Are your feet normal??

There’s no such thing as normal: variety in healthy feet

Article by Timothy Maiden

Tim photo

Senior Podiatrist at The Foot Practice (Singapore)

“Is it normal?” must be one of the most commonly asked questions in medical history.

There’s actually been surprisingly little research done on ‘normal’ feet in adults.  Because feet are hidden away in shoes most of the time, we don’t see the natural variation the way we do with facial features or body shape.  People only seek medical help if they’re in pain, so there’s lots of research done about conditions like bunions or hammer toes, but very little done about the range of different shapes which characterise healthy feet.

The rough estimate is that around 11% of adults have flat feet (, while high arches affect around 10-15% (, and everyone else is ‘normal’.  The statistics indicate that children have higher rates of foot deformities – but perhaps this is just because attentive parents take their children to the doctor for fairly mild problems, whereas adults are less keen to seek help for themselves. (

Feet are often divided into categories according to their appearance.  “Peasant” feet are square-looking with stubby toes all a similar length; “Greek” feet have a peaked appearance, with the second toe longer than the big toe; and “Egyptian” feet look tapered, with the big toe the longest and the others of decreasing sizes.  But these aren’t medical descriptions, just loose descriptions used by shoe manufacturers. (

The official description of a normal foot, as found in medical textbooks, is a list of features written by a long-dead podiatrist and never really tested by science (  Sydney University is currently conducting a “1000 Norms” project, collecting and analysing data on the anatomy of healthy people (, but it will be years until the project is completed and we have a clearer picture.

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Tarsal tunnel Syndrome


Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome


Tarsal tunnel syndrome is a similar condition like carpal tunnel syndrome, where the symptoms are caused from compression of the nerve. The location of tarsal tunnel is inner side of the ankle and the nerve getting compressed is posterior tibial nerve. It is covered with a thick ligament known as flexor retinaculum and base is formed by ankle bones.

Symptoms usually start gradually and get worse overtime. Common symptoms are pain, numbness, tingling and burning sensation over inner side of ankle and sole of the foot. It might result in loss of sensation overtime. Symptoms are constant, i.e. present all the time and are aggravated with activity like walking and running.

People suffering from tarsal tunnel syndrome find it difficult to stand or walk for prolonged time. Movements like eversion (moving foot outwards) and dorsiflexion (moving foot upwards) gets limited as they provoke the symptoms. Same as carpal tunnel symptoms may become worse in the night.

Read causes and treatment options of Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome on Page 2