Nav: Home

Step forward in understanding human feet

January 14, 2019

Scientists have made a step forward in understanding the evolution of human feet.

Unlike species such as chimpanzees, which have opposable digits on their feet, humans have evolved arched feet to enhance upright walking.

These arches were thought to be supported by plantar intrinsic muscles (PIMs) - but a study by the University of Queensland and the University of Exeter shows PIMs have a "minimal impact" on this.

The findings show that foot muscles are important for helping us push against the ground during walking and running. This suggests that strong foot muscles could be key to our ability to walk and run.

"Recent research suggests that muscles in our feet are key to how the foot functions during walking and running," said lead author Dr Dominic Farris, of the University of Exeter.

"Our study provides direct evidence showing the significance of these foot muscles in supporting the performance of the human foot.

"Contrary to expectations, PIMs contribute minimally to supporting the arch of the foot during walking and running.

"However, these muscles do influence our ability to produce forward propulsion from one stride into the next."

To test PIMs, the researchers compared foot and lower limb movement with and without a nerve block that prevented contraction of these muscles.

During ground contact in walking and running, the stiffness of the foot arch was not altered by the block, showing that the PIMs' contribution to arch support is minimal, probably due to their small size.

However, with the PIMs blocked, the distal joints of the foot could not be stiffened sufficiently to provide normal push off against the ground.

"This could have implications for understanding conditions such as flat feet, the value of training foot muscles and ideas around potential benefits of running barefoot," said Dr Farris.

"It turns out these muscles aren't important for supporting the arch of the foot, but they are important for propelling us forwards when we walk or run."
-end-
The paper, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is entitled: "The functional importance of human foot muscles for bipedal locomotion."

The University of Exeter and The University of Queensland have partnered to establish the QUEX Institute, a new multi-million pound partnership designed to bolster their joint global research impact.

University of Exeter

Related Evolution Articles:

Prebiotic evolution: Hairpins help each other out
The evolution of cells and organisms is thought to have been preceded by a phase in which informational molecules like DNA could be replicated selectively.
How to be a winner in the game of evolution
A new study by University of Arizona biologists helps explain why different groups of animals differ dramatically in their number of species, and how this is related to differences in their body forms and ways of life.
The galloping evolution in seahorses
A genome project, comprising six evolutionary biologists from Professor Axel Meyer's research team from Konstanz and researchers from China and Singapore, sequenced and analyzed the genome of the tiger tail seahorse.
Fast evolution affects everyone, everywhere
Rapid evolution of other species happens all around us all the time -- and many of the most extreme examples are associated with human influences.
Landscape evolution and hazards
Landscapes are formed by a combination of uplift and erosion.
New insight into enzyme evolution
How enzymes -- the biological proteins that act as catalysts and help complex reactions occur -- are 'tuned' to work at a particular temperature is described in new research from groups in New Zealand and the UK, including the University of Bristol.
The evolution of Dark-fly
On Nov. 11, 1954, Syuiti Mori turned out the lights on a small group of fruit flies.
A look into the evolution of the eye
A team of researchers, among them a zoologist from the University of Cologne, has succeeded in reconstructing a 160 million year old compound eye of a fossil crustacean found in southeastern France visible.
Is evolution more intelligent than we thought?
Evolution may be more intelligent than we thought, according to a University of Southampton professor.
The evolution of antievolution policies
Organized opposition to the teaching of evolution in public schoolsin the United States began in the 1920s, leading to the famous Scopes Monkey trial.

Related Evolution Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...