Sunday, June 24, 2012

8 Funky Foot Facts

This article originally appeared in Everyday Health and was written by Amy Solomon.
1. Did you know that your foot contains 26 bones, 33 joints, more than 100 tendons, muscles, and ligaments, and a whopping 250,000 sweat glands? That may seem like a lot of anatomy in a relatively small package, but then again, your feet are charged with the very important task of supporting the entire body. And as we all know, it's hard to concentrate on anything when your feet hurt, but they're surprisingly susceptible to injury- from everyday calluses and corns to more serious problems like diabetic neuropathy.
2. There's more to infant feet than those kissable toes. Part of what may make babies' feet so cute is their structure. All babies are born with a pad of fat where an arch would normally be in an adult foot, which makes them appear flat and cutely chubby. In fact, arches don't usually show up until children are about 2 1/2 years old. But an infant's soft little feet will get tougher with age. The skin on your foot soles is the thickest on the body, next to the palms of the feet. According to Dr. Sears, it's also normal for a baby's feet and legs to bow inward, because of the curled-up position of the fetus in the womb.
3. After a baby is born, the obstetrician usually checks for 10 little fingers and 10 little toes. But occasionally,
a surprise may turn up- an extra digit (or two). Extra fingers and toes are known as polydactylism, and the condition is reported in 1-2 children of every 1,000 children. In 2010 a Chinese boy had 6 extra toes removed from his feet, along with 5 extra fingers. Some famous faces have also been rumored to have more-than-usual number of toes, including Halle Berry and Marilyn Monroe.
4. We all know that Americans bodies are getting bigger, but what about our feet? In the United States, the best-selling shoe size is 8.5 for women and 10.5 for men. Those are both up a full size from 30 years ago. If think you know your correct size, a 2011 report published in the Journal of Foot & Ankle Surgery suggests more than 35% of people underestimated by at least half a size.
5. Compared to fingernails, toenails grow much more slowly- about 1 mm per month, whereas fingernails grow an average of .1mm a day. It takes at least 5 to 6 months to grow an entirely new toenail. How long can toenails grow? The current record holder for the longest toenails is Louise Hollis of Compton, CA, who set the record back in 1991. Hollis boasts 6-inch-long nails on each toe, which she's been growing since 1982. She only wears open-toed shoes. Your toenails also hold all kinds of clues to your overall health, including whether you're anemic (spoon-shaped indentations), or have poor blood circulation (hairless toes), or psoriasis (pits in the nail surface).
6. Did you know you could flirt with your feet? When a woman is attracted to a man, she's likely to move her feet away from her body, in a more open space. Signs she's not interested? Sitting cross-legged or with her feet tucked under her body. And while men don't display attraction through their foot position, they also send emotional signals with their tootsies. Men tend to move their feet more when they are nervous, while jittery women keep their feet still. Many people find feet sexy, but for some, a sexual interest in feet is particularly intense. Also known as podophilia, foot fetishism focuses on the foot as an object of sexual desire. It's fairly common- a study of 381 online fetish groups found that feet (and related objects like shoes) were by far the most popular subject. Famous people like Quentin Tarantino, Ludacris, and Tommy Lee have foot fetishes.
7. Ahh, nothing feels better than going barefoot in the summer. But some people believe it's your right to go barefoot all year long, and not just at the beach. Organizations like the Society for Barefoot Living believe that wearing shoes is not just unnecessary, it could actually be harmful to foot health and lead to flat feet and deformities. And proponents of barefoot running say it can strengthen feet and reduce injuries. For people with diabetes, though, going barefoot can be dangerous because nerve damage makes it difficult to feel when the foot is injured.
8. Yes, feet can get stinky. But it's not wonder, since each one contains 250,000 sweat glands. While the sweat itself doesn't smell, socks and shoes can trap odor-causing bacteria which thrive in dark, damp environments. The good news is that your malodorous feet can actually win you some cash. Each year, Odor-Eaters, a company that makes odor-neutralizing shoe insoles holds a national Rotten Sneaker contest, where contestants are judged not just on the condition of their kicks but their smell. The 2011 winner was 9-year-old winner "Sterling B", from Benjamin, UT, who took home a cool $2,500 for having the foulest footwear. And if you think your job is bad, Madeline Albrecht, who worked for a testing lab used by the footwear company Dr. Scholl, had the uneviable task of performing smell tests on both feet and armpits. She holds the Guinness World Record for number of feet smelled- 5,600.
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