I’ve been walking, briskly, for the past few years at the rate of 10,000 steps or more per day. In the last year I’ve increased this to about 14,000 steps – 10 km for me. Contrary to generally accepted opinion, I do all my walking in flip-flops (‘thongs’ for Aussies). I find I get about 2000 km per pair before they need to be replaced. Owing to COVID lockdowns, plus working from home permanently, I find I wear ‘proper’ footwear no more the 1-2 times per month.
About eight months ago I took on part-time work which required me to be on my feet once per week for about 5 hours – in ‘proper’ footwear. After a few weeks I developed a painful condition known as plantar fasciitis – but fortunately this only lasted a few days before being superseded by the less painful, but still annoying, heel spurs, which continues on.
So I checked with my doctor a few months back for appropriate exercises to alleviate the condition. At the time I asked whether I should switch to brisk walking in sports shoes (instead of my flip-flops). His perspective was that my body had ‘adapted’ to walking in flip-flops.
And that got me thinking . . . . . What is best for our feet? How/why are they structured the way they are, and what should I wear?
Anthropologists generally agree that we first started walking upright about 6 million years ago – although very recent archeological finds suggest this may be as long as 12 million years ago. Regardless of when we started, it is generally accepted that the musculoskeletal structure of our lower limbs has remained the same for at least 3 million years.
Now think about the ‘Paleo Diet’ – a number of people believe that this form of eating is what our bodies were evolved for, and therefore is the most healthy diet for us. Recall that this period in our history is around 35,000 years ago.
So ask yourself? What were our paleolithic ancestors wearing on their feet when they were out running through the jungles and savannah foraging for nuts and berries and tubers and fungi; chasing down small game and being chased by larger game? Certainly it wasn’t the latest Nike Air with Enhanced Arch Support! No! They were barefoot!
We have been wearing footwear for only about 8-10,000 years – about 400 generations – a mere drop in the evolutionary past of our species, and certainly not enough for our feet to have evolved further – to be ‘adapted’ to shoes.
So I put it to you that we are best suited to walking barefoot. Adding the padding of a flip-flop simply accounts for our softened soles being unaccustomed to doing so.
Enjoy your next walk!