Walk Like a Medieval

Take a look at that image. Looks quite medieval, doesn’t it? Well, I am no expert, but it was one of the results on Google Images, so who am I to say any different?

Notice anything strange? I mean, other than the completely off perspective of the table when compared to the cupboard behind it. Still no? I mean, just look at those feet:

And this is not exclusive to this artist. If you look around you will see that tiptoeing action everywhere!

Even in depictions of war, such as this image of the Battle of Créssi, you will still see the same foot position, tiptoeing their way around the battlefield, completely oblivious of those arrows sticking out of their leg and ass, such as that individual on the bottom left corner of the image.

So it is fair to assume this pattern is either the reflection of a weird art trend (not that our Age has any moral to comment) or people just walked differently back then.

This latter possibility seems to be a lot more likely than it is believable.

According to some medieval experts (as in, people expert in medieval history, not extremely old experts), such as Roland Warzecha, prior to the 1500s the step was a lot more focused on the toe, with the ball of the foot touching the ground before the heel.

You can have a sense of how that would look in this video:

If you have ever walked barefoot in rough terrain you already can tell why. Putting all of your weight on your foot, as you do when you go heel-first when you are still not sure what you are stepping on can be a very painful endeavour.

When shoes didn’t provide the level of protection we currently enjoy, that meant the biomechanics of pain just forced you to walk differently.

… but is it better?

The thing is, we as humans evolved for millions of years walking barefoot. Our entire body structure was optimised over generations to walk with steps that went toe-first. And that hurt when they didn’t.

There have been studies published defending that it greatly reduces the number of back injuries and joint problems while correcting posture, others revealing no significant improvement.

Which, given that this is a topic that usually garners almost religious fundamentalism among experts and running enthusiasts, is hardly surprising.

One thing everyone seems to agree: barring potential foot injury due to stepping on the wrong type of bush or existing health problems that might limit you, walking barefoot is at least as healthy as walking with shoes.

Personally speaking…

I like it. If feels good. And I do feel that I walk much more straight and balanced when I do so.

To protect my feet, I use one of the many brands of flexible, sole-only shoes. I opt for the Vibram Five-fingers series, just because they were one of the first and their soles are first class.

And they just look cool!

On the street, I do get the occasional “look at that weirdo” glance, although I blame the rest of myself for that. But they force me to pay a lot more attention to my surroundings and a lot more responsive to the environment.

That, I have found, becomes its own type of meditation, and generally helps raise my mood. And that in itself improves my life 1% by doing it.

Oh, and did I mention they look cool?



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David Carvalhão

Serial entrepreneur and doer of exotic things. Follow me for articles on investment and happiness. And other random stuff too.