Medieval Walking

This video suggests that Medieval people did not generally walk around the way we do, but in a 'more natural' way that improves posture. This is taken to be helpful in explaining some illustrations from the I.33 fencing manual, and to be a function of the way footwear of the period seems to have been designed.

The idea isn't that people really 'walked differently,' then, but that the structure of shoes affects how you walk. Our tendency to take big steps leading with the heel is made possible by well-structured shoes that will protect our feet from anything we might step on, and that have adequate structure to accept our weight all at once. Walk around barefoot, and you may walk the way he's talking about -- leading with the ball of the foot, testing the ground before settling your weight.

Well, maybe. It's interesting to think about, anyway.


Assistant Village Idiot said...

Leading with the ball of the foot landing first is also better for walking silently, so a great many tribes found it to their advantage to do this as a matter of course.

Burning out all the undergrowth, so that there are no dry branches and twigs underfoot, as the Native Americans in New England did, is even more helpful for silence.

raven said...

Try walking on a hard surface with a set of earplugs in. It illustrates well what he is talking about with regard to wear and tear on the body regarding heel strike- the slamming of the knees can be felt through bone conduction.
But be careful walking on the ball of the foot- you can put a real hurt on the tendon that goes underneath the arch.

Anonymous said...

The forefoot/midfoot strike is a key tenet of the barefoot running community. The argument is it is more natural and allows the foot to act as a shock absorber.

I'm not totally bought in to all the extremes of barefoot running, but when I switched to zero-drop shoes many years ago most of my knee issues went away.

james said...

Middle Daughter studied for a year in Senegal. Americans bought sandals, and wore through the heels in a couple of months. Senegalese walked as much or more, and their sandals lasted a year. The stride I observed when she pointed it out to me was not heel-first, nor exactly ball first--it was flatter, with a perhaps a tiny dip of the ball of the foot on striking.

Grim said...

I did barefoot running on the beach one summer when I was working at CENTCOM, and it was great. I do walk around barefoot often, although in Georgia the fire ant situation makes that less desirable than it was in my youth. The plausibility of some of the argument, for me, lies in the fact that I do recognize the "hey, I might step on something sharp" sense that causes you to put your feet down differently.