Realities Created, Maintained and Destroyed, WHILE-U-WAIT!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

With grubs and roots and a side of carrion

We have finally reached a point of agreement I see.

As always, Steve is quoted in green.

Ah, we're eating leftover Bambi, but -- how are our feet and knees doing?
Well, mine are doing just fine. But then my feet are quite strong from running about all summer either barefoot or in shoes that give no support at all.

You liked this paper:
Good article, and full of information. Though I missed the part where it said bare feet were better than running shoes. And to offer you an alternative reason why men run better than chimps, the article you quote speaks to that: Endurance running might just as well be due to trying to beat scavengers to some big cat's kill, as for chasing down game.
Why would you expect to find a comment about shoes in that article? At the time mentioned we are something like a million years away from the invention of footwear. And of course you are trying to pull the two topics of the conversation together in an untenable way.

The alternate reason does not matter to the discussion though, does it. You posited that man was a "hodge podge" with poor physical skills. I pointed out to you that man had evolved with a powerful specialization, the ability to endurance run, and I gave you what I consider to be the most likely way he evolved these skills. If you prefer an alternate hypothesis as to why that does nothing to refute my premise, that man evolved to be an endurance runner.

Nobody knows at this remove, and it's six to one, half a dozen to the other.
I would say it is more like eight of one four of the other, for all the reasons I have gone into, but if you prefer to assume we developed the ability to run all day long, and ability no carrion feeder has ever developed, and we managed to pull this off while our sense of smell weakened, I'm fine with that. We agree on the actual point, man evolved as an endurance runner.

Hard to tell the brand of shoes the San hunter was wearing, being unable to see a name or how padded they were, but they looked like low-heel running or walkers. Didn't look like Sunday-go-to-meeting shoes to me.
Unless he was a very rich San, and bought his own shoe (an event so unlikely as to approach the absurd) he would have been given those shoes by whatever missionary group was in the area trying to convert the savages that week. Those missionaries always seem to hand out shoes (and I encountered a number of these group when I was living in East Africa) The groups get their shoes from China by way of South Africa usually, but you can examine them here. They are the very same canvas/nylon shoes sold at Wal-Mart for around $10 (though in Africa they go for around $1 retail, less if you buy in lots) Those shoes are flat soled unpadded and without raised heels. I'd run in them myself if I couldn't get my Wu shoes.

"Testing whether ER was employed in hunting or scavenging will be challenging given the limitations of the archaeological and ethnographic records."

"Challenging." Yeah. That's a euphemism for "impossible."
When I took my degree in Anthropology back in '72 there were a lot of things we though it would be "impossible" to know. Today we know them with a very high degree of certainty thanks to advances in science. So "Challenging", yes, "difficult", sure, "unlikely" perhaps. But "Impossible"? I will reserve judgment on that. "Impossible" has been wrong too many times for me to throw that word around so cavalierly.

But if we can't ever know how, that doesn't change the fact (which you have done nothing to refute) that man evolved as an endurance runner.

You said, "Yep, and highly padded, over-engineered running shoes have been proved to cause more problems than they prevent. If you think not, then feel free to produce even one peer-reviewed scientific paper demonstrating that modern running shoes do anything to prevent the sort of injuries we see so often in running today."

Um, that's not how it works. All I have to do is say "I don't buy your contention that barefoot running is safer on concrete than wearing shoes." Up to you to prove it, since you are taking the affirmative. And thus far, I haven't seen the evidence.
Actually it was you that said "At two hundred pounds, the stress on my feet and knees was too much to do it on concrete without some kind of padding." The idea that the little bit of padding that you can get into a shoe will protect you from the kind of force that running generates is completely unsupported.

You claimed that it does, so you get to support the claim if you can.

My contention is that what protects you on concrete or any other surface is proper form that uses your body in the way it was designed to be used through the process of our having become the world's best endurance runners. One way to help yourself develop this form is to train, at least part of the time barefoot, or in shoes that provide no padding or support and allow the foot to move naturally. I have offered quite a bit to support that claim.

Alan Webb is a great runner, but his testimony about how he cured his flat feet is anecdotal, and doesn't necessary follow. His insight is personal.
"Anecdotal" is not the same as "wrong" and is used quite a bit in various sciences. Let me remind you of some of the definitions of "anecdotal"

"non-scientific observations or studies, which do not provide (scientific) proof but may assist research efforts"

"reports or observations of usually unscientific observers"

"casual observations or indications rather than rigorous or scientific analysis"

None of these definitions say "wrong" or "inaccurate". In medicine and anthropology "anecdotal" is called "case studies", which have been invaluable to the advancement of those sciences. You might want to take a look at "The importance of anecdotal evidence". to refresh your memory on the valid use of anecdotal evidence.

