Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Human Foot Not Unique after All

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Human Foot Not Unique after All

Article excerpt

Research at the University of Liverpool has shown that the mechanisms of the human foot are not as unique as originally thought and have much more in common with the flexible feet of other great apes.

Current understanding of the evolution of human walking is based on research from the 1930s, which proposes that human feet function very differently from those of other apes, due to the development of arches in the mid-foot region and its supposed rigidity on the outside edge of the foot.

In a study of more than 25,000 human steps made on a pressure-sensitive treadmill at the University's Gait Laboratory, scientists at Liverpool have shown that even though we abandoned life in the trees long ago, our feet have retained a surprising amount of flexibility, the type seen in the feet of orangutans and chimpanzees, which have remained largely tree-dwelling.

"Our ancestors probably first developed flexibility in their feet when they were primarily tree-dwelling," says Karl Bates of the university's Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease, "but as time passed, some new features evolved to enable us to move quickly on the ground. …

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