Function, Not Form

In over 11 years of practicing NYC podiatry, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing some, shall we say, interesting feet. Toes that, due to nature or nurture, point to many different directions of the compass and feet that look, well, painful. However, some of these feet are brought in by their owners due to severe, chronic pain, while others are functioning just fine. So what’s normal? Let’s find out.

As Leonardo da Vinci once famously said: “The foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.” That may be true, although I would argue that most brains, hearts, lungs, and other vital organs are just as much a masterpiece, with one crucial difference. Most kidneys, livers, and colons look pretty similar, and are nearly indistinguishable in basic anatomy and function between members of the human race, while feet are unique, distinguishing each of us from our fellows. And for most of us, although there is no “normal” foot, there is an average foot, and even those who veer away from the average manage to function well, albeit with the occasional ingrown nail or plantar fasciitis, and whatever surprises our parents have cooked up for us in the genetic soup of our DNA, as well as the vicissitudes of bipedal locomotion.

Dr. Lowell Scott Weil, team podiatrist for the Chicago White Sox and Bears, once remarked that he had seen some rather unusual feet in his day. And those feet were attached to athletes who were at the top of their game in professional sports. Many feet trample into my office that look painful, and though I’m tempted to treat that flat foot, severe bunion, or nasty hammertoe, the foot is actually functioning well. Sometimes a very flexible foot type can produce a bunion that is not painful and a flat foot can function better than one with an arch. The bottom line is that function is more important than form. If there is pain, it’s important to ascertain the biomechanical and structural source of the problem and if there is no pain, no matter how funky the foot may look, it’s ok to observe and treat conservatively, or not treat at all.

So, if your feet won’t win any modeling contests, fear not. Steven Tyler has been running around the stage for years with a podiatrist’s dream at the end of his high profile legs. And has he stopped in even once to see his friendly local NYC podiatrist? Dream on.

See you in the office.

Ernest Isaacson

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