Degeneration or Evolution: What has happened to the feet of modern humans? | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Degeneration or Evolution: What has happened to the feet of modern humans?

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We are rarely aware that we usually use our little toe, even though it hurts like hell when we bump it against the corner of a piece of furniture. However, there are quite a few stories on social networking sites about people who have some kind of problem with their little toe nails, such as peeling, loss of the toenail, or the fact that it is as small as a grain of rice.

In fact, in recent years, we have even heard that children’s toenails are getting shorter. Could it be that the little toe is degenerating due to overuse? What will happen to deformed little toes and nails if they are left untreated? We spoke with Kaoru Takayama, a dermatologist specializing in foot care and the director of the Japanese Society of Foot Care and Podiatry and the representative director of the Foot Education Research Group.

Stories of people having problems with their little toe nails, such as cracking, peeling, or losing them, have become a hot topic on social networking sites.

Deformed nails are proof that the little toe is not being used properly!

It is said that the little toe of the foot basically supports the body’s weight as it moves outwards. Normally, if the little toe can hold its foot properly, it should also help the nail to hold down.”


“The weight of the body is pulled into the ground by gravity, and the fingers are then subjected to a downward force from the ground in reaction to the weight. In order to use the belly of the finger properly, it is better to have a hard object on top that acts as a lid, and that is the nail. This allows us to use the tips of the fingers efficiently.”

Nails are the hardened horny layer on the surface of the skin. In both hands and feet, finger bones do not extend all the way to the tips of the fingers, and the nails protect the tips of the fingers and enhance their function. When walking, the nails support the force received from the ground from above, allowing the toes to grip the ground and kick backward.

“But I don’t think most people realize this. People walk around with shoes on, and in Japan, the asphalt is very well laid out, so people don’t feel the fine power of their toes in their daily lives. Especially the little finger, I think.”

People with deformed little toe nails that are thickened, turned sideways, or as small as a grain of rice…… may not be able to use their little toes properly.

People with deformed little toe nails that are thickened, turned sideways, or as small as a grain of rice, they may not be able to use their little toes properly.

If the nails are deformed, are the fingers not functioning as they should?

“If anything, I imagine that the force is not properly applied to the finger in the first place, so the nail becomes deformed as well. The fact that the little finger bends or the little finger nail becomes smaller means that the little finger is not being used properly.”


“Theoretically, if the little finger is not being used, it should not be able to step on the ground when the force swings outward. This could lead to stress on the knees, hips, and lower back, as well as difficulty in holding posture.”

“For example, when I make a “goo” with my hand, I just lift my pinky finger a little bit, and I don’t feel much strength. I think this is what is happening with the feet.”

Indeed, when you lift your pinky toe to make a goo, you can see that your fist is not firmly compressed. So, if a person has a deformed toenail or crooked little toe, does that mean that he or she is walking with little strength in the foot?

“Well, it’s not well-balanced. The feet are the foundation. The weight shifts there so that the person can move forward, but because the weight shift is not efficient, there is a burden on some part. Then, and this is just a guess, people who are not able to use their little toes properly may have bad knees, or they may hurt their hip joints, and so on.”

“When walking, the body weight enters from the outside of the heel and rotates from the little finger side to the thumb side and out with the fingertips, pushing the ground with the fingertips, so naturally, if you use all your fingers when pushing, you can use more force. For example, when jumping and landing, there is less blurring of the knee with five fingers than with four.”

Degeneration or evolution? Children’s little toes are getting shorter.

We hear that children’s little toes are getting shorter, perhaps because they do not have to step on them as much in their shoe-wearing lives. It is said that the little toes may be degenerating.

“I heard on NHK that the little toe is one of the organs that are on the verge of degeneration. I wondered if that was really true.”

What does it mean to have a crooked little toe?

“It is not a crooked toe, but a nail that points sideways instead of up. It does not mean that the nail is crooked, but that the bone of the little finger is crooked.”


“That is not something that can be cured as an adult. It’s formed as a child, and then it just gets worse and gets worse as an adult. In elementary school, it is already too late. Once the bones are attached like that, it means that they cannot be healed.”

“If you are not aware of it, it will get worse, so it is important to find it while it is still a mild disease and deal with it as soon as possible. It is important to be conscious of using your fingers properly so that they don’t get any worse.”

In this age of 100-year life expectancy, it is important to maintain a healthy life expectancy. We must maintain the health of our feet so that we can walk for a long time. To do so, it is essential to be aware of the importance of proper use of the toes.

Volleyball shoes are designated or recommended by many schools as the standard indoor shoes. At first glance, these shoes look easy to wear, but the soles are soft and the heels cannot be supported by the simple rubber tape that is threaded through the back of the shoes.

