to explain the fact that a major contrast
exists between the design of the human
foot and that of all other primates.
1. Harcourt-Smith, W.E.H. and Aiello, L.C.,
Fossils, feet and the evolution of human bipedal
Locomotion, J. Anatomy 204:403–416, 2004.
2. Chapman, G., Useless left overs? No. 82, Is your
little toe Useless? Creation Recourses Trust,
United Kingdom, 2017.
3. Shapiro, H.L., Man—500,000 years from now,
Natural History Magazine , November–December
4. See photo at 44wj5q2j6wo23s4mp6owjohh-
5. Zhang, S., Do I really need my pinky toe? And
without it, could I do everything a five-toed
human does? 2013, https://tinyurl.com/y8ayxg5v.
6. Shapiro, ref. 3, p. 2.
7. Gallart, J.D., González, J., Valero, J., Serrano, D.P.,
and Lahoz, M., Biphalangeal/triphalangeal fifth
toe and impact in the pathology of the fifth ray,
BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 15:295, 2014.
8. Ingfei, C., Born to run, Discover 27( 5): 63–67,
9. Heinrich, B., Why We Run, HarperCollins Ecco,
New York, p. 160, 2002.
10. Keim, B., These toes were made for running,
Science, 2009; wired.com/2009/02/runningtoes/.
11. Bramble, D.M. and Lieberman, D.E., Endurance
running and the evolution of Homo, Nature
432:345–352, 2004; p. 348.
12. Rolian, C., Lieberman, D.E., Hamill, J., Scott,
J. W., and Werbel, W., Walking, running and the
evolution of short toes in humans, J. Experimental
Biology 212:713–721, 2009; p. 713.
13. Ingfei, ref. 8, p. 63.
14. Inman, V. T., Ralston, H.J., and Todd, F., Human
Walking, Williams & Wilkins, Baltimore, MD,
p. 127, 1981.
15. Leonard, M.H. and Rising, E., Syndactylization
to maintain correction of overlapping 5th toe,
Clinical Orthopaedics & Related Research 43:
241–244, November/December 1965; p. 241.
overheating, many animals, such as
wolves and hyenas, which have no
sweat glands to cool their bodies,
require cold weather or nightfall
for long-distance hunting. This is
why many large cats hunt at night.
The endurance running achieved
by humans sets us apart from all
mammals. The best example is
the human 42. 2 km ( 26. 2 miles)
marathon, which very few mammals
can achieve except horses, some
artiodactyls, and perhaps the African
wild dog (Lycaon pictus) under ideal
circumstances. 13 One major reason
is that the design of the human toes,
including the 5th toe, is critical in
achieving this running feat. 14
Studies on the effect of amputation
are also a source of information about
the function of the 5th toe, due to the
high frequence of issues reported as a
result of its loss.
A very common issue, especially in
women, is hammer toe involving the
5th toe, in which it overlaps the 4th toe.
This is often caused by high-heeled
shoes or shoes that force the feet into
unnatural shapes, such as pointed-toe
shoes or poorly fitting shoes. This
condition causes significant problems
in walking, which indicates the
importance of the 5th toe. 15 Hammer
toe can also be caused by lack of
exercise, such as from lying down for
long periods of time, diabetes, and
diseases that affect the nerves and
This evidence supports the
conclusion that the small toe is not
vestigial, but serves an important
role in not only balance and walking
normally, but also in the exceptional
human skill of endurance running and
other activities, such as certain dances.
The human foot is designed so that all
parts function as a system, and the loss
of the 5th toe results in significant loss
of foot function and adaptation level.
This skill (running, dancing, etc.) helps
Designed for running
University of Calgary evolutionist
Campbell Rolian concluded that our
short, stubby toes are custom-designed
for running, noting:
“Biomechanical analysis shows
that long toes require more energy
and generate more shock than
short toes … . Longer toes require
muscles to do more work, and exert
stronger forces to maintain stability,
compared to shorter toes … as
we were engaged in substantial
amounts of running, natural
selection would favor individuals
with shorter toes.” 10
Most mammals that can run
efficiently, such as cats, dogs, and
horses, have very short toes and often
paws composed almost entirely of
palms. Most primates—including
our alleged closest relative, the chimpanzee—have proportionately much
longer toes than do humans. Human
toes are comparatively small, capable
only of minor extending and flexing.
Specifically, the human foot consists
of only 9% of the total adult leg mass,
compared to about 14% in adult
Research led by Rolian examined
the theory that our foot’s physiological
design can be explained by our
exceptional running skill. They found
no significant increase in digital
flexor energy output associated with
longer toes in walking. Conversely,
multiple regression analyses, based
on their sample, found, when running,
“increasing average relative toe length
by as little as 20% doubles peak digital
flexor impulses and mechanical work,
probably also increasing the metabolic
cost of generating these forces. The
increased mechanical cost associated
with long toes in running suggests that
modern human forefoot proportions”
confer a clear advantage in endurance
running for humans. 12
Few animals are capable of long-distance running, and fewer can do
so in the blazing sun. To prevent