Sunday, July 24, 2011

2011 Streak Day 195/365 (July 14th): Feet

2011 Streak Day 195/365 (July 14th): Walk - 6.03 miles, Time - 2hr 5min, Weather - mixed cloud, breezy

If you look at any running site it will tell you there are three types of foot: flat, normal, and high arch. Not only that there are three types of landing when the foot is in motion: over pronation, neutral, and supination (under pronation). There is never much discussion of the actual shape of the foot (perhaps it is not relevant). But there are also three of those:
Peasant foot - the toes tend to be short and at least 3 are the same length. The heel tends to be medium to wide.
Egyptian foot - The toes slope down from a long big toe. It tends to be a narrow foot.
Greek foot - The second toe is longer than the big toe. The foot is often narrow to medium and there might be a big gap between the big toe and second toe.
Obviously these shapes make a difference in ballet where it is all aesthetics and getting up on their points, but do they have any affect at all on the grinding, repetitive act of running? Does shape have a biomechanical impact?
For all peasants and egyptians (the majority) everything seems to be fine but unfortunately the greeks have all the problem (Ah those Greeks not only is the country bankrupt, their feet are wrong). 
According to the Wikipedia page this sort of foot is present in under 50% of the population but seen in over 80% of people with musculoskeletal help seeking medical assistance. I am a bit skeptical of those figures as even if it is the reported comment of a respected physician I can find no back up evidence. I have found no survey giving a base figure of the number of people with different types of feet and no figures about the proportions seeking medical assistance.
Nevertheless an impression gained by someone working in the field can be a good insight. However I do worry about the determinism that sees the greek foot as a disability with inevitably bad consequences for legs and posture. How could this be when in classical times it was seen as the ideal?
Every classical statue will show a foot with the second toe longer than the big toe and that ideal was continued in the Enlightenment, so that, for example, the Statue of Liberty also has that foot.
But the fact it was once an aesthetic ideal does not mean it cannot have undesirable physical consequences; after all many dogs bred for aesthetics don't function very well. But I am struggling to find the evidence base. In PubMed there are only 21 articles on Morton's Toe (aka greek foot) and none of them cut to the chase of cause and effect.
Nevertheless, as can be seen from the Wikipedia article, the received wisdom is that the greek foot causes problems.
Oh dear! It is at this point that I have to declare an interest and say that my own foot shape is very similar to the one in the photo.
P.S. The photo was taken in the British Museum. My day was spent in London and as I now walk everywhere, whenever I go south from Euston I always walk through the British Museum and spend a little time looking at one gallery. It lifts the spirits.

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