Be conscious of keeping all five toes on the ground when standing or sitting.

So, what should we pay attention to in our daily lives in order to maintain healthy feet?

“If you have thickened nails, you should file them to keep them as close to their normal shape as possible. It is also a good idea to keep your nails moisturized with creams, etc. on a daily basis, and if your little finger is a little crooked, you should get into the habit of stretching it.”


“It is also important to be conscious of keeping all five fingers on the ground. Even when you are sitting, your body weight is on the ground, so even when you are sitting, you should keep all five fingers on the ground as well. Just being aware of this makes a big difference.”

“For example, if you have ingrown toenails, it is because you are not receiving the force from the ground, so if you change the way you sit so that your fingers are touching the ground, it may help.”

Even though toenails are small, they play an important role in standing and walking. If left unchecked, toenails can cause pain and abnormalities that eventually lead to difficulty in walking. If you feel any abnormality, it is necessary to visit a dermatologist to learn about your symptoms and the correct way to care for them.

Five-toed socks come to mind when one talks about being aware of one’s toes, but how are they actually good for the feet?

“If you only have five separate toes, you’re about 50 points short. I like the type of socks that are commonly found in sports socks, the ones that tighten the lateral arches. If there is elastic in the lateral arch and it is further divided into five pieces, you can use your fingers well.”

“If you can use your fingers properly, you can prevent problems and injuries. It also improves performance, but more than that, it protects the knee because the knee does not sway when the five fingers are properly placed on the ground.”

Does it affect the knees most directly?

“All of them. The body is connected, so think of the hips and neck as interlocking building blocks. If the foot changes, the joints above it will always change, so you should think that if the foot is deformed, the rest of the body is deformed as well. The little toe is probably the first body trouble you see.”

Wear shoes that allow you to use your fingers well. Volleyball shoes for “upper wear” are actually a no-no!

It is certainly important to choose the right shoes, but what points should we keep in mind? There are some surprising misconceptions.

“Shoes should be tied properly with laces, and the fingers should be able to move inside the shoes well. The heel should be securely fastened to the point where the fingers bend, and the shoes should be of a shape that allows the fingers to move well.”

“Of course, TPO is acceptable. However, it does not mean that loose and comfortable shoes are the way to go. Loose shoes do not tighten the lateral arches, so the fingers do not move.”

“If this is true, ballet shoes worn in elementary schools are the worst. I really hope they don’t make use of it anymore.”

Volleyball shoes have been the norm for decades since the 1950s. Elementary school students spend a great deal of time wearing them. In many cases, they are still worn when exercising in the gymnasium.

In fact, many experts are sounding the alarm that these shoes are not suitable for either exercise or evacuation. As one would expect, the opinions of experts should be taken into consideration.

It is said that many people today, not only children, are missing the second joint of the little toe. Is this a sign of degeneration or evolution?

“I am not sure about that. But when you look at X-rays, many people have bones that should be separated there, but are instead attached to each other.”


“So you are talking about the lack of a second joint, or, well, I don’t know how consistent it is, but I would guess that it is so. Do you see it as a degeneration or evolution, or do you see it as some kind of trouble considering that many children have crooked little toes?”

As for pinky toenail problems, many are caused by the choice of shoes, with pressure from high heels, tight shoes that do not fit the width of the foot, etc., or conversely, friction with the shoes caused by loose shoes. However, at the root of the problem is the deformation of the little toe bone itself. This has been happening since elementary school.

If the little finger is not used well, will it eventually degenerate? Incidentally, it seems that horses’ hooves also degenerated.

In the case of horses, it is the result of gradual evolution to run faster, but what is the reason for the degeneration of human fingers?

Kaoru Takayama is a physician and medical doctor. Chief of the Department of Dermatology at Saiseikai Kawaguchi General Hospital and Clinical Associate Professor at Tokyo Medical and Dental University Hospital. Specializing in contact dermatitis and foot care, he established an outpatient orthotics clinic, an outpatient medical foot care clinic, and an outpatient foot care clinic with gait classes at Tokyo Medical and Dental University Hospital to solve foot problems from the root. He also serves as a delegate of the “Foot Education Study Group” established for the purpose of “a society where people can walk on their own feet until they are 100 years old” and conducts educational activities on foot care. He is a board member of the Japanese Society of Foot Care and Podiatry and the Japan Total Foot Management Association. Author of “Special Self-Care for Ingrown Nails, Incurved Nails, and Hallux Valgus” (Makino Shuppan) and “Dermatologist’s Teaching Really Right Foot Care” (Ie no Hikari Kyokai).

  • Interview and text by Kayo Fujioka

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