A third of all the bones in the body are located in our feet. There are 26 of them, and each foot also has 33 joints, 19 muscles, 10 tendons and 107 ligaments.
Shoe size in Britain is measured in barleycorns, a unit of measurement that stretches back to Anglo-Saxon times. Based on the length of a grain of barley, there are three barleycorns to an inch, so each shoe size adds a third of an inch in length to a shoe.
The measuring device in shoe shops is called a Brannock Device, after the inventor who designed it in the Twenties. Mr Brannock worked for the company all his life and ensured the devices were built to last. The firm is still going strong.
Most people do not wear the correct shoe size for their feet. According to David G Armstrong, professor of Surgery at the William M Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine in Chicago, three quarters of people wear the wrong sized shoes.
The reason for this may be that people stick to the size they were measured for when young and fail to realise that their feet change shape. People also like to get the most out of their footwear, and wear and re-wear them even if they no longer fit.
Going barefoot is best for your feet, joints and overall posture. A South African study in the podiatry journal The Foot, in 2007, studied 180 modern humans from three different population groups (Sotho, Zulu, and European) and compared them to 2,000-year-old skeletons. The researchers concluded that people had healthier feet and posture before the invention of shoes. The Zulu, who often go barefoot, had the healthiest feet of the modern humans.
You can’t tell anything about a man from the size of his feet. In 2002, nurses at St. Mary’s Hospital and University College Hospital in London measured the foot size and penis length of 104 men and found there was no link between the two.
Previous studies which had shown there was a mild correlation relied upon asking male subjects for their personal information rather than direct measurement.
Animals can be divided into “plantigrades” — creatures that walk on the whole of their feet (like people, bears, baboons, alligators and frogs) – and “digitigrade” – creatures that walk on their toes (like dogs, cats, birds and dinosaurs). A biped is something with two feet (from the Latin bis, “twice”, and pes, “foot”).
Butterflies taste with their feet, gannets incubate eggs under their webbed feet and elephants use their feet to hear – they pick up vibrations of the earth through their soles.
The word pedigree is derived from the French phrase pied de gru, literally “the foot of a crane”, because the descent lines of family trees look like birds’ feet.
Although centipedes have been extensively studied for more than a century, not one has ever been found that has exactly a hundred feet. Some have more, some less.
The species which came closest to 100 was discovered in 1999. It had 96 legs, and is unique among centipedes in that it is the only known species with an even number of pairs of legs: forty-eight. All other centipedes have odd numbers of pairs of legs ranging between 15 and 191 pairs: that is, 30 and 382 legs.
Squirrels and dogs have sweaty feet: their sweat glands are between the footpads and paws between toes,; when they get hot or excited they leave wet tracks. They also use foot sweat to mark their territorial trees.
“Elvis foot” is climber’s jargon for being so tired that your foot trembles on the rock (it is also known as “disco knee”).
Pronounced “foooo-ty”, this was an 18th-century slang term meaning despicable (as in “a footy fellow”). It probably derives from the French foutu, meaning “ruined”, or more literally,“f—ed”..
The Second Book of General Ignorance by John Lloyd & John Mitchinson (£12.99) is published by Faber & Faber