Latest study explored the reasons why when walking, people use mostly their heels and not their toes, as opposed to running. Many animals use the balls of their feet to move around, which made for an interesting case study.
The research, published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, was conducted by researcher James Webber from the University of Arizona, School of Anthropology.
The scientist was preoccupied by the mechanics of running — being a runner himself — and decided to analyze the curiosity behind the way people walk and run. In order to better understand the natural ways of putting our steps down, the researcher observed people who ran barefoot — the so called natural running.
As part of his research, he observed that humans land on the middle or balls of the feet instead to land on the heels during running, which would feel highly unnatural in the case of walking. This discovery put the entire research into perspective.
“Given the current debate over the locomotor mechanics of early hominins and the range of foot landing postures used by nonhuman apes, we suggest the consistent use of HS gaits provides key locomotor advantages to striding bipeds and may have appeared early in hominin evolution,” quotes the research.
According to the researcher, people have the evolutionary habit of walking really efficiently, and part of this efficiency is the length of our legs, which are designed to sustain long distance walks.
“Cats and dogs are up on the balls of their feet, with their heel elevated up in the air, so they’ve adapted to have a longer leg, but humans have done something different. We’ve dropped our heels down on the ground, which physically makes our legs shorter than they could be if were up on our toes, and this was a conundrum to us (scientists),” noted the scientist.
While the way we walk has been proven to be highly efficient in the context of our lives, the heel-first style we employ when stepping is scientifically bizarre, as it is so different from other mammals.
An Ancient Habit
According to the research, people walk employing a movement similar to an inverted swinging pendulum, as our bodies seem to pivot above the points where the feet meet the ground. When stepping, the center of pressure moved sliding across the foot’s length, which virtually extends the length of our legs below the ground. This suggests that our “virtual legs” are actually longer than the physical ones.
This research points out bizarre facts about our walking, when compared with running as well as other animals’ styles. However, it seems that evolutionary physiology supports the conclusions of the research. People walking heel-first goes back in history to the dawn of human civilization, as there are ancient footprints in volcanic ash in Latoli, Tanzania, suggesting that hominis used to walk the same 3.6 million years back.
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