I suppose that it would be a little petty of me to point out that your account of how your orthotics and foot roller have helped your PF is also anecdotal.

Dr. Paul Brand was an expert in leprosy, specializing in the hands, not the biomechanics of feet.
Yes he was, and leprosy effects the feet at least as often as it effects the hands. Dr Brand was an expert in the field of orthopedic surgery (and yes he specialized in hands), with years of field experience. He was a trained scientific observer who was greatly respected within the medical community. You aren't telling me why his observations aren't valid, your just telling me how you are sorting to find some reason to ignore his observations because they don't fit with your opinions. It seems pretty much the same with the other people I mentioned.

The tropical stuff refers to temperature. We work naked fine when it's hot, we don't work naked fine when it is cold. Bare human skin gets frost-bitten when the snow is piled up and the wind is blowing, and without shoes, any possible benefit one might get from barefoot running is apt to cost one some toes. Ditto running over broken glass, and CONCRETE.
There you go with the naked in the snow thing again. Please point out to me where I said that people should do that. As to running on broken glass, I don't know anyone who does that so I can't speak to it. Though I do know a guy who walks on broken glass pretty regularly, but it is a gimmick and he does it for entertainment (though he has never to my knowledge been injured doing it)

Now losing toes running on concrete? Do you have any evidence that people are losing toes at a rate significantly higher than other runners from running on concrete? I have never seen such, and I pay attention to these things.

In short, the jury isn't in on this yet, and while walking barefoot around the house, or running barefoot across the lawn or beach or on a dirt trail in the woods makes perfect sense to me, nobody has shown anything that amounts to scientific proof that running on the sidewalk barefoot is better for you than wearing shoes.
And I have never said it was "better". What I said was that it could be done without injury if one's form were good. I have said that I think that over-engineered, over-padded running shoes that cause you to heel strike when running are not good for you, and are the main cause of the epidemic of running injuries that were not seen back in the day before padded shoes. (and are not seen in countries where people live barefooted or in minimal footwear)

If you are going to argue with me you should do so to my actual points rather than to ones you make up.

My points are these

  • Man evolved as an endurance running animal.
  • padded running shoes seem to be the cause of much of the injury we see in runners today
  • We can avoid most of these injuries by adopting a more natural stride that gives us a forefoot strike rather than the unnatural heel strike and with the foot landing under the center of gravity rather than in front of it.
  • One of the best ways to develop this more natural stride is to practice barefoot as part of your training.
  • Another way is to use shoes that offer minimal support.
  • Barefoot running (and walking) is good for your foot health.
(note: I am using the term "natural" here in the sense of bio-mechanically sound, the most efficient way for our muscles and skeleton).

Those are the points you should be arguing against if you disagree with them, not things that I have not actually said.

I did say that a person could run barefoot on pavement without injury if they have proper form. I did not say that this was the way that someone SHOULD run. I pointed out that this happens all the time in marathons and other races these days. While you think that these people should be injuring themselves all over the place, it just doesn't seem to happen. I suspect that you may just be working from a false heuristic.

Here are a few more examples of people running barefoot over all manner of surfaces, they just don't seem to be hurting themselves in the way you think they should be, and even the guy who got frostbite running in the snow seems to have all his toes.

I am happy though that we seem to be agreeing on my main points.

"...walking barefoot around the house, or running barefoot across the lawn or beach or on a dirt trail in the woods makes perfect sense to me..."
"Endurance running might just as well be due to trying to beat scavengers to some big cat's kill, as for chasing down game."
Enjoy the videos.















Salma said...

Dear Mushtaq,
This post brought back childhood memories that I had somehow forgotten. I used to love to go barefoot, and I would sneak out of the house to do so, each time to my detriment (in more ways than one). I somehow would conveniently forget that I am allergic to grass and would do it again and again, each time winding up with nickel and quarter-sized blisters all over my feet. My dad would then have to carry me everywhere for about a week until they healed, and I was able to put slippers and then finally shoes on again. So, there is another reason why I have worn shoes all my life, and for my foot woes today, I suppose. The beach was the only safe place out-of-doors for my bare feet...... S

Jay Gischer said...

Sounds like you would be interested in the recent announcement of the discovery of Ardipithecus Ramus, dated to 4.4 million years old.

The most interesting thing to me is that Ardi's bones were found in what was a forest setting, which seems to knock down the idea that walking upright started on the savannah. Because Ardi definitely has features for walking upright.