Normally, at this time of the year, the only treats I’m thinking about and writing about are treats you can eat. I usually spend weeks thinking about which cookies and candies I should make each year, selecting from tried-and-true favorites and searching for a few new treats to try. Over the years, I’ve shared a number of cookie-baking and candy-making stories through columns and blog posts.
    This year for Christmas, though, I’m sharing some treats for your feet. I frequently see requests from other dairy farmers for footwear recommendations. And for good reason. When you spend all day on your feet, working in a variety of conditions, you need good boots.
    The research behind these thoughts and recommendations started nearly two years ago. A friend recommended a book by a biomechanist about how people can maintain optimal movement as they age. I don’t think she was implying that I’m old (ouch!), but that I should start thinking about preserving joint function now. I started reading the book, and after the chapter on feet, started thinking a whole lot differently about the 30 different joints in each of my feet.
    Then I started making some changes to how I treat my feet. It was pretty clear from the self-assessment in the book that, mobility-wise, my feet had a lot of room for improvement. I’m sure the damage came from years of doing chores in muck boots and otherwise squeezing my feet into too-tight shoes.
    Two years later, my feet move a whole lot better and feel a whole lot better. Even more so, my knees, hips and lower back feel better, because how our feet move affects how everything else up the chain moves.
    If your feet could use a little TLC, here’s my list of treats for your feet:
    – After I ditched my muck boots, I tried several different hiking boots and shoes in the barn. For some chores, they were great; for others, I ended up with wet toes more than I cared. (I don’t like wearing rubber overboots over my shoes; they don’t have enough traction.) I finally found a brand that’s both foot-friendly and barn-worthy: Altra Lone Peak RSM shoes and boots.
    All Altra shoes/boots are zero-drop (meaning no raised heel), foot-shaped (meaning roomy toe box), and light weight. Altra designed Lone Peaks for trail running and hiking, so they have great support and traction. Both the shoes and boots are available in an RSM version, which are made with high-tech waterproof material. RSM stands for rain, snow, and mud; I can attest that the M can also stand for manure. These shoes and boots keep everything out.
    I wear the Lone Peak RSM shoes for spring and fall. I wear Lone Peak RSM boots for winter. And I have a pair of the non-waterproof Lone Peak shoes for summer. There’s a great aftermarket for Altra shoes, so I bought all of my Lone Peaks pre-owned through eBay and REI. If I were going to buy one pair brand new, I’d buy the Lone Peak RSM boots. A brand-new pair costs about the same as a pair of high-end rubber chore boots, but they’re way more comfortable.
    – Whether you’re wearing hiking boots or something else, good wool socks from People Socks will help keep your feet warm in the winter. I’ve been wearing the same set of People Socks for four years now. They are an investment that lasts. People Socks are made in America from merino wool, are about half the price of other merino wool socks, and are designed with toe, arch, and heel support.
    – As much as I love my hiking boots for barn chores, there are times when I need boots that are a bit taller. I keep a pair of flimsy, rubber rain boots in the barn for those times. I love their flexibility, but they lack cushioning and warmth. Little Hotties Thermal Insoles are the perfect remedy. These insoles are made with wool, felt, and a layer of space-age polymers that reflect heat back into your feet. Put a pair in your boots and it feels like your feet have their own personal heaters. Technology can seem magical at times.
    – When I started rehabbing my feet, the first step was manually mobilizing the joints. The best way to do this is to roll a small ball around under your entire foot while sitting or standing. I massage my feet this way, usually in the morning to help them wake up. You can use a lacrosse ball or golf ball. My favorite, though, is a nubby plastic dryer ball. The little nubs really activate feet and help release foot joints. I also have a Naboso Neuro Ball on my Christmas list; I’ll let you know if it lives up to its promise of providing feet with extra sensory stimulation.
    Whether you’re thinking about treats you can eat or treats for your feet this holiday season, I hope you take a little time to put your feet up and enjoy the merriment of Christmas.