The other day, during breakfast, my daughter and I were talking about this and that as we always do. Often times our conversation subjects are about the universe and about the human body. Our most recent conversation was about the human foot… the evolution of walking and how shoes affect how we walk and run.

My daughter enjoys being active and is very aware of keeping a “balanced” body. She has been taking part in my weekly fitness classes since she was five years old. My classes have always included feet exercises. Not to mention that the four of us have all taken part in Martial Arts at one time or another. None of us wear slippers around the house… and often times, you will see my daughter and I walking barefoot on our way to the mailbox. (don’t worry, we pay attention to wear our feet our going)

We humans didn’t always walk the way we do today. Have you ever paid attention to how you walk barefoot compared to how you walk when wearing shoes? Do you do strengthening and stretching exercises for your ankles, feet and toes? Do you wonder if you should?

How we walk.

As happens with evolution, our feet have changed over those years. It is believed that early bipeds (walk on two feet) had rigid feet that were proportionally much longer than what ours are today. It is believed that this helped them to be very fast and efficient walkers.

Modern humans walk heel-first. According to science research, we have been doing so for as much as 3.6 million years now. It is believed that our toes and feet may have gotten shorter, proportionally, as we became better runners in order to pursue prey. The idea is that it was more important to be good runners and catch our prey than to be really fast-walkers.

The impact of shoes.

The first shoes were a piece of soft leather or cloth that would wrap around the foot. It still allowed us to walk as we did barefoot. When walking barefoot, the foot lands almost flat, rolling through the step, and the toes push off. When running barefoot, we tend to land towards the middle or the front of the foot. This would cause less impact on our knees.

When modern shoes and their thicker soles were created, the way we walk and run changed. We now take longer strides and impact heel-first. We no longer roll through the step, loosing flexibility in the foot. Our toes’ movement is limited. The leg lifts the foot off the ground instead of the toes pushing off.

Note: Modern running shoes are designed to make heel-striking easy and comfortable.

Unlocking the ankles, feet and toes.

The arches of our feet provide a strong foundation for your whole body. (like the arch of a bridge). We need to regularly exercise and stretch our feet and ankles so that they can provide the best support. Exercises that unlock, stretch and strengthen the feet, ankles and toes creating a strong foundation for your whole. Other benefits include increase in range of motion in the feet, less pain, more energy, and a spring in your step!

Walk barefoot as often as possible. Your feet will thank you.

Yours in health, Nancy Shimmy