The Magnificent Human Feet

Have you ever stopped for a minute to think about your feet? Probably not. But if they ever bother you, then they you’ll think about them all the time. In fact, there is even an old saying that “When your feet hurt, you hurt all over.” I think we can all attest to this!

The human feet are a magnificent thing. Did you know that the human foot is a separate organ?

It’s a strong, complex mechanical structure composed of 26 bones, 33 joints, and more than a hundred muscles, tendons, and ligaments. They must all must work together to function properly and last a lifetime.

So, what exactly makes up a foot?

First let’s start with the skin. Did you know that the skin on your feet helps to protect against disease? Not only that, but the skin helps to regulate body temperature and detects touch, pain, heat and cold. Like our fingernails, our ten toenails help to protect, however, their true significance is under debate among many foot experts and scholars.

Underneath the skin, fat works to protect, cushion and insulate the foot. The nerves, arteries and veins control motor activity, sensation, blood flow and nutrient circulation. 

Okay, now that we’ve got that covered, let’s look at why we really have feet and their functions.  

First and foremost, the function of the foot is to help stabilize us when we are standing.  Obviously without our feet we wouldn’t be able to stand!


And how exactly does the foot stabilize?  

As mentioned earlier, the foot structure is accomplished by the 26 bones held in place by their surrounding stabilizing ligaments, muscles and tendons. Some of these are inside the foot, and others begin in the leg and cross either the front, rear and sides of the ankle joint to attach to the bones of the foot. Simply put – a well working foot is said to keep us in proper balance.

The next most important function of the foot is movement. Movement can include walking, running, twisting, turning, starting, stopping, jumping, and when we are babies scooting and crawling. This is all made possible by muscles, some which are entirely inside the foot (called intrinsic muscles) and some which are located outside the foot, but attach with their long tendons inside the foot (these are called extrinsic muscles). 

The next function is one that sets us humans apart from other mammals – the ability to stand upright. Unlike other mammals, our feet enable us to stand and maintain body posture.   


Finally, the foot has the ability to flex, curl and grip with its toes. This is sometimes an overlooked function, however, it plays a key role when wearing sandals, where toe gripping is essential to avoid slipping out.

Now that we’ve got the basic foot functions covered, let’s talk about what can go wrong with the foot and how we can prevent foot problems.

Like most machines with continued use, gradual breakdown occurs over time. However, with routine care and maintenance their lives can be extended. The same holds true for the foot.

Each part of the foot has the ability to function properly, but they also have the possibility to malfunction as well. Poor diets, lack of exercise, ageing, diabetes, traumatic injuries, repetitive stress injuries and neurological conditions can all play a toll on your foot health.

So, what can you do to help maintain healthy feet?

As a podiatrist, I know how important shoes come into play in protecting the feet and ensuring proper function of the feet. The importance of properly designed and high-quality manufactured shoes cannot be overstated.  

Poor quality shoes, improperly fitting shoes or wearing of the wrong shoe for the required activity can cause temporary or chronic pain, and in some instances, contribute to permanent damage to the feet. I personally love wearing Samuel Hubbards and recommend them to my patients for their superior comfort and support.

And on that note, it’s important to schedule regular or periodic foot examination by a trained medical professional, D.P.M. (Doctor Podiatry Medicine), like myself. 

Thanks for reading and be sure to take good care of your feet. They have to last a lifetime!


Dr. Keith L Gurnick is a Podiatry Specialist in Los Angeles, California. He graduated with honors from California College Podiatric Medicine in 1980. Having more than 37 years of diverse experiences, especially in podiatry, Dr. Keith L Gurnick affiliates with no hospital, and cooperates with other doctors and specialists without joining any medical groups. Call Dr. Keith L Gurnick on phone number (310) 553-7691 for more information or to book an appointment.