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The Science Behind: Why We Have Toes

Cover page - Sara Chaudhari

The other day, I was trying to reach the cookie jar on top of the fridge. Ugh, my mom must’ve known I was going to try to get a cookie. Luckily, she forgot that if I stood on my tippy-toes, I would be tall enough to reach the jar. Now I had a delicious cookie and a question: Why do we even have toes? They can’t simply be for the purpose of reaching things you wouldn’t otherwise be able to reach, can they? Well, after doing a little research, I found out that they are not toe-tally useless.

Our toes assist our feet in carrying the weight of our bodies when we are walking. It goes without saying that big toes help us the most, as they are the largest one of our toes. According to Scientific American, big toes bear “about 40 percent of the load”.

Also, your toes make your foot longer, which results in a longer stride when you are walking or running. This means that you can walk and run faster with toes than without.

What would change if you didn’t have one of your toes? “Current absence of a foot or any portion thereof” would disqualify you from the military, according to The Balance Careers. But contrary to what you might think, you could still walk without one or all of your toes. People who have had their toes amputated wear customized shoes to be able to walk; however, they do so with reduced balance and speed. Another way you could walk without toes is if you used prosthetic toes. Prosthetics are fake body parts that people usually get when their original body parts are amputated.

Not only could you walk without toes, but you could also run! In fact, a man named Hunter Woodhall had both his legs (below the knees) amputated, but he was still able to run in the 2016 Paralympic Games. He ran 200 meters in just 21 seconds and won a silver medal!

FUN FACT: Some people’s second toes are longer than their big toes! This condition is known as Morton’s Toe or Greek Toe, and about 10% of the population has it. Sometimes, this condition leads to foot pain.

Hope you enjoyed reading this article! If you want more information on why we have toes or Morton’s Toe, check out the links below.


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