Thursday, December 21, 2017

4,000-Year-Old Footprint from Ancient Ur

Left on a brick, now in the UPenn Museum.

I just read what I thought was a lame article arguing that people used to walk around on their toes, and that heel-to-toe rolling of the foot was a recent invention. But consider this evidence.

1 comment:

G. Verloren said...

I had thought it'd been pretty clearly demonstrated that humans used to walk toe-first until the development of framed construction shoes. There's a lot to suggest this was the case.

I also have my own anecdotal example to draw upon.

Some years ago, I bought a pair of Vibram shoes, which lack a rigid sole and are flexible in the toes - making them quite a lot like a medieval turnshoe, and comparable to a glove for the foot. I had no reason to suspect at the time that it would alter the way I would walk, but it rapidly did so.

For the first time, I was able to actually feel the ground through my shoes, since there wasn't a thick inflexible sole between it and my foot. There was enough of a sole to protect against being harmed or made uncomfortable by things I might step on, but at the same time I had a vastly superior tactile sense of what I was standing on.

Moreover, if I stood on an uneven surface, the flexibility of the sole allowed my foot to conform to the shape of it. I could find purchase on rocks, tree limbs, et cetera, because I was able to grip them with my toes, heel, and instep - and do so without discomfort or pain.

Very quickly, without even realizing it, I changed my stride from stepping with my heel to stepping with my toes. I only realized something had changed because my calves started to hurt after a few days, and then I realized I was using muscles I had previously not had to employ.

Because I could now feel the ground through my shoes, I found that with each step I was probing the surface with my toes before committing all my weight to it, getting a sense for what I might be stepping on - (particularly large or pointy rocks or debris could still be uncomfortable to step on, even if far less so than barefoot) - and also finding purchase and establishing a good grip.

Another unexpected realization came not long after. When I switched back to more typical shoes after a while, I didn't change my stride at first, and they made my feet HURT. I kept trying to feel the ground, and when I couldn't "reach" it because of the thick sole in the way, I subconsciously started stomping down harder with each step, trying to "find" the ground that my brain had come to expect would be there. I had to consciously retrain myself to walk heel first, and to trust that my shoe would protect me, and thus I didn't -need- to feel where I was stepping.

Ever since, I've been able to switch between strides as necessary for the shoes I'm wearing - but I developed an intense preference for toe walking, and I go barefoot or "turnshoed" whenever I can manage.