In land animals, insects and vertebrates have complex foot organs. The insect foot is known as a tarsus, and is distal to the tibia. In primitive insects, the tarsus was a single segment, but in more highly evolved insects the tarsus is composed of up to five segments, generally bearing claws as well.
The feet of land vertebrates are characterized as either plantigrade, digitigrade, or unguligrade. In plantigrade animals, such as frogs or bears, the bottom of the entire foot supports the weight of the animal. In digitigrade animals, such as wolves or birds, the toes bear the animal's weight, while the upper regions of the foot, the ankle and wrist, remain elevated. Finally, in unguligrade animals, such as cows or horses, even the toes are elevated, the animal standing only atop its nails, which have evolved to bear weight and are called hooves.
The human foot is of the plantigrade form. The major bones in the human foot are:
Customs about footwear while indoors vary significantly from place to place and usually depend on climate, weather, and other factors:
It is a myth that the Imperial "foot" (304.8 mm) is about the length of the average European male foot. The average today is less than 270 mm and 90% of the population is within 20 mm of that. Very few men today have feet that are a "foot" long: most are more than 35 mm shorter. In the past, the average length would have been even less. Even the overall length of most shoes remains well short of one "foot". Tradition has it that the Imperial foot was based upon the size of Hercules's foot.
Due to their position and function, feet are exposed to a variety of potential infections and injuries, including athlete's foot, bunions, ingrown toenails, Morton's neuroma, plantar fasciitis, plantar warts and stress fractures. In addition, there are several genetic conditions that can affect the shape and function of the feet, including a club foot or flat feet.
On the evolutionary ladder, humans are the first mammals to walk completely upright. Thus the entire weight of the body is distributed over two feet, instead of four. Larger feet are known to give improved posture, balance and avoid back problems.
This leaves humans more vulnerable to medical problems that are caused by poor leg and foot alignments. Also, the wearing of shoes, sneakers and boots can impede proper alignment and movement within the ankle and foot. For example, high heels are known to throw off the natural weight balance (this can also affect the lower back). For the sake of posture, flat soles and heels are advised.
A doctor who specializes in the treatment of the feet practices podiatry and is called a podiatrist. A pedorthist specializes in the use and modification of footwear to treat problems related to the lower limbs.
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