Adapted Human Foot

It’s really interesting when looking at the anatomy and function of the human foot.

Amongst the problems I deal with on a daily basis is the painful deformity of hallux abducto valgus (bunions).

A major part of the etiology (cause) of bunions is the underlying design of the human foot. The structures involved in the joint (tendons and ligaments) are very similar to the human hand and primate feet.

We have all the same structures in the foot as in the hand for an opposable thumb. In fact, in early human foetal development we develop the same way as primates do with those opposable structures, then our thumb development ceases in what is termed ‘arrested ontogeny’.

We’re left with feet which have five muscles on one side of the big toe joint, similar to those muscles used in our hands to grasp with the thumb, and the same as in primates. Two of those muscles are powerful leg muscles with tendons in the big toe with the effect of pulling the big toe towards the lesser toes. And only one small muscle on the medial side of the foot (arch side) to counter-balance those powerful muscles. This small muscle (abductor hallucis) is the same as the muscle in our hands which opens up our thumb-grip ready for grasping an object.

Bunion deformities, and the complex of secondary pathologies they cause in the feet and ankles of people who suffer, are very common, and even occur in barefooted people, though less often.

As a Christian lay minister I had serious questions I planned to ask my God about why he had designed the human foot with inbuilt design faults leading to a propensity to such a painful, disabling deformity.

Another serious issue is the fact that the joints of the forefoot are not best designed to extend back on themselves like they do when we lift our heels and move through propulsion.

The forefoot structures were very obviously designed for grasping in flexion, and not extension, as evidenced by the great numbers of people suffering with metatarsalgias. (Pain in the ball of the foot.)

Another question for the great Designer! Why create such a weak, poorly adapted structure to carry our body weight.

I imagined God had perhaps planned for podiatrists to be God’s gift to the world of painful feet.

All of my questions are easily answered, without clutching at straws, when I realise humans have an evolved and adapted foot from our primate ancestors.

Our foot problems are made immeasurably worse by adding another set of mechanical problems in the form of shoes!

If our feet struggle to cope when barefoot, just think what happens inside a shoe!

There is no such thing as a good shoe!

Every shoe alters our foot function. Our adapted primate feet, which can only just cope when unshod, are at a massive disadvantage inside shoes.

Hence, podiatrists main focus is to try to enable people to walk comfortably in shoes.

Last year I had two epiphanies. A professional one, where I realised podiatry was too shoe focused, and a religious one, where I realised not everything I had believed was true.

It has been a painful experience in both cases, as I had to come to terms with truth and realise my biases had handicapped my thinking.

However, as I came through the stressful transition, in both cases I have gained new joy and success.

I have gained never before imagined levels of understanding about myself and how my brain works.

I am much less dogmatic about podiatric and religious philosophies.

And hopefully more enabled to discover more truths.

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