It turns out that after all these millennia, mother nature is still the most functional footwear.
Science took a long time to recognize his work. But in a new study, published in the journal Nature , an international team of researchers discovered that an experienced foot (that is, callous) gives us better protection than shoes. In fact, they suggest, that shoes have actually numbed our feet, at the same time they change the way we walk. Besides that over time, that has dramatically altered the human march.
” We’re not saying that people should not wear shoes, ” says Harvard professor and co-author of the study, Daniel E. Lieberman, to Scientific American in a published article. Instead, it suggests that more research is needed on how footwear has altered our bodies and habits, and perhaps to what we gave up when we started covering our feet.
For the study, Lieberman and his colleagues spent a lot of time looking at calluses, those hardened keratin knots that form on the feet and are often exposed to raw elements. In total, they examined 100 adults, mostly from Kenya, and almost half of their participants rejected the use of footwear.
In the results it was found that the barefoot walkers, in spite of the thick calluses, could feel the ground under their feet a lot. In fact, even thicker calluses did not dampen tactile sensitivity. But, as expected, wrapping the feet in rubber and plastic did.
This means that no matter how thick the calluses, they still feel the soil and transmit information to the brain. While the shoes avoid these signals. This could be a major problem for people, especially older people, who have problems maintaining balance.
As we age, we lose sensibility in our feet, and a life without shoes could exacerbate the problem.
” If your feet can not feel what’s happening on the ground, you may be more susceptible and more vulnerable to falls, and shoes may be part of that, ” explains Lieberman. “If we can give these signals to the brain, people will have better reflexes and that will help them.”
How do we get the nerves that run from the foot to the brain to communicate?
“We suggest children walk barefoot on wet grass for the purpose of stimulating afferents for developmental reasons,” study co-author Thomas Milani, of the Chemnitz University of Technology in Germany.
The researchers discovered that all that softness and isolation do not make the impact of each step disappear. We simply feel it less because the energy is transferred to the joints above the leg. As a result, we are likely to walk very differently than our ancestors did without shoes.
In addition, there is now the thorny problem of protecting our soles from the dangers of urban sidewalks. The snow, the ice and the hail probably feel like you imagine but it sure is not something you want to try.
According to the researchers, calluses would have offered protection to ancient humans. No foot exposed to this world remains pink and innocent for a long time. Instead, strong keratin knots are formed to cushion and protect the plants.
That is why it is better to find the right balance between covering the feet for civil society and taking every opportunity to release them. Like on a sunny summer day, or in a grassy park.