Summary of Chapter 1
The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.– Leonardo da Vinci
Although your feet are true works of art and engineering, you can’t feel exultant about them if they are killing you. Before I start explaining why your feet are killing you and how to treat them, it really helps to understand a little bit about the structure of your feet. Don’t worry; this will be a basic rundown to give you a clearer picture, not a lesson worthy of medical school. (I sat through enough of those for the both of us!) The truth is your feet are an unmatched set of architectural wonders. Unmatched? Yes, because no two feet were ever created equal. Your own are not identical, and some people actually have one foot that is a full size larger than the other.
They may be small in relation to the rest of you, but your feet are two of your most complexly engineered body parts. Each foot has at least 26 bones, two very small bones-the sesamoids, 56 ligaments, 38 muscles, and numerous nerves and blood vessels. Plus, they carry the weight of your entire body when you just stand there and multiple times your body weight when you walk or run.
The 26 bones in each foot are structurally arranged so that you can move your feet in a variety of ways. This, combined with the precise and flexible arrangement of your joints, makes it possible for you to do things like rotate your ankles, flex and point your toes, walk, run, jump, and more.
The forefoot contains five metatarsal bones, which are the bones leading up to each of your toes. The metatarsals bear the brunt of your weight as you walk, and transfer the pressure of your weight to the balls of your feet. In fact, the balls of your feet do 60 percent of your foot’s work. The arch connecting the central part of your foot to your toes is called the metatarsal arch. The smallest bones in your foot (the sesamoids) lie here, buried behind and beneath your big toe. Despite their minuscule size, these bones are important, serving as a pulley system that enables some of your muscles to move your foot up and down. (Technically, they increase the mechanical advantage of your foot to lift your body and push your body forward. Another important bone that does this is your kneecap.) They help the big toe move, too. Because of their crucial role, people who have fractured or displaced one or both of their sesamoids experience acute pain and impaired movement. Your toes are formally known as phalanges or digits, and are often referred to by number. Your big toe, for example, is number one, and you’ve got a number two, three, four, and five on each foot. Number two, three, four, and five each usually has three bones but the big toe has only two (besides the sesamoids.) Today the average fifth toe (also known as the little toe or pinky) is smaller than it was a century ago, possibly because its growth has been stunted because we’ve been squeezing it into too tight shoes. Sesamoiditis
In this chapter of My Feet Are Killing Me Dr. Levine delves into:
- The Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, Canada