A look into toe wrestling

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No easy “feet” Adrian Hon

Literally going toe to toe

The United Kingdom has given us many things to talk about in our everyday lives and they continue to not disappoint. In 1974 the sport of toe wrestling was born and has continued to thrive. Now you might be wondering, why on earth did this sport start? Well it started with people being upset that their country couldn’t produce any world champions and they were desperate to have a champion in their country for the world to admire. What better way to produce a guaranteed champion than to create a sport that the rest of the world has never heard of before? This was believed to guarantee them a champion that they could boast about to the world at last.

Toe wrestling involves two opposing participants lock feet by interlacing their toes together. Originally participants would sit on stools and attempt to knock each other off using their interlaced foot. However, they decided that was too dangerous as it resulted in many horrendous injuries. This resulted in them moving the participants safely onto the floor where they were expected to pin the others foot, similar to that of arm wrestling. This once again led to too many injuries as many people would end up with broken ankles as a result of the aggressive movement. Which leads us to where we are today. Participants are still expected to sit on the floor but will now set their interlocked feet onto a board. They are no longer required to interlace all of their toes and only need their big toes locked together. Then they have to force their opponent’s foot to touch the small board that’s a few inches away. While attempting this they are not allowed to raise themselves up and must keep themselves sitting firmly on the floor. Similar to arm wrestling, there is no time limit for how long it takes to pin the opponent’s foot. Matches are done in a best-two-out-of-three style before a winner is declared. 

This is not a game for the faint of heart. Toe wrestling is serious business that can result in some pretty nasty injuries and other health concerns. As one might expect given the nature of the sport, breaks and sprains are extremely common in one’s ankles and toes. This can be devastating to an individual’s career as a professional toe wrestler if they don’t heal properly. In general, you do not want to participate if you have weak ankles since you are guaranteed to either injure yourself or just continuously lose. There is also the concern of various scratches and scrapes occurring from your opponent’s toenails. This has been combated by having their toenails checked prior to matches beginning and the expectation that competitors maintain short toenails for competitions. There is also the huge concern of funguses and other skin diseases being passed through to other competitors, which means that each individual must be checked by a podiatrist prior to competing. If they don’t pass this initial exam they are not eligible to compete. Foot health is no laughing matter in these games. 

Every sport also has their own way of showing good sportsmanship before and after the matches. Whether that’s respecting someone’s warm up area or shaking their hand at the end of the game, every game has their own way that players can demonstrate proper sportsmanship. Toe wrestling is no different. As a sign of respect for one’s opponent, traditionally you would remove your opponent’s footwear and socks and you would allow them to do the same for you. One must be cautious when performing such an act on the most important body part in this competition. If you are too aggressive when removing these items, you may cause injury and it can be viewed as trying to sabotage your competition. 

Even though it’s unusual, toe wrestling is no laughing matter. There is a lot of thought and training that goes into such a unique sport. Just like every sport, the athletes are very serious about competing and the United Kingdom sporting community was definitely excited about the increased opportunity to raise the number of world champions that their country has. As the interest and the participation grows tournaments continue to grow in their level of competitiveness and the winners continue to earn more respect as a result. Although it’s primary audience is still in Europe, others are slowly becoming more aware of its existence. At this rate the Olympics better watch out. Toe wrestling is coming.  

Sarah Nakonechny

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