April 29, 2013

Are we supposed to barefoot run? (A tongue in cheek look at evolution)

This old chestnut keeps popping up, again and again and again. I've also written about minimalism and barefooting before.

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="280"]English: barefoot running English: barefoot running (Photo credit: Wikipedia)[/caption]



It generally starts as a discussion about barefoot running, usually by a newly converted barefooter who reckons it's the best thing since bread became sliced and very quickly degenerates into a willy measuring exercise between pedants who insist on discussing the relative density and hardness of concrete and dusty, pre-civilisation, pre-societal concrete.


Here's a recent example: Your expensive running shoes could be destroying your knees, ankles and hips.


Now I don't know about you but as far as I understand evolution and progress are usually determined by the axiom 'survival of the fittest'.


So, based on current trends and my anthropological time machine I have a theory.


Way back when, if we are to believe what we are told, we were fruit and vegetable eaters, eating all round us and then moving on to new pastures in search of new food sources like  grazing animals. The current trend of Paleo diet would indicate that this how we developed as a species; eating fruit, nuts, vegetables and seeds in their raw state (in so far as possible).


Then, through a pioneering trendsetter someone picked up a wooden stick and developed a taste for animal protein. (Could you call it a 'club sandwich' ? )


This influx of animal protein led to development of better brain function as we evolved, leading to the development of tools for cooking , cleaning etc. Oh, and fire was created or at least the means to maintain it and the knowledge to transport fire from one location to another, allowing us to cook food.


Now as these early men (& women) clubbed and collected food all around them the faster animals and possibly tastier always eluded their reach. No matter how sneaky we were we couldn't catch these sources of meat. They'd smell us or hear us in the woods and grass trying to creep up until they were in range. All to no avail.


What did we do next?


We started running.


(This has taken generations to get to this point in the story, time machine, remember?!)


We soon discovered that we could run. Now we couldn't run as fast as the animal we wanted to eat and after a while we realised this. With our brain developing we started thinking and working together as a team with the result being that we got cute and realised we could run longer and further and steadier than the dinner. We didn't know it at the time but our bodies liked this idea and started to develop mechanisms that encouraged us to run. We got taller, straighter and lighter; we became land running hunters.


All of the reading we do, all of the fora we engage in everything is geared to us understanding that this is the reason we are born to run. We evolved.


I don't disagree.




I think the first hominoid man who fashioned a pair of foot covers from some animal hide to protect his feet from the dusty, gritty, thorny surface and that offered him some grip on the rocky terrain gained an evolutionary advantage over the barefoot guys.


Apart from the obvious fact that we still cover our feet, providing unassailable evidence of the historical benefit of footwear, that 'barefooting' died out and needed to be rediscovered comes down to the simple truth that the guy with the footwear had the competitive edge over the other guy in the chase to get the good looking girls.


Survival of the fittest! ;)



New Health Study: Barefoot Running by Maria Dorfner | MEDCRUNCH said...

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