In 2002, I published a paper entitled “Medial Column Foot Systems: An Innovative Tool for Improving Posture” in the Journal Bodywork and Movement Therapies. This paper described a previously unreported embryological foot structure which I discovered and linked to the failed or incomplete torsional development of the talus (the bone that sits on top of the heel bone and articulates with the tibia and fibula to form the ankle joint). This foot structure – the Primus Metatarsus Supinatus – is now known as the Rothbarts Foot.
Rothbart’s Foot is an inherited, abnormal foot structure (which develops between the eighth and ninth week of pregnancy) which creates a distortion of the body’s posture (skeletal structure), resulting in musculoskeletal problems in the entire body that (with time and activity) become worse and often result in chronic muscle and joint pain.
Rothbarts Foot is characterized by an elevated and inwardly twisted big toe and first metatarsal (relative to the second toe). This can be seen when the rearfoot (subtalar joint) is placed in its anatomically neutral position*.
Why is this relevant?
When you stand or walk your body tries to maintain its balance (so that it doesn’t fall over) and so the entire foot seeks to make contact with the ground.
If you have a Rothbart Foot, your big toe and first metatarsal are elevated and inwardly twisted and so, when you stand or walk, your foot will naturally (with the help of gravity) roll inwards and downward until your entire foot makes contact with the ground. This inwards and downward motion causes the feet to twist.
What happens next?
In order to answer that question we need to first look at how all feet function:
All feet have many mechanical receptors on the bottom, which are stimulated by pressure (such as by standing or walking).
As these mechanical receptors are touched, they send signals from the foot to the brain.
The specific signal that is sent at any given moment depends on the quantity and location of the mechanical receptors that are touched at that time. As these signals are received by the brain, they provide the brain with a picture of where the body is in space (its posture). The brain responds by adjusting the posture accordingly.
The difference in function between a ‘normal’ foot and a Rothbarts Foot:
If you have a ‘normal’ foot, your big toe and first metatarsal are not elevated and inwardly twisted. And so, when you stand or walk, your foot makes contact with the ground in a linear fashion. The mechanical receptors are stimulated in specific quantities and locations and the specific signal that they send to the brain tells the brain to maintain good posture.
If you have a Rothbarts Foot, this sequence happens in a different manner: Your big toe and first metatarsal are elevated and inwardly twisted. And so, when you stand or walk, your foot makes contact with the ground in a distorted (twisted) fashion. The mechanical receptors are stimulated in specific quantities and locations and the specific signal that they send to the brain tells the brain to maintain bad (distorted) posture. The degree of bad posture depends on the severity of your Rothbarts Foot.
Bad posture results in your weight-bearing joints (including your ankles, knees, hips back and neck) being incorrectly aligned and the weight of your body being unevenly distributed across the surface of these joints. This means that one side receives more weight than the other, which causes an asymmetrical compression of the cartilage and a narrowing of the joint space. The end result is joint inflammation and pain.
Bad posture also results in your muscles (surrounding the weight bearing joints) being overly contracted or stretched (when your body is motionless) and not working optimally (when your body is moving). They become strained and cramped, resulting in muscle pain.
If the sequence above is not permanently corrected, your joint and muscle pain becomes chronic.
Rothbarts Foot is relatively common. It is estimated that upwards of 20% of the world’s population has this foot structure.