"If you just cut this off, I'll be able to wear whatever shoes I want."

It sounds like the evil stepsisters, but it's a line from the Times of London, describing "the wilder shores of La-La Land", cosmetic foot surgery:

It is 8 o'clock on a serene blue morning in Beverly Hills and Dr Ali Sadrieh, a podiatrist, has just performed a 45-minute operation on a client, cutting a section of bone out of her toe to shorten it. She was awake during surgery, watching a film; next week Sadrieh will do the same thing to the second toe on the other foot. There was nothing medically wrong with the toes, but his patient didn't like the way they protruded over the lip of her high-heeled Manolo Blahniks.

It is funny to me, as an anthropologist, because the feet are one of the parts of the body with the most adaptive plasticity -- the soles thicken with use and the toes and metatarsals remodel during development to adapt to shoe wear. As an adult, some of your foot form is inherited from your parents, but for a large part of it you have the feet that you developed for yourself. The shoes you wore, the distances you walked, the athletics, foot care, and even the pedicures -- they all add up to your adult foot shape.

And there is all that variation among people in relative toe lengths. It has been relatively understudied — evidently, it is hard to measure toe lengths in a standard way without (a) straightening them out, so they can't be measured from scans, or (b) unacceptable tickling. Still, since finger lengths in humans and digit lengths in animals have to do not only with genetics but also prenatal hormone exposure, the toes are true products of epigenetic phenomena.

So now you can cut out a segment. Just in case you don't like that terrible toe-hanging-over-the-sandal look. Here's a description of the "full foot lift":

"In each case, they cut a V in the bone on my big toe, which was deviating to one side, and screwed it straight, shaved the bone on the outside of my pinky, opened up the sides of my second, third and fourth toes and took out part of the middle joints to straighten and shorten them. Oh, and I had fat reduction as well."

Should unhappy people just resign themselves to their feet? Since feet have evolved to respond to the environment, they are going to have a lot of dimensions of variation. And that means that it is just silly to think that people's feet can conform to a single ideal of beauty, because there are so many directions that they can deviate.

I suppose it's unlikely that people will start wearing Earth shoes on the red carpet...