Following Genetic Footsteps

The above image has been dancing around the internet for a number of years now, claiming that there are 5 styles of foot that can determine your genetic roots.  One would think that something as clearly marked as the picture would be an easy find to make.  This is why one should never trust the internet.  If you were to look up “Greek Foot”, you would find that feet that have a longer second toe than big toe are actually quite popular on foot fetish websites.  Odd thing to learn about, odder still to find out that foot fetishes are the most common of the assorted different interests that people express.  But less about the web and more about the genetics of feet.

Greek feet, better known as Morton’s Toe, actually are normal feet that have a genetic defect that causes a shortening of the big toe.  Calling it a defect is a loose wording because the toe shape actually does little to nothing in terms of pain or damage to the foot itself.  At the very most, those who have Morton’s Toe find their feet callousing in odd locations.  The name “Greek foot” comes from the sculptures that Greek artists did that idolized that particular shape above all others.  The Greek foot has become surprisingly common in art; for example, the Statue of Liberty in New York is one of the most famous Greek foot having artworks on the planet.  It has also been known as ancestral feet as well as Neanderthal feet (possibly a reference to the idea that it was similar to the prehensile feet of monkeys and early ideas of hominids).

Roman feet are also known as Giselle feet, or in the more rough hewn way of saying it, “peasant feet”.  Peasant feet are stumpy little flat toes on the end of the foot, considered to be the best case scenario for ballerina feet.  While Greek foot’d ballerinas run the risk of busting a secondary toe, a Roman foot ballerina has what many ballet instructors consider to be the strongest shape for the en pointe style of dancing because three toes form the base of the point rather than a single big toe.

Where the interesting divides begin are in the discussion of Celtic and Germanic feet.  Phyllis Jackson, an English podiatrist during World War II began to find that Scottish, Welsh, Cornish and Irish refugees would come to him with horrid bunions on their feet because of ill fitting shoes.  Jackson began to realize that the people had dramatically differently shaped feet when compared to the English living in the area.  His assumption was that the foot shapes were a result of genetics, and after the war ended, he took up amateur archaeology to figure out if the feet were a result of genetics.  His findings were completely counter to what he thought, finding that ancient buried Saxons and Scots had traditionally “English” feet.  As a result, his findings were never subjected to peer review nor were they given any real thought.

In recent years, people have begun to figure out the genetics of foot shape.  A professor at the University of Delaware made the claim that toe length is linked to multiple genes, making it a substantially more tangled concept than simply “are you from Africa, you have Egyptian feet, Are you from Germany, you have Roman feet”.  In all likelihood, toe and foot shape is more decided by environment and diet in combination with genetics than it is by genetics alone.  Regardless of advances in understanding, the designations that we use to describe toe and foot shape are permanently linked to the belief that a group of people would have a specific style of shoe.  For that reason, anyone can have a Greek foot without having a single connection to the Greeks.