Made up of 103 ligaments, 51 muscles, 33 joints and 26 bones each, “our feet are one of the most sophisticated but ignored body parts,” says the handsome French podiatrist Albin Brion as I hobble down the hallway of the spa at Hong Kong’s Landmark Mandarin OrientalHotel. Though Brion has sloughed off the dead skin on my feet and buffed up my nails before, this time I am here to be fitted for a pair of BGA InSoles.
These new handcrafted insoles took four years to develop, based on research with professional athletes across a half-dozen sports, and are produced in France by Bastien Gonzalez – the self-described “pedi:podiatrist” who has 16 international Pedi:Mani:Cure studios and a global following. And for good reason I am one of his loyal fans. Twenty years after a double bunionectomy, I can see and feel the big toe on my right foot starting to shift back towards its presurgery misalignment. Then there was the boat accident off Phuket that gave me lower-back pain as an unwanted souvenir, not to mention too much travel in ever-shrinking aeroplane seats.
The BGA InSoles are designed to deliver positive effects from the spine down to the most vulnerable fifth metatarsal, located at the outside of the foot, and on to the first metatarsal, the bone just behind the big toe. For now they are only available in Gonzalez’ Hong Kong studio, where Brion has me stand on something called a “podobarascope”, then an electronic “pressure platform”. Together these measure my feet’s plantar forces and pressure distribution: 53.4 per cent on the left and 46.6 per cent on the right, with an unhealthy tendency to put weight on the front part of both feet.
I am impressed by the comprehensive nature of the initial 35-minute exam, during which Brion inspects my posture and identifies imbalances. Along the way, I learn about the three-layer “foot nest”, shaped according to each person’s gender, size, lifestyle and activities. For serious athletes like French professional tennis player Jérôme Lacorte, the brand ambassador, Brion recommends the sports model for its greater shock absorbency. For me, however, he suggests that the thinner Elegant InSoles will best suit my shopping-as-cardio lifestyle.
And so I walk away an hour later with a spring in my step – the effect is a gentle cushioning, slightly like walking on a yoga mat. There’s more support but it’s cosy, not tight. Brion promises I will see and feel “great results” within six months, from improved posture and less lower-back pain to better balance. He even prophesises that if I wear mine diligently, “they will keep you from another bunion surgery” – which, of course, would leave me with more funds for shoe shopping.