The longitudinal arch (LA) helps stiffen the foot during walking, but many people in developed countries suffer from flat foot, a condition characterized by reduced LA stiffness that can impair gait. Studies have found this condition is rare in people who are habitually barefoot or wear minimal shoes compared to people who wear conventional modern shoes, but the basis for this difference remains unknown. Here we test the hypothesis that the use of shoes with features that restrict foot motion (e.g. arch supports, toe boxes) is associated with weaker foot muscles and reduced foot stiffness. We collected data from minimally-shod men from northwestern Mexico and men from urban/suburban areas in the United States who wear ‘conventional’ shoes. We measured dynamic LA stiffness during walking using kinematic and kinetic data, and the cross-sectional areas of three intrinsic foot muscles using ultrasound. Compared to conventionally-shod individuals, minimally-shod individuals had higher and stiffer LAs, and larger abductor hallucis and abductor digiti minimi muscles. Additionally, abductor hallucis size was positively associated with LA stiffness during walking. Our results suggest that use of conventional modern shoes is associated with weaker intrinsic foot muscles that may predispose individuals to reduced foot stiffness and potentially flat foot.


As bipeds, humans have evolved dramatically different feet from other primates1. One of the most distinctive features of the human foot is the longitudinal arch (LA), whose anatomical scaffold is created by the conformation of the tarsal and metatarsal bones, and which is reinforced by numerous soft tissue structures that span the plantar surface of the foot......... Join StrengthCoach.com today to read the full report....