Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Human foot not as unique as originally thought

Date:
August 21, 2013
Source:
University of Liverpool
Summary:
The mechanisms of the human foot are not as unique as originally thought and have much more in common with the flexible feet of other great apes.

Feet of a young bonobo, Pan paniscus.
Credit: © Eric Isselιe / Fotolia

Research at the University of Liverpool has shown that the mechanisms of the human foot are not as unique as originally thought and have much more in common with the flexible feet of other great apes.

Related Articles


Current understanding of the evolution of human walking is based on research from the 1930s, which proposes that human feet function very differently to those of other apes, due to the development of arches in the mid-foot region and the supposed rigidity of that on the outside edge of the foot.

In a study of more than 25,000 human steps made on a pressure-sensitive treadmill at the University's Gait Laboratory, scientists at Liverpool have shown that despite having abandoned life in the trees long ago, our feet have retained a surprising amount of flexibility, the type seen in the feet of other great apes, such as orangutans and chimpanzees, that have remained largely tree-dwelling.

Professor Robin Crompton, from the University's Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease, explains: "It has long been assumed that because we possess lateral and medial arches in our feet -- the lateral one supposedly being rigid and supported in bone -, that our feet differ markedly to those of our nearest relatives, whose mid-foot is fully flexible and makes regular ground contact.

"This supposed 'uniqueness', however, has never been quantitatively tested. We found that the range of pressures exerted under the human mid-foot, and thus the internal mechanisms that drive them, were highly variable, so much so that they actually overlapped with those made by the great apes."

It has previously been thought that humans who make contact with the ground with the mid-foot region are primarily those that suffer from diabetes or arthritis, both of which can impact on the structure of the feet. Research showed, however, that two thirds of normal healthy subjects produced some footfalls where the mid-foot touches the ground, with no indication that this is other than an aspect of normal healthy walking.

Dr Karl Bates, from the University's Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease, said: "Our ancestors probably first developed flexibility in their feet when they were primarily tree-dwelling, and moving on bendy branches, but as time passed and we became more and more ground-dwelling animals, some new features evolved to enable us to move quickly on the ground.

"Our limbs, however, did not adapt to life on the ground anywhere near as much as those of other ground-dwelling animals such as horses, hares and dogs. Our tests showed that our feet are not as stiff as originally thought and actually form part of a continuum of variation with those of other great apes.

"We hypothesise that despite becoming nearly exclusively ground dwelling we have retained flexibility in the feet to allow us to cope effectively with the differences in hard and soft ground surfaces which we encounter in long distance walking and running. The next part of our study will be testing this theory, which could offer a reason why humans can outrun a horse, for example, over long distances on irregular terrain."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Liverpool. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. K. T. Bates, D. Collins, R. Savage, J. McClymont, E. Webster, T. C. Pataky, K. D'Aout, W. I. Sellers, M. R. Bennett, R. H. Crompton. The evolution of compliance in the human lateral mid-foot. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2013; 280 (1769): 20131818 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2013.1818

Cite This Page:

University of Liverpool. "Human foot not as unique as originally thought." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 August 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130821085431.htm>.
University of Liverpool. (2013, August 21). Human foot not as unique as originally thought. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130821085431.htm
University of Liverpool. "Human foot not as unique as originally thought." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130821085431.htm (accessed November 24, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, November 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ebola-Hit Sierra Leone's Late Cocoa Leaves Bitter Taste

Ebola-Hit Sierra Leone's Late Cocoa Leaves Bitter Taste

AFP (Nov. 23, 2014) — The arable district of Kenema in Sierra Leone -- at the centre of the Ebola outbreak in May -- has been under quarantine for three months as the cocoa harvest comes in. Duration: 01:32 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Anglerfish Rarely Seen In Its Habitat Will Haunt You

Anglerfish Rarely Seen In Its Habitat Will Haunt You

Newsy (Nov. 22, 2014) — For the first time Monterey Bay Aquarium recorded a video of the elusive, creepy and rarely seen anglerfish. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Birds Around the World Take Flight

Birds Around the World Take Flight

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Nov. 22, 2014) — An imperial eagle equipped with a camera spreads its wings over London. It's just one of the many birds making headlines in this week's "animal roundup". Jillian Kitchener reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins