Fresh old ideas
By Arnold Malone
Pioneer Columnist

Our toes seem so innocent, all in a row at the front of our feet. Most of the time, we pay little attention or assign much importance to them.

Yet, one of the first things that new parents do upon the birth of their child is check to make sure that there are ten fingers and ten toes. Once assured, most give up fussing about the family’s toes except for periodic nail trimming.

We do, however, have a curious interest in other people’s toes. At the beach, we observe stubby toes, fat toes, long toes, crooked toes, and wrap over toes like carrots that were planted too close together. Some toes were crammed into shoes that were too small, and they grew to signal that they had been abused.

Our toes have names. Our inner toes are called the Hallux. Only a rare few would have a clue as to what you were talking about if you said, “I stubbed my Hallux.” Best that you use the words, “Big Toe.” The next toe is your pointer toe, followed by your middle toe, then the fore toe and finally names such as, my little toe, baby toe or my pinky. The big toe is a load bearing toe. When you walk, and your foot rotates upward, most of your body weight is then transferred to your big toe.

The average person walks 100,000 miles in a lifetime. It is our big toe that has allowed us humans to walk upright.

Some Canadians have designer toes. These are toes that are coloured. Some flesh coloured and others brightly illuminated with primary colours. Some persons add sparkles. Such toes become the decorative part of open-toe shoes.

Fancy toes, the ones that are done up for fashion, are meant to be seen. The wearer of stylised toes wants you to notice them. Otherwise, there would be no purpose in giving them a makeover.

Stylized toes have greater visibility when worn with flip-flops. Flip-flops are those rubber-like soles that have a prong that goes between your big toe and your pointer toe. People my age grew up referring to flip-flops as ‘thongs’. So, readers who are near my well-weathered vintage need to take care and not ask their teen age grandchildren, “Sweetie, would you go get Granny her thongs?” “Thongs” have morphed into different attire for a different location.

Toes are made with a bunch of bones. In fact, one quarter of all of the bones in our bodies are in the foot. Anthropologists indicate that human toes were once larger and spread further apart. Shoes, which have been worn for about 40,000 years, have re-organized our toes to cuddle side-by-side. There are 26 bones in each foot. It has been observed that as our population has become heavier, our foot size has grown larger.

Toes are essential to us humans. Persons who have their toes amputated would give anything to have them back. Our toes allow us to maintain proper posture, retain good balance and provide thrust in our forward motion. If you don’t believe that toes are important for thrust and faster motion, just try moving quickly while wearing ski boots where the toes are held ridged.

The motivation for this article came after I badly stubbed my toes. A “My Left Foot” story. It happened along with such profanity as, “Oh my goodness gracious me, look what I have done now.” For three days, I wore slippers in my woodworking shop. For nearly ten days, my balance was compromised. So, if you are running on an icy slope while carrying an anvil, be extra careful. Wreck your toes, and you may diminish your posture, balance and thrust. “Oh my goodness, look what you have done now.”

Arnold Malone served as MP for Alberta’s Battle River and Crowfoot ridings from 1974 through 1993. He retired to Invermere in 2007.