To celebrate One Day Without Shoes, which encourages people to go barefoot to highlight the need for better footwear in developing countries, we look at some top pieces of trivia about those most lowly of bodily parts – the feet!
During a lifetime, a human being will walk around 185,000 km, which is enough to circle the earth four times! This averages out at 10,000 steps a day.
Of course, some people will walk greater distances that others. Many women in Africa, for example, must walk more than 6 km a day – barefoot – just to get water.
Despite being relatively small in themselves, feet account for a massive 25% of the number of bones in a human body.
A foot contains 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments and 19 muscles. There’s plenty to go wrong if they aren’t adequately protected.
In the animal kingdom, feet aren’t just used for walking and standing. Butterflies taste with their feet, elephants hear through their feet (by picking up vibrations from the ground), and gannets incubate eggs beneath their webbed feet.
Squirrels and dogs are known to have extremely sweaty feet. Their sweat glands are located between their footpads and toes meaning that if they get hot or excited, the tracks they leave are wet. This foot sweat is also used to mark out territory.
There are around 250,000 sweat glands in a pair of human feet. These can produce up to half a pint (200 ml) of sweat a day.
When running, the pressure on feet can be up to four times the runner’s body weight.
Fingernails and toenails grow more rapidly in warm weather, as well as during pregnancy and adolescence.
As many as nine in every ten women in the developed world wear shoes that are too small for them.
Statistically, women have four times as many foot problems as men, with high heels partly to blame.
Even though shoes can because you foot trouble, be extra careful when going barefoot. Places such as communal showers can be a hotbed of nasty diseases such as athlete’s foot, plantar warts and ringworm.
In developing countries, a lack of shoes can leave people vulnerable to all manner of soil-transmitted diseases and parasites, from hookworm and jiggers to podoconiosis and the potentially fatal tetanus.