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Keywords:

  • human skeletal remains;
  • Medieval England;
  • podiatric health;
  • footwear;
  • paleopathology

Abstract

Hallux valgus is the abnormal lateral deviation of the great toe. The principal cause is biomechanical, specifically the habitual use of footwear which constricts the toes. In this study, descriptions of the anatomical changes of hallux valgus from published cadaveric and clinical studies were used to generate criteria for identifying the condition in ancient skeletal remains. The value of systematic scoring of hallux valgus in paleopathology is illustrated using two British skeletal series, one dating from the earlier and one from the later Medieval period. It was found that hallux valgus was restricted to later Medieval burials. This appears consistent with archaeological and historical evidence for a rise in popularity, during the late Medieval period (at least among the richer social classes), of narrow, pointed shoes which would have constricted the toes. Am J Phys Anthropol 126:139–149, 2005. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.