Thanks for your reply. I am a novice, so I apologize for my naivety. Basically what I want to do is create some blocks in Max that implement various effects -- for a guitar, for example -- then have a few foot switches that allow me to toggle through these effects while playing. So anything that accomplishes that would work for me... if MIDI could I have a block in Max that parses the footswitch as MIDI commands and converts to binary triggers to the various effects blocks?
So yeah, I think a MIDI controller solution would be suitable for you.
There's probably a few options for this, and I encourage you to do some research as to what is out there and what you think will best suit your needs.
I can only speak from my personal experience with the Softstep, so I may seem a bit biased, but I'll give a quick rundown of some things you can do related to where your interests lie. With a programmable controller like the Softstep you have options to do the logic on the device - toggle vs momentary for example - and also leverage the pressure or x/y location data to control parameters on the device, as well as tuning them on/off. You can also just send simple on/off messages and do all your Logic in Max. The SS also has LEDs which can be addressed. LED feedback is pretty handy generally. Regardless of the MIDI controller, you'll be able to turn things on/off with minimal fuss.
Again, not really sure what your definition of foots switches is in this case. If they are actual mechanical switches, you'd need to get that data into max, which admittedly is not my forte, so I don't have much advice on that.
You'll never have to turn any data into MIDI for internal use in Max (generally). You'll want to translate the MIDI into useful information for your patch.
the old school if the FCB 1010 (midi)
fancy & expensive: Softstep
also any kind of blue tooth page turners usually work
If you want only a foot-switch, maybe you have a MIDI keyboard that already has a footswtich input, for the sustain pedal.
That said, using Max, about ANYTHING could be a foot-switch. Everything that is MIDI, most HID, (mouse, keyboard, game controller), and with an Arduino or a Teensy about anything from a savage switch from your printer or coffee machine to a home made carpet (pressure), a spoon, a carrot or a fancy tattoo (capacitive).
I am a fan of my Softstep, I can put it in my bassoon case or interface bag, and the feedback LEDs are really useful. But it is best to pressure than switch in my opinion, as some of the time I tend to press a bit on the side as it is so tin. When I need a really reliable switch I go for a piano like sustain pedal, as it goes physical down, and that is a nice feedback to have. Mineis a M-Audio.