Feet are the unsung heroes of the body, carrying us 8,000 to 10,000 steps each day and 100,000 miles over the course of a lifetime (that’s approximately four times around the world!)
Feet might not be the most glamorous body part, but a little research reveals that our pedal pushers are incredibly interesting–and sometimes downright strange.
1. Toes Sometimes Surgically Replace Lost Thumbs
Did you know that if you ever lose your thumb, you could have it replaced with your big toe? While it might sound bizarre, the surgery is fairly common–and successful. The transplanted big toe, known as a “thoe” once it’s attached to the hand, allows people to regain all the benefits of the lost thumb, including opening doorknobs, holding a pencil (and plenty of other objects) and eating many types of food.
2. Shoes Date Back 40,000 Years!
The first pair of shoes appeared on the scene approximately 40,000 years ago. The oldest pair in existence was found buried in ancient sheep dung in a cave in Armenia. The 5,500-year-old leather moccassin is older than Stonehenge!
3. Bones in the Feet Continue to Mature Until We’re 21
While it’s true that a full quarter of the bones in the human body are found in the feet, we aren’t born that way. Those adorable chunky baby feet we love so much are mostly cartilage–and don’t have an arch yet! It’s one of the many reasons babies can’t walk when they’re born. As we grow, our arch develops (around the time we turn 2), and the cartilage in our feet hardens. This process continues until we’re 21 years old!
4. Foot Cheese Is an Actual Thing
If anyone’s ever told you that your feet smell like stinky cheese, rattle off this piece of trivia: It’s totally possible to make actual cheese with bacteria from foot sweat. In fact, Ireland held a Foot Cheese Exhibition in 2013 that featured several varieties of foot cheese, as well as varieties that evolved from belly buttons and armpits. Yum! (Don’t worry, the exhibition didn’t feature a tasting room).
5. Ticklish Feet Are a Good Sign
With almost 8,000 nerves, it’s no wonder that feet win the award for “Most Ticklish Body Part.” But don’t lament the tickles–having ticklish feet means that all those nerves are firing correctly. Feet that don’t respond to a soft tickle could indicate a problem like neuropathy, or damage to the nerves and tissue of the foot.
6. Our Feet Are Growing Over Time
Not only do your feet continue to grow throughout your lifetime (one of the most common reasons you should check your shoe size every few years as you get older!), but feet size is increasing in the United States overall. The College of Podiatry released a study in 2014 indicating that the average shoe size had gone up by two full sizes in the United States over the past 44 years. Why? It’s speculated that our feet are adapting to our taller, heavier frames.
7. Toe Wrestling is a Competitive Sport
Toe wrestling has been a thriving sport in several counties since 1970, complete with a men’s and women’s division and a Toe Wrestling World Championship. In this sport, opponents attempt to pin and hold down their opponent’s bare toes for three seconds. Best two out of three rounds, wins!
8. We Flirt With Our Feet
When it comes to flirtation, feet can reveal our feelings–well, for women anyway! UK researchers showed that a woman who is feeling flirtatious will position their feet out and away from her body. If she’s not feeling the chemistry, she’ll cross her legs or tuck her feet beneath her. Mysteriously, the same phenomenon wasn’t observed in men.
9. Feet Can Do Pretty Incredible Things
In the absence of arms or hands, many individuals have learned to do some pretty amazing things with their feet. In 2008, Jessica Cox became the first pilot to fly a plane using only her feet. Others have successfully mastered driving motorcycles, shooting a bulls-eye in archery, painting masterpieces, writing beautiful calligraphy, and playing golf.
10. Feet Have 250,000 Sweat Glands
There’s a reason sweat is associated with feet. You have a whopping 250,000 sweat glands in your feet. And just how much sweat can those proliferous sweat glands produce each day? Up to half a pint. How’s that for incentive to change your socks?
11. The Largest Feet In The World are 1 Foot 3 Inches Long
Who holds the Guinness World Record for largest and smallest feet? Brahim Takioullah from Morocco comes in first place for the largest feet. At 1 foot 3 inches long, his feet require a European size 58–which can be pretty spendy, and impossible to find in a retail store. One cobbler quoted him more than $5,000 for a custom pair of shoes. As for the smallest non-bound feet, the award goes to 19-year-old Jyoti Amge from Nagpar, India. Her tiny feet are just 3.72 inches long!
12. Your Feet Absorb Tens of Thousands of Pounds a Day
During a typical day, your feet bear the collective load of hundreds of thousands of pounds. On average, your feet absorb a total force of 26,000 pounds. That’s two African elephants. Add a 2.5-inch heel to the equation? You increase your load by 75%. In other words, 45,500 pounds. Think twice before spending significant time in heels, and properly support your feet throughout the day!
13. We Love Our Pedicures
In 2016, nail salons generated 8.5 billion dollars in sales. While a regular pedicure might seem like an indulgence, it can have some terrific health benefits, including improved circulation from the massage and handling of the feet! Proper shaping and trimming of the nails can also prevent problems like ingrown toenails. And let’s face it, bright, beautiful, beach-ready toes are good for the soul!
14. The Longest Toenails Are 6 Inches Long!
If it’s been a little while since you sat down with the toenail clippers, don’t worry. You’ve got a long way to go to beat the current world record for longest toenails. Louise Hollis of California holds the current world record for longest toenails in the world. Each toenail is approximately 6 inches long and requires a full two days of care and grooming each week. That’s some serious foot love!
15. There Are 10 “Personality Types” of Feet
Did you know there are a total of 10 different generally-recognized foot types? While there’s not any actual science to back the claim up, many people believe that it’s possible to describe your personality by determining the shape of your foot.
16. Women Experience More Foot Problems
Women experience about four times as many foot-related problems as men. Heels are generally regarded as the culprit, because of the extreme strain they add to the arch and the unnatural pressure they place on the toe box. Surprisingly, women started wearing high heels to look more masculine. Male Persian warriors were the first ones to sport the high-heeled look, and women adopted the trend soon after.
17. .1% Of Children Are Born With Extra Toes
While uncommon, about 1 or 2 in 1,000 children will be born with an extra toe or two, a condition known as polydactylism. In fact, one Chinese boy was born with six extra toes (and five extra fingers). Typically, the extra toes are removed, since it can make wearing shoes uncomfortable.
18. There Is A Foot Condition Where Toes Overgrow
Speaking of unique foot conditions, one of the rarest is known as Macrodactyly. In this congenital condition, one or more toes becomes extremely enlarged due to overgrowth of bones and tissues in the foot. Thankfully, the condition is benign.
19. Podophobia is the Fear of Feet
A phobia of feet, known as podophobia, manifests itself as anger or extreme revulsion to the sight of feet. Many people with podophobia are also upset by talking about feet, reading about feet, or touching their own feet. In extreme cases, podophobia can have a detrimental effect on an individual’s health if it impacts someone’s ability to put on or remove socks and shoes or properly wash the feet, leading to infections or other problems.
20. Sepak Takraw is Foot Volleyball
Did you know that in Southeast Asia a popular sport known as sepak takraw is played? The game is played with a net and two teams on both sides, and is basically volleyball–except hands aren’t allowed! Feet (and sometimes heads) are used to volley the ball back and forth, with three touches allowed on each side of the net before the ball is returned.
Do you love your feet a little more? Take those toes out for a pedicure, treat your arches to a pair of cushioned orthotic inserts, or have a long soak in the tub tonight!