes and working down their two zones.
The Transverse Zones
Looking at the differences in the health of the opposing sides of the body through the appearance of the transverse zones of the feet is a very simple but effective way of looking at balance in the person.
The value is in the ease of contrasting the appearance of each section compared to those on the other foot to see how they differ. This is to understand the health of the corresponding area of the body (photos following).
Reflexology schools vary in how many horizontal zones they give the feet. Hanne Marquardt divided it into three zones, but many reflexologists use four (image 4.), others five, while some use the seven chakra zones, and others as many as eight.
I have covered using the chakras/nerve plexuses in a previous section. Otherwise, the foot fits comfortably into four or five zones anatomically, so I feel that this is a good number energetically, and I use four zones to read photo 7a. 7b. & 7c. following. Also, I think these are the optimum number for visual study, as smaller zones will be harder to differentiate between. But you can use the number of whatever system you were taught or prefer to use to mentally divide the foot widthways, as long as you can easily read the differences between them.
The Four Elements
There is a method for reading the transverse zones as representing the elements of air, fire, water, and earth (image 4.) and the attributes associated with each of them, which need to be in balance as much as possible for personal equilibrium. But like all other systems outside of Ingham based reflexology, it needs to be studied properly to do it justice. I will write a little more about it in the chapter on ‘Other Ways of Foot Reading’.
There are differences in each of the transverse zones here. Looking at some of the main ones: Firstly, the head zone: although the toe shapes are fairly similar, the left is much higher.
The chest zone is wider in the left foot as the arch is flatter, so there may be issues with the diaphragm and other organs here. The intestinal zone also appears wider. There is a distinct bulge of congestion at the splenic flexure on the left but not at the hepatic flexure.
In left the heel/pelvis zone, multiple stress lines are cutting across from the lateral edge/leg hip reflexes, but the right heel looks relatively smooth.
Again multiple differences in these feet can be read through the transverse zones. These are some of the main ones:
In the uppermost zone, the smaller toes of the right foot are more bunched up than those of the left, and the necks of 3-5 are not visible.
The chest zone appears wider on the right foot. But there are many more jagged stress lines across this zone on the left foot, whereas there are comparatively few on the right.
In the abdominal zone, there are many more lines on the left foot than on the right. But in the heel zone, diagonal stress lines are coming from the lateral edges of the right heel, cutting across the gluteal muscle reflex zones 5-4 and none on the left.
The uppermost transverse zone seems fairly similar on both feet except for right toe 2 being squashed. And that the chest zone is slightly wider on the left.
But the differences in the lower zones are quite extreme. The right foot’s mid and abdominal zones are covered by many fine stress lines associated with anxiety and emotional sensitivity. Whereas the left seems untouched by these.
The heel zone of the right foot is very inverted, showing pelvic issues on this side, but the left is pretty straight in comparison. The lower zones also seem narrower than the corresponding ones of the left.
When foot conditions appear only (or primarily) on one foot, it is evident that they relate to problems with physical health on that side of the body. But what causes issues triggered by the emotions to manifest only or mainly on one foot/side of the body is unclear. So foot readers often use methods other than reflexology to try to better understand why.
The feet not only reflect how a person is feeling on that day, but they also provide a pictorial history of all the emotional states they have experienced in their lives. This includes difficulties they have encountered in adapting to change in a balanced way mentally and emotionally. So inevitably, we will see more differences between the two feet of elderly people than those of the young.
There are several different and potentially conflicting ways of dividing the emotions between the two feet, and it is not in any way essential to do so when foot reading within a reflexology treatment. But it is up to the individual reflexologist; if you are especially drawn to any of the methods described below, then study it further as it may be right for you.
Reflex Zone therapy
As covered in the section on decussation, the Reflex Zone Therapy aspect of our own profession works with the belief that energy from each lobe of the brain flows straight down the same side of the body (as do many other healing-based therapies). This means that emotions predominantly associated with left brain function appear on the left foot, and, likewise, on the right (image 1.)
So they do not cross over as they would do when taking into account decussation and the energetic importance of the nervous system on our emotions. However, both approaches can be considered appropriate in their own way when working on the feet, as one is more anatomically correct regarding the nervous system. In contrast, the other works energetically within the zones.
However, in terms of dividing left or right brain-based emotions to be read specifically on each foot, these two approaches directly contradict each other, and it isn’t obvious how they can be reconciled.
To further complicate matters, some reflexologists believe that whether a person is right or left-handed makes a difference in how emotions are read on each foot. There is also a way of reading the emotions I have mentioned previously whereby the dorsal foot shows the public face of the client, and the plantar foot shows their private, inner life. Separating the personal and public aspects onto the left and right feet would also conflict with this.
And individual organs are also considered to store particular emotions in Metaphysical – and other forms of holistic – medicine (as has been used in this book, e.g. ‘I can’t stomach it’ etc.). But of course, many organs are found on both sides of the body, so this adds a further layer of difficulty when attempting to divide emotions between the left/right feet.
Because of all these conflicting approaches, understanding the significance of the left and right foot emotionally is not of primary importance to me. It is enough to use visual reflexology to read the emotions the client is experiencing – anger or irritation (reddish tone), toxic feelings (yellowish skin), vulnerability (lymph retention), defensiveness (hard skin), and so on, as described in previous chapters. Then I compare how they appear on the two feet and work to rebalance them, which is what matters most.
Aspects of yin/yang are very commonly used. This system comes from the ancient philosophy of Taoism, which is the basis of Traditional Chinese Medicine. In yin/yang, the interplay of energy between the dual elements brings about balance and harmony in life. This is seen clearly in its famous symbol, where each elemental force of nature contains the seed of the other within it.
The Taoist way of dividing the skills and emotions (once we consider that each side is controlled by the opposite brain lobe) correlates significantly to the primary functions of the two sides of the brain as recognised by neuroscience (image 1.). So TCM is aware of the differing energies of the two brain lobes and nerve decussation, presumably felt through variations in Chi and expressed as yin/yang.
And the belief that the forces of yin and yang must work together in harmony corresponds to the neural coordination between the two sides of the brain that is essential for the functioning of a healthy mind as understood by neuroscience. This blog post explores the similarities of the two in greater detail, including suggestions for improving the balance between the two sides of the brain.
But yin/yang is only a part of a very complex philosophical and medical system that takes a lifetime to study properly and for this reason, I do not use it myself. But some foot readers do use it to read various emotional aspects on the feet.
1. As the right/yang foot relates to past energy, they read historical emotional problems there. And current problems on the left/yin foot, which relates to the present.
2. The right/yang foot relates to visible energy, so it shows issues connected to the public face that a client present to the world, and the left/yin foot shows problems in their private emotional sphere.
3. Yang/right foot energies are considered ‘male’ and Yin/left foot ‘female’, and emotions traditionally associated with each, e.g. aggression/softness, anger/fear, happiness/sorrow, etc. Some foot readers use this to say that the client has difficulties with either a man or a woman. However, because yin/yang are elemental forces of nature which are contained in both sexes, I believe it much more likely reflects imbalances in the associated emotions within the client themselves.
video 3. following is a fascinating Ted talk by a neuroscientist who had a stroke and was able to learn from her own experience how the functioning of the two brain lobes affected not only her mental ability but also her emotions and even spiritual awareness.
Feet Reading Assessment
Photos 9a. & 9b. following show the plantar and dorsal aspects of the same pair of feet in order to see how to read the right-left balance from both perspectives.
The feet are very close and pulling in on themselves protectively, notably the left one. So it will be necessary to get the client to rotate their ankles laterally, especially the left, to properly treat the upper spinal column reflex.
It is quite an extreme way of holding the feet, so it seems that it is due to a long-standing problem of chronic tension or weakness in the left foot rather than a temporary position at the start of the treatment simply due to shyness or nerves.
(plantar photo) The feet are placed a good width apart, but both are too upright, and the ankles are not relaxed and rotating slightly outwards as they should. As a result, there will be the potential for tension up the legs into the hips and even the lower back.
(dorsal photo) The left foot is clearly very misaligned and pulling into the right foot. (dorsal photo) This could be ‘floppiness’ due to weak ankle muscles, but it may be consciously held in this position which would involve a lot of tension in the foot. You will be able to tell once you touch the foot and see how much resistance there is in the ankle to lateral rotation. (See also the note further down on skin texture)
Regardless of the cause of the alignment, it will impact the whole ankle reflex area, so the left hip and pelvis, including the fallopian tube, uterus, and ovary.
