Last week I suffered a rather embarrassing injury while rushing to the bathroom: a severely stubbed pinky toe. After determining (and confirming with two sources) that the toe wasn't broken, I was inspired to do more research on my toes. Here are nine facts, one for each of my little piggies that isn't turning purple.
1. They can replace your fingers
Since fingers and toes are both digits, they should be interchangeable, right? Well, in toe-to-hand surgery, toes can be used to replace missing fingers. The method was first used on humans in 1975 and is now widely used. Not every finger can be replaced, but often the big toe can be used for a missing thumb.
2. You can't serve without one (even though you probably could)
To enlist in the army, you have to have all ten of your toes intact- their rules state that they will reject anyone for "current absence of a foot or any portion thereof." But as it turns out, it shouldn't be an issue, since a missing toe doesn't cause much damage. In fact, doctors have been able to design special shoes for toe amputees that will correct minor step problems.
3. Anna Wintour thinks they're sexy
Vogue Editor-in-chief Anna Wintour once listed the "unwritten dress code" of the Voguette, which included "toe-cleavage shoes, sans stockings." She's not the only one to preach the sexiness of toe cleavage- opening the vamp of a shoe is well regarded as a chic move in the fashion world. Frederick's of Hollywood says showing toes can be sexually suggestive. However, the key is moderation. Manolo Blahnik warns that the secret is only showing the first two cracks.
4. Stalin's were webbed
Joseph Stalin suffered from syndactyly, where multiple digits are fused together. In layman's terms, the toes (or fingers) are webbed. There's no evidence that the condition causes any problems, nor does it improve swimming ability, as might be expected. Other famous sufferers of syndactyly are Dan Aykroyd and Ashton Kutcher.
5. The Egyptians knew how to replace them
Even though a missing toe won't cause significant problems, that doesn't mean they shouldn't be replaced. In fact, toe prosthetics could date back as far as 3,000 years. Explorers found a mummy in Egypt with a leather and wood contraption that is believed to be a prosthetic toe. The "Cairo Toe" dates back to between 1069 BC and 664 BC and predates the earliest known prosthetic by at least 700 years.
6. You can wrestle them
If you can arm wrestle and thumb wrestle, doesn't it just make sense that you can toe wrestle. Since 1993, the English village of Wetton has played host to the World Toe Wrestling Championship, a contest with too many toe puns to repeat. Contestants simply lock toes in a ring, then try to push each other out in a three-round toe-down (get it?). Despite the cult popularity of the sport, it was rejected by the IOC when organizers applied for inclusion in the Olympics. The sport was dominated in the last decade by Paul Beech, who nicknamed himself "The Toeminator."
7. People have had as many as 13
The Guinness Book of World Records currently lists a tie for the most number of fingers and toes at 25. Two Indian boys, Pranamya Menaria and Devendra Harne, each have 12 fingers and 13 toes thanks to polydactilism, a congenital condition that results in extra digits. Polydactilism occurs in about one in every 500 births and can be treated. Marilyn Monroe is rumored to have been born with an extra toe on her left foot, but the proof is iffy.
8. Dancing on them sure can hurt
Ballerinas are famous for their incredible ability to dance "en pointe," or on their toes. The technique requires not just strength in the digits, but also support throughout the body to stay straight. Not surprisingly, though, dancing en pointe carries a great deal of risk with it. The Wikipedia article has a long list of potential injuries; among them are tendonitis, dermatitis, hammer toes, stress fractures and bunions.
9. A toe injury ended Jack Lambert's career
During his ten-year career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Jack Lambert established himself as one of the NFL's best linebackers. The nine-time pro bowler was key to the tough Steelers defense and famous for his missing front teeth. But despite his toughness, all it took to sideline his career was a toe injury. A reoccurring turf toe injury, where a toe is hyperextended, forced him to exit the league in 1984.