HomeNutritionToe Amputation: Are Prosthetics Necessary?

Toe Amputation: Are Prosthetics Necessary?

The oldest prosthetic device belonged to an Egyptian woman around approximately 1000 B.C.E.  It was a wooden toe, and archeologists claim that scratch marks on its sole provide evidence that it was in fact functional.  Today most toe amputees use prosthetics for aesthetic reasons only; they do not use (or need) prosthetics to get around.  Customized shoes fitted by a podiatrist usually do the trick when it comes to regaining balance and a comfortable gait.  (The Egyptians, of course, did not have the advantage of these orthopedic shoes or orthopedic inserts.  After all, sandals – their shoe style of choice – provide little orthopedic support!)  But despite the modern success of orthopedic shoes, the loss of the big toe is still a major adjustment.  

We use the big toe to push off when walking.  Go ahead and take a step.  Now slow it done.  You should notice something unique about your big toe: it is the last part of the foot to leave the ground.  This final push that the big toe provides is very helpful when we are walking quickly or when we want to accelerate.  It helps us to jump and to sprint.  Of course, all of the toes share in this work, but the big toe carries the heaviest load – forty percent of the body’s weight, to be exact.  While customized shoes, inserts and toe fillers can go a long way to helping an amputee regain their normal gait, most people who have their big toe amputated will go through an adjustment period.  They will lose strength, balance and speed.  But they will, eventually, walk and even run again.

Other minor long-term consequences of toe amputation include the tendency to wear down shoes at a faster rate and the formation of thick and dry skin on the second and third toes of the affected foot.  The skin of the second and third toes should be carefully watched (as well as the skin covering the area where the big toe once was) in order to spot infection early and prevent future amputation.  This is especially important if the amputee has Diabetes.  

As for the wooden toe of our Egyptian lady, scientists are creating replicas of the prosthetic toe see if it is in fact functional.  It is possible that even without orthopedic shoes or toe fillers, this ancient amputee was able to get around just fine.  Her wooden toe may have helped her get to A or B, or it may have been (like prosthetics today) simply aesthetic.


Source by kent B Smith

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