The foot is definitely one of the most overworked, under-appreciated parts of the human body. Think about it: In a single day, the average person takes on average from 8000 to 10,000 steps!
Here are some fun facts about the human foot.
1. FOOT BONES MAKE UP ABOUT A QUARTER OF ALL THE BONES IN OUR BODIES.
There are 26 foot bones in each of your feet—one less than in each hand. When we’re born, those foot bones are mostly cartilage. They only completely harden around age 21.
2. THE BIG TOE USED TO BE A KIND OF FOOT THUMB.
This grasping toe helped our predecessors climb trees and, when young, grip onto their mothers. Thanks to modern science, if you lose your thumb, you can now replace it with a toe: toe-to-thumb transplants are a surprisingly common procedure these days.
3. FOOT BONES HOLD BIG CLUES ABOUT THE EVOLUTION OF BIPEDALISM.
Scientists are studying Homo naledi, a specimen discovered in a South African cave in 2013 that many researchers believe is a new human relative. H. naledi had very human-like feet, but with somewhat curved toe bones that suggest it climbed trees. It could be that H. naledi was beginning to experiment with walking.
4. THERE WAS A FOOT CHEESE EXHIBITION IN IRELAND.
Warm, sweaty feet make a perfect home for bacteria, which feed on our dead skin cells and produce gases and acids that emit those arresting foot odors. They’re apparently also good at cultivating cheese. An exhibition in Dublin in 2013 displayed a variety of cheeses made with bacteria samples obtained from real people’s feet, armpits, and belly buttons. Delicious. (No one actually ate any of the cheeses.)
5. FEET ARE ONE OF THE MOST TICKLISH PARTS OF THE BODY.
There’s a good reason for that: Humans have nearly 8000 nerves in our feet and a large number of nerve endings near the skin. Having ticklish feet can be a good sign: Reduced sensitivity can be an indicator of peripheral neuropathy (numbness in the feet caused by nerve damage).
6. FOOT NUMBNESS CAN CAUSE BIG PROBLEMS FOR DIABETICS.
Complications of diabetes include poor circulation and foot numbness that can lead to serious skin ulcers, which sometimes require amputation of toes or feet. In 2010 alone, 73,000 lower-limb amputations were performed on diabetics.
7. THERE’S A REASON GRANDPA’S TOENAILS LOOK LIKE THAT.
Ever heard someone describing their toenails as “horse hooves”? As we get older, our toenails tend to thicken, making them hard to trim. This happens because toenails grow more slowly as we age, causing the nail cells to accumulate. Stubbing toes, bad shoes, and dropping things on your feet can also cause thickening, as can fungal infections and peripheral arterial disease, which narrows arteries and reduces the blood flow to limbs.