How do we walk? One foot in front of the other, obviously! But think about your foot, when you walk, what does it do? The heel goes down first and then the rest of the foot follows and then the heel lifts again ready for the next step. Obvious!
… or is it? I just came across a really interesting video which discusses walking in a historical context. How did people weak in the past… the same as us… but oh no they didn’t! They would put the ball of their foot down first, they were ball-walkers not heel-walkers like most of us are. When children learn to walk, or people who don’t wear shoes are walking, they all do it ball then heel, unlike us. It’s the natural and best way to walk.
So why did we change? If you look at medieval pictures, people seem to be stranding in a peculiar way – peculiar to us, very upright, with pointed toes… you might think it was the style of art, but in fact, if you are a toe-walker, your posture is better and you do stand more upright. The sort of shoes people wore were different too – in the video I watched, the shoes were described as ‘leather socks’ with no structure made of anything else.
Heel-walking uses less energy, so I guess from a fitness point of view, toe walking is better! When we walk across a surface which is not flat, smooth, even and hard, we might walk more tentatively, almost feeling with our toes to see if the way is safe, clear, strong, even and will support our weight, and there is nothing lurking there such as ice or snakes!!
So, again, why did walking change? Because shoes changed. So why did shoes change in about 1500? Probably because towns and cities were changing. When we know it’s safe to walk heel first, we unconsciously do.
The video I watched was recorded by Cornelius Berthold in the History Park in Bärnau – here is a link
… and here is a link to the video…
I’m going to go and practice some ball-walking now!