Most humans have feet that are held together with strong ligaments and an arch which is supported by the intricate structure of the plantar fascia, providing your feet with both shock absorption and a natural spring, and allowing you to walk with fantastic efficiency. But If you’re one of the 1 in 13 people who have flexible feet that bend in the middle (what we professionals call “midtarsal break”), then according to physical anthropologist Dr. Jeremy DeSilva, you have something in common with a 2 million-year-old fossil human relative, Australopithecus, and you have feet that are specially adapted for climbing trees! You see, these 2 million-year-old human relatives had very flexible feet, and like most primates, when they lifted their heels off the ground, the feet would flop with virtually nothing holding the bones together – all the better to climb trees with!

Jeremy DeSilva and Simone Gill of Boston University in the United States, carried out a study at the Boston Museum of science to find out how many of us are still clinging to prehistoric ancestry with our flexible feet. During the study, which was published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, the pair asked 400 adults to walk barefoot around the Boston Museum of Science while they filmed their feet for later examination. They also made use of a mechanized carpet which was able to analyze several key components of their feet. This revealed that 8 per cent of people (1 in 13) have some mid-foot flexibility, rather like that seen in tree-dwelling apes.

So what does a flexible foot look like? Well not much different from a normal foot really. According to DeSilva, close-ups of flexible feet as they unroll during walking make the bend obvious, but DeSilva says their owners are not aware of anything unusual, nor is their gait any different; and while a well supported arch makes walking more efficient, most people with flexible feet will go through life problem-free.

If you’re wondering whether or not you’re one of the 8 percent who have prehensile feet, go and walk on the beach and look at your footprints – if you can see the middle portion of your foot prints, then your feet are likely to be flexibly flat. And if you do have problems associated with flat feet, don’t hesitate to call the Healthy Steps podiatrists in Auckland, who know the bio-mechanics necessary to balance your feet and put the spring back in your step!

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