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Monkey Feet May Be More Common in Humans Than Once Thought

More people than you might think are walking around on flexible feet suited to climbing trees.

Monkey Feet

Have you ever felt like walking on the ground is a fine way to get from point A to point B, but not really your thing? Can you identify a good climbing tree from a hundred paces? If so, you may have a condition known to medicine as “monkey feet.”* Don’t be embarrassed, though — according to some recent studies, as many as 1 in 13 people around the world may have feet that didn’t get the evolutionary memo about ground-based, bipedal locomotion and remain well-equipped for clambering up a tree at a moment’s notice. 

It’s commonly accepted that humans have pretty rigid feet, suited for covering long distances over mostly flat terrain. A recent study from researchers at Boston University, though, calls that notion into question. Reporting their results in the journal Physical Anthropology, Jeremy DeSilva and Simone Gill found that of 400 subjects they studied, 8% had a level of flexibility in the middle of their feet that resembles the flexibility found in apes. A soon to be published study from the University of Liverpool backs up that data, New Scientist reports.

To determine if you’ve got a flexible foot, take a look at your midfoot between the ball and heel. Most people have a hard ligament running there that keeps the foot nice and rigid for enjoying long walks on the beach, or savannah, if your prefer. If you have a softer ligament there, though, you might see more flexibility in the foot — a sure sign of “monkey feet.”**

It’s generally not enough of a difference to change how you walk, say researchers. But it probably wouldn’t hurt to try your hand feet at tree-climbing. Tis the season, after all.

*No, not really.

**Again, not a real term, I cannot stress this enough.

(via New Scientist)

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