Due to this position, the foot’s medial arch is very curved, and the mid to lower spine reflexes are being compressed. The right foot is not as tense even though it is also pulling in too medially around the upper thoracic spine/chest area.
We can see tightness in several dorsiflexed tendons, including both big toes (dorsal photo). So tension pulls the upper body forward all the way from the throat/neck muscles down zone one, into the chest, and down to the waist. There is further tension in the tendons of toes 3-5 on the left foot, so the clavicle/chest/shoulder girdle area is pulling forward here even more. But there is only a little tension in this corresponding clavicle area of the other foot in zone 4.
The big toe on the left foot is dorsiflexing, so the head is pulling forward on this side (dorsal photo). But the whole toe is also leaning laterally, pushing into toe 2. (plantar photo). This means both the head and the neck are pushing down into the shoulder girdle zone 2 on this side. The right toe is better aligned but still leaning slightly laterally, which is more evident from the plantar view. So this indicates that the head and neck are prone to tilting to either side, and there may well be neck problems as a result, especially on the left side.
The smaller toes 3-5 on the left foot are pushing down medially and squeezing into each other (plantar photo), which means tightness and compression in the shoulder girdle on this side, and the right arm is hunching up into the body. The toes are tensing upwards dorsally, which is an extension of this (see tightness in the tendons in the previous section on toes.). This is also connected to the tension in their tendons and means that the shoulder girdle is pulling forward and bunching up on this side (dorsal photo). The necks are not visible, so the head is shrinking into the shoulders.
The toes on the right foot are better aligned, and all have their necks displayed. But they are a little too far apart from each other than they should be, other than toe 5, which is very bunched up and folded under toe 4 on this foot, twisting slightly. So there may be problems with this ear or jaw (plantar photo).
There are many lines on these feet, and they look like they are under great stress. Many vertical lines are running up the necks of several of the toes, which may indicate vitamin deficiencies (plantar photo).
An inverted V is caused by lines coming beneath the left big toe because it is leaning so far laterally (dorsal photo). This can sometimes be connected with thyroid problems because the misaligned neck puts a lot of pressure on the throat, which contains the anatomical reflex for the thyroid.
Stress lines are just visible going into the left shoulder joint, meaning there is tension in the shoulder which is carrying on down the arm. This is connected to the tension going across all the shoulder girdle on this side (plantar photo).
Three unusual horizontal lines are cutting across the right foot’s solar plexus, so something seems to be occurring there with the diaphragm (plantar photo).
There is a mass of lines on the lower part of both feet. (plantar photo) They are particularly evident on the left foot, where they cut right across from the medial to the lateral edge and where because of their depth and proximity, they cause a ripple-like texture.
They exit from the spine and are caused by the extreme curving inward of the foot. In reflex terms, this means extreme tension down all the spine’s lower muscles caused by the vertebrae’s compression. This will impact all the organs in the area, most notably the intestines.
There are several stress lines across the right foot but much less curvature, so there is less compression along the spine. These stress lines continue across the foot, putting pressure on the kidney and continuing down a little into the lumbar spine (plantar photo).
From the dorsal photo, we can see both feet inverted at the ankle, especially the left and stress lines are visible there, cutting over the groin area.
The most noticeable variation in skin tone is over both heels which appear quite red. This would indicate inflammation in the pelvic area (plantar photo).
There is a line across the dorsal left ankle, and it is not evident from the photo what it relates to. It may just be a groove from a tight sock. Or it may be a scar that could be connected to the misalignment of the ankle as there may have been an accident causing weakness there. You would ask the client for further information (dorsal photo).
There are small pea-like swellings over both adrenal glands. This would indicate a surfeit of energy there, likely because a lot of stress results in overactivity in the glands. There is also a long groove or dip at the liver coming into the gall bladder reflex, which would indicate some depletion there.
The spleen area looks quite congested, maybe because there is so much downward (i.e. vertical) pressure in this foot, compressing the area where it is sited, causing difficulties for it to function well.
