Analysis of the Human Female Foot in Two Different Measurement Systems: From Geometric Morphometrics to Functional Morphology

Fred L Bookstein, Jacqueline Domjanic


The relationship of geometric morphometrics (GMM) to functional analysis of the same morphological resources is currently a topic of active interest among functional morphologists. Although GMM is typically advertised as free of prior assumptions about shape features or morphological theories, it is common for GMM findings to be concordant with findings from studies based on a-priori lists of shape features whenever prior insights or theories have been properly accounted for in the study design. The present paper demonstrates this happy possibility by revisiting a previously published GMM analysis of footprint outlines for which there is also functionally relevant information in the form of a-priori foot measurements. We show how to convert the conventional measurements into the language of shape, thereby affording two parallel statistical analyses. One is the classic multivariate analysis of “shape features,” the other the equally classic GMM of semilandmark coordinates. In this example, the two data sets, analyzed by protocols that are remarkably different in both their geometry and their algebra, nevertheless result in one common biometrical summary: wearing high heels is bad for women inasmuch as it leads to the need for orthotic devices to treat the consequently flattened arch. This concordance bears implications for other branches of applied anthropology. To carry out a good biomedical analysis of applied anthropometric data it may not matter whether one uses GMM or instead an adequate assortment of conventional measurements. What matters is whether the conventional measurements have been selected in order to match the natural spectrum of functional variation.


Human female foot, conventional morphometrics, geometric morphometrics, high heels, orthotics

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