15 THINGS YOU DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT YOUR FEET
1. WHY ARE YOUR FEET IMPORTANT?
What exactly do your feet do for you? The first thing you might not know is just how much is going on under the hood. Your feet account for a quarter of the bones in your whole body! They pack a punch, and work as our natural shock absorbers. The Achilles tendon (at the back of your foot, by your heel) is the strongest tendon in the entire body. Feet must be able to stand up to punishment, because an average pair of feet will walk around 110,000 miles or 220,000,000 steps over the course of a lifetime!
2. HOW ARE YOUR FEET RELATED TO YOUR BRAIN?
Did you know that your feet are constantly ‘talking’ to your brain? It’s true! They’re packed with around 200,000 nerve endings per foot which are incredibly responsive, and input detailed information to your brain about everything from pressure to temperature, which is then translated into skilful movement, allowing you to make decisions and respond to external stimuli on the fly. The foot is the major sensory organ of the proprioceptive system.
3. WHAT ARE YOUR TOES FOR?
Did you know that when you’re walking, your toes are in touch with the ground around 75% of the time? When the big toe makes contact with the ground, it signals to the body you are balanced and as you leave the floor, the big toe helps you spring off the floor. The big toes are the prime movers of your entire feet! The nerve endings in your toes help your feet to maintain balance and bear the weight of your body when you walk – without toes the entire mechanism of foot movement would fall apart.
4. WHAT DOES YOUR BIG TOE DO FOR YOU?
Did you know that your big toe is the most important toe of all? If toes are vital to balance, your big toe (or your hallux if you want to get scientific) takes the biggest burden of all. A misaligned big toe can completely throw your balance off. Did you know that your big toe makes it possible to walk and run upright? It’s so helpful for balance it used to help our ancestors climb trees, and unlike your little toe – which bears the least weight of any toe – if you were to lose your big toe, you’d have to retrain your foot to use different muscles to replace it!
5. WHY STUBBING YOUR BIG TOE HURTS SO MUCH!
Why does stubbing your big toe hurt so much? Well we’ve seen how powerful your feet are, and how central your big toe is to movement – and for most of us the big toe is just that, the most prominent toe, and the first point of contact when your foot hits a chair or wall! So when you combine all the strength it takes to move your foot with the sensitivity of your most prominent toe – remember all those nerve endings – it’s easy to understand why stubbing a toe is so painful!
6. HOW IMPORTANT IS POSTURE?
So we know how important toes are for the sake of balance – but do you know what role the posture of your entire foot plays in keeping you stable and upright? Quite simply, your foot posture determines how effectively your weight is distributed, and if it’s lacking, you’re opening the door to all kinds of trouble with pain and discomfort later on – which is why it’s so important to foster good posture!
Did you know that standing still is far more tiring than walking? This is because you only use a few muscles when you’re still, whereas walking distributes the burden of movement over many more muscles and increases circulation.
7. HOW DO YOUR FEET GROW?
Do you know how fast a child’s foot grows? Every foot is different of course, but for most us, and for most of childhood and adolescence, your feet will grow in fits and starts. For the first 15 months of life, your feet grow incredibly fast – half a size every 2 months! At around 2, things start to even out, but not by much, feet double in size from birth to age 4. Things only start to slow down at around 10. Did you know that the growth of young feet has as much to do with pressure as it does with hereditary factors? This is why ditching shoes and going barefoot (wherever safe to) is best for growing feet, especially when they’re very young. And when you do wear shoes, make sure to have 1-1.5cm space in the front (and 3-5mm space on the sides) to allow for growth and arch elongation and metatarsal ball splay. This applies both to kids and adults.
8. DO YOUR FEET CARRY ON GROWING?
Did you know your feet can continue to grow? Even though your feet will settle at around age 20, their shape and size will continue to change over the rest of your life. In fact once you hit 40, your feet grow by as much as half a shoe size every 10 years! This is because feet flatten and elongate with age. Strangely, your feet will also grow slightly if you become pregnant, mostly owing to hormones and the increased weight you’ll be carrying around!
9. HOW ARE YOUR FEET MEANT TO BE SHAPED?
Did you know that there’s no such thing as a ‘perfect’ foot? What we think of as a ‘good’ foot is often informed more by the shape of shoes than by the shape of our feet. There are dozens of common foot shapes, including very different toe lengths and placements, most often informed by geography and heredity – although it is incredibly rare to come across feet where all toes are the same length. If there’s an ideal foot shape though it’s natural, strong and mobile, not shoe shaped!
10. WHAT DO SHOES DO TO YOUR FEET?
Did you know that shoes can often hurt and misshape your feet instead of helping them? This is why you love taking your shoes off! If we’ve lost sight of what a natural foot looks and feels like, it’s got a lot to do with how our relationship with shoes has developed over the centuries. Shoes distort the way you walk, and in fact, since the invention of shoes the health of our feet has steadily dropped!
11. WHAT ABOUT HIGH HEELS?
Did you know that heels can really damage your feet? They’re a good example of how shoes have impacted the health of our feet. Just a little while in heels can cause problems that can take a disproportionate amount of time and effort to recover from. They greatly increase the risk of spraining your ankle, are likely to increase impact into shins and knees and even increase the chance of developing arthritis.
12. WHY IS SHOE SIZE IMPORTANT?
Did you know that wearing the wrong shoe size can cause problems beyond discomfort? We’ve all had to deal with a shoe that doesn’t quite fit, but persistently wearing the wrong sized shoe can cause real damage. It can greatly increase the risk of foot, ankle, leg, and even lower back pain, as well as causing blisters and other foot nasties. Ill-fitting shoes can even cause toe deformities like hammer toe, where your feet curl unnaturally, making it harder for you to walk and run.
13. ARE YOU WEARING THE WRONG SHOE SIZE?
Did you know that well over half of us wear the wrong shoe size? For men in particular it could be as many as 80 percent! We’ve seen what damage the wrong shoe size can bring, so it’s really important to get your feet measured, and figure out what size works for you – including half sizes, which are often overlooked.
14. ARE THERE PEOPLE WHO DON’T WEAR SHOES?
Did you know that people in societies where it’s more common to go barefoot have feet than those who wear shoes? There are even communities of ‘unshod’ (i.e. without shoes) indigenous peoples in Kenya and Northern Mexico who are renowned for their long distance barefoot running abilities!
15. WHAT CAN GOING BAREFOOT DO FOR YOU?
Did you know that your feet get more from the ground when they’re out of shoes? Even if it’s only every now and then, ditching your foot distorting shoes and going barefoot can help you regain control of your feet by naturally improving your balance and body awareness – as well as improving your overall health by helping to build up your leg strength, using muscles you’ve hardly ever used before!
Read more about benefits of barefoot shoes: