Almost 45 Percent Of People Are Missing This Bone In Their Body

Missing the bone is an "exclusively human phenomenon".

James Felton

James Felton

James Felton

James Felton

Senior Staff Writer

James is a published author with four pop-history and science books to his name. He specializes in history, strange science, and anything out of the ordinary.

Senior Staff Writer

A woman holding her foot in pain.

Count the bones in your pinky toe, you may be in for a surprise.

Image credit: Me dia/

Your pinky toe, aside from when you stub the weird little guy, doesn't get the attention it deserves. In fact, we're willing to bet you don't know how many joints you have in yours, nor whether that's the same as most other human beings.

Though it may look like a contender for the most pointless appendage on the human body, your little pinky toes do their job and do them well. No longer used for clinging to trees, they and your other toes now play an important role in balance and propulsion. The pinky toe takes on more responsibility for this than its equally weird-looking friends.


“We walk like a tripod fashion, where the big toe knuckle, the fifth toe knuckle and the heel, have a tripod walking ability,” Dr Wenjay Sung, attending physician at White Memorial Medical Group told PopSci. “If you remove one part of that tripod, you lose balance.”

So, how many knuckles do you have on that ever-so-important toe? The answer, it turns out, is one or two. A 2012 study looked into the matter, after the team's own experience clashed with what they'd read in the medical textbooks.

"It is a common understanding that the fifth toe has three bones with two interphalangeal joints," the team wrote in their study. "However, our experience shows that a significant number have only two phalanges [toe or finger bone] with one interphalangeal joint."

The team looked at 606 patients who had had foot scans within an eight week period at the Royal Liverpool University Hospitals NHS trust for foot radiographs in 2010. They then sat down with the patients' radiographs and counted the bones and joints. 


They found 55.3 percent of patients had three bones with two joints, while 44.4 percent had two bones with one joint. 

"The presence of a two-phalangeal fifth toe was first described in 1492 by Leonardo da Vinci and later by a few others," a team praising the authors wrote in a letter to the editor.

"It is believed that this anatomical variant probably resulted from incomplete segmentation rather than as the result of phalangeal fusion and has been noted to be present in fetuses from as early as 12 weeks. This variant is an exclusively human phenomenon suggesting that it is a response to bipedalism and that it would result primarily from the failure of the distal interphalangeal joint to develop."

The team went on to say that these two-boned toes can be unusual in appearance, sometimes mistaken for a fracture. According to the team, the variant toe is less common in Europe, and seen at the highest rate in Japanese populations.


  • tag
  • bones,

  • joints,

  • feet,

  • human body,

  • foot,

  • evolution human