There is also a long smooth vertical area in zone 1-2 of the sole of the right heel that is seen in relief contrasting with the deep grooves emanating from the leg/lateral edge, which cross the heel from zones 5-3. (plantar photo).
Moles, freckles, & marks
There are two obvious freckles, (dorsal photo) one over the right fallopian tube and the other on the left toe 3. It is not obvious what they are connected with, but likely there has been some nerve disturbance at these reflexes in the body.
The nail of the right big toe has a yellowish tinge, so there is likely a fungal infection (but it could be something else, so it should be diagnosed). If it is fungal, the client could consider their diet, particularly sugar intake.
It also looks like there is a slightly pitted texture and a white line across the big toenails. The lines could be related to trauma to the body at some point in the past few months that the client is aware of. But if not, they may relate to a condition that needs medical attention.
The feet are obviously very unbalanced, with the left appearing much weaker. It will be important to support the muscles of this foot to try to relax and, if possible, strengthen them with stretching, massage, and lymphatic work. Zone 1 on this foot, especially, is very tense from the throat down to the ankle (dorsal photo).
In terms of the transverse zones, the mid and lower sections differ the most, mainly because the left side is so much more compressed by the spine than the right (plantar photo). The multiple stress lines caused by this are seen cutting across the lower foot. This means that the intestines on the left are much more affected, as well as the pelvis, including the reproductive organs, hips, and upper leg.
As mentioned, there is a texture like a scar on the left ankle but not the right (dorsal photo). This may only be a mark from a sock or boot, but you could find out whether something specific happened to cause the texture. There may have been an accident with the foot, and that has caused the ankle to become inverted.
Alternatively, it may have gradually weakened, possibly after a series of minor accidents. Ankle sprains, for example, will happen on one side repeatedly because of existing physical imbalances, and it is very common for similar patterns of accidents to occur.
Whatever the cause, it is very important to know what triggered the difference in the appearance between the two feet. Changes in the feet always signify changes in the client’s life. And if there was a self-inflicted accident (such as a fall etc.), this certainly tells us about when someone was going through a difficult time. Concentration and focus are always lessened when someone is preoccupied with even subconscious worries.
Because of all the differing opinions and because it is not essential for foot reading in a reflexology context, I will leave you all to decide for yourselves whether you wish to ascribe the emotions in terms of past/present, male/female, etc., to the left or right foot. And if so, which way you think it should be done.
There is a tremendous emotional imbalance in the person, and the difference in the feet would indicate something happened in the person’s life that they have not adapted to. The right foot appears very dominant, and the left is evidently weaker, and from the multiple stress lines, it appears to be under a lot of pressure. It looks like it is buckling under this pressure and is trying to make itself smaller and hide under the right foot, which looks very upstanding and much more dominant.
The impression is of someone who, in one respect, is very nervous about facing the world and wants to protect themselves and close off as much as possible. But at the same time is very conflicted about this and almost has an internal argument about how to behave. It is as if one side of themselves feels very vulnerable, but the other is rebuking it about feeling this way.
However, the little toe on the right foot is sliding under toe 4, so there may be things this side does not want to hear or listen to. The big toes are also going in different directions, and some mental conflict or lack of cohesiveness would be indicated by this.
The nails on the big toes also look quite traumatised and slightly yellowish, so they may have some toxic thoughts, but they are not presenting them clearly to the world. A lot of tension in the chest on both sides goes up into the throat area. The stress lines over the diaphragm/solar plexus of the right foot also show stress in the area.
So the person is holding a lot of stressful emotions around the heart area that they are holding back from speaking about, which may be connected to the appearance of the nails. Pulling in the left foot is also a means of closing off the throat area and shows further protectiveness of the heart and chest area.
The tension in zones 2-3 of the upper left side and toes means the clavicle is pulling forwards and inwards on this side, and this will include the shoulder and upper arm. This may be part of a protective stance because of their feelings of vulnerability.
The multiple lines throughout the intestinal area show great stress and difficulty processing their emotions and getting what they need to enjoy life.
The pulling in of the left foot also shows a desire to protect the groin area. The inflammation of both heels shows a lot of anger associated with the fundamental emotions in their life, so there may be family or sexual issues.
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