Thursday, 23 September 2010

Pigeon-toed gait endemic among intelligent young women: medical note

I have observed that a pigeon-toed gait is now endemic among intelligent young women (such as students).

A pigeon-toed gait means walking such that the toes of the feet are turned-inwards.

A sign of habitual pigeon-toed walking is that the inner part of a shoe heel will be worn more than the outer part - in more severe instances the outer part of the shoe sole, or even the upper of the shoe, will become worn.

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Being pigeon-toed used to be rare among adults - more common among children, most of whom grew out of it during their teens. It is regarded as a developmental disorder, caused by an inborn distortion of the leg or foot bones which becomes apparent in childhood (but which tended in the past to be self-correcting as the bones grew).

Being pigeon-toed is (almost certainly) dysfunctional on average - because human lower limbs are evolved to work best with straight or slightly out-pointing toes.

Yet I would estimate (from casual observation) that a high proportion of intelligent young English women in their late teens or early twenties (something between a quarter to a half perhaps?) now walk with a pigeon toed gait - all the time, with obviously worn inner heels.

This certainly was not the case thirty years ago.

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So what has happened?

At first I thought it was simply an affectation, a pose, a fashion - an attempt to look sexy in a gawky teenage kind of way. But now I am pretty sure it is developmental - starting in childhood but not self-correcting in the teens, as it used to be. 

In fact, I have no idea what is going on!

My only notions (mere guesses) are maybe we are seeing some kind of dysgenic phenomenon which applies particularly to higher intelligence people (a side effect of assortative mating for some other trait, perhaps?); or that this is a kind of neoteny - of sustained immaturity, of carrying immature traits (characteristic of sexually immature childhood) into potentially-fertile adulthood.This would, again, have to be a side-effect of some other primary process - maybe a side effect of the generally neotenous trend in behaviour in modernizing societies -

http://www.hedweb.com/bgcharlton/psychological-neoteny.html

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But, really, I don't know. Any ideas?

10 comments:

Paul Jaminet said...

Vitamin D deficiency? Advice to avoid the sun peaked in the 1970s-1980s when many of these women would have been young.

dearieme said...

Dunno. But don't ask "scientists".
http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100923/full/news.2010.489.html?s=news_rss

xlbrl said...

Fascinating.

Or, perhaps there is no change, and it is only that intelligent pigeon-toed young women are now valuing and using their intelligence differently than they did thirty years ago, and that is what you have noticed. Or not.

It would be good to know what percentage of adults are pigeon-toed, male vs. female, and lefty-righty. I suspect more lefties are pigeon-toed.

margaret said...

I blame those thongs (shoes). No one can walk normally in them. Everyone shuffles like a Japanese Geisha!

Basal said...

"What ever causes basal ganglion dysfunction might be environmental toxins of some sort..."

Aluminum, Fluoride, and the Brain

bgc said...

@basal - well, that is the *kind* of thing that might be relevant. But the timing of the epidemic is wrong, too recent, for aluminium and flouride exposure to be a plausible cause - at least that is my first impression.

Anonymous said...

Hi! I'm 18 years old, female, left-handed, and pigeon toed. So I may 'fit the bill' when it comes to your inquiry. I've always walked the way I do, and though most children grow out of it, I was one of the lucky few who didn't. Hah, lucky. That was sarcasm. The only time I walk "normally" is if I'm wearing a specific height of high heel, where most of my weight is on the balls of my feet. I'm not sure how it changes the alignment or what not, but I found it works. I wonder what the percentage is for adults who are legitimately pigeon toed, not faking? (some women turn their feet in to make themselves look cute or awkward...blah)

Anonymous said...

Hi! I'm 18 years old, female, left-handed, and pigeon toed. So I may 'fit the bill' when it comes to your inquiry. I've always walked the way I do, and though most children grow out of it, I was one of the lucky few who didn't. Hah, lucky. That was sarcasm. The only time I walk "normally" is if I'm wearing a specific height of high heel, where most of my weight is on the balls of my feet. I'm not sure how it changes the alignment or what not, but I found it works. I wonder what the percentage is for adults who are legitimately pigeon toed, not faking? (some women turn their feet in to make themselves look cute or awkward...blah)

Anonymous said...

I'd spotted that over the years - and wondered about it too - hence my finding your page. Did you come to any conclusions since your initial posting.

-Fran

Bruce Charlton said...

@Fran - Not really. But I wonder whether it is symptomatic of an accumulation of deleterious genes due to relaxed natural selection - I also get a sense (anecdotally, I don't believe the 'official statistics' about cancer) that there may be more cancers among young and middle aged adults than there used to be - which might also fit with this. But still just a vague hunch.