How An Arch On The Foot Helped Hominids Walk Upright

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A new study suggests that the arch running across the width of each of our feet might be one of the reasons as to why humans have evolved to stand and walk upright on two legs.

Evolutionary Arch

If you look at your foot, you’d find that there is actually a prominent arch along its inside, running from ball to heel. Given its placement, it’s fair to say that these arches help make the feet stiff enough to be able to withstand forces on the feet that’s caused by walking, running or even jumping. However, what most people don’t know is that there’s another less obvious arch.

It may not be directly obvious, but the bones in the middle of our feet, which are called metatarsals, are actually arranged in a curve across our feet’s width. Per scientists, this bend is called the transverse tarsal arch, which stiffens the foot in a lengthwise fashion and may have been something that we evolved to have some 3.4 million years ago. In fact, the new study suggests that it might even be a large step forward as to why our ancestors were able to slowly learn how to walk upright using only two feet.

According to scientists, the role that this arch plays in our foot is similar to what happens when you curl a piece of paper.

“Hold [a dollar bill] with your fingers at one end of its length, and it flops down. But press down with your thumb to slightly curl it along the width, and the bill will stiffen and become straighter,” Madhusudhan Venkadesan, a mechanical engineer at Yale University, said.

Per the experts behind the study, understanding how humans went from walking on all fours to only using two feet can be especially helpful in designing better prosthetics for people who are born with flat feet.

“The study is exciting for those of us that live and die for foot evolution. It is an excellent example of combining traditional biological anthropology with engineering principles to better understand aspects of the foot,” Patricia Kramer, a paleobiomechanist at the University of Washington in Seattle who was not involved in the work, said.

With the findings published Wednesday in the scientific journal Nature, the team behind it reportedly examined the skeletal remains of human ancestors and ran experiments as to what would happen if the arch wasn’t there.

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