Our feet have way too many bones thanks to our ape-like ancestors who needed their "hand-feet" to climb, which is useless for us now. The ostrich for example has a better feet design with ancestors already living ~230 million years ago (human ancestors ~5 million years ago). enter image description here

Imagine you are a genius scientist Dr Genus and want to create the "perfect" superhumanoid specimen and want to optimize the flawed and basic foot design.

How would you design feet that are flawless and better for upright-walking bipedalism?

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    $\begingroup$ What criteria are we optimizing for? Smallest number of bones? $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 16:28
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling I'm guessing that's relevant but I think they mean reducing as many problems as possible; they expect less bones to be part of that $\endgroup$
    – Zxyrra
    Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 16:47
  • $\begingroup$ Without metrics for what constitutes "perfect" this is really difficult to answer. $\endgroup$
    – Green
    Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 18:23
  • $\begingroup$ You do realize you only are showing about half the the ostrich foot, right? the heel and ankle aren't even shown. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 18:23
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    $\begingroup$ kind of off topic, but I guess the question comes from the assumption that humans' feet are not that good. Actually, they're much better than people think, they're just often degenerated because we wear shoes so much and from such an early age. $\endgroup$
    – Dotan
    Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 18:52

1 Answer 1


Define "perfect." Different terrains favor different feet for different reasons.

For rocky, rough terrain, you want a hoof with a rubbery, gripping bottom on an ankle with wide rotation and a flexible leg (letting them grip terrain at any angle without worrying about sharp stones). For persistence predators on flat ground, our foot is actually quite good - there's a spring tendon in our ankle that conserves our energy over long distances, and we're still capable of digging in our toes and the balls of our feet for a burst of speed. Ambush predators want spring-like legs and wide feet that give them incredible speed and leverage to launch themselves at their prey - inefficient over long distances, but no ambush predator will be going over long distances. Pursuit predators want strong legs for big pushes, caring little about the foot other than "it's big enough to push off the ground well, but not big enough that it's too heavy." Fleeing herbivores like similar legs to pursuit predators - if they can run as well as or better than the predator, they win. I don't even want to get into crazy things like aquatic or aerial creatures. The point is, there is no single "perfect foot" any more than there is a single "perfect creature." There's only "optimized for the environment."

  • $\begingroup$ With "perfect" I mean better than our current feet. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 18:16
  • $\begingroup$ That still doesn't help - better at what? At running? Walking? Standing for long periods of time? Pursuit predation? Very little at all, because most humans drive and sit for most of the day? $\endgroup$
    – Jacob
    Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 18:18
  • $\begingroup$ just put a more integrated joint in the ankle of our foot so it can't twist as easily. Our feet are not that bad for what they are made to do. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 18:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Jacob Our feet are versatile, there's no reason to limit them to running, standing or sitting etc. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 18:21
  • $\begingroup$ most of the problems with human feet are becasue we wear shoes and tend to be overweight. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 18:23

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