Consequently, the human foot appears severely compromised when compared to the feet of other cursorial (running-specialist) mammals.
Devoid of hooves and pads, it is incredibly sensitive to changes in substrate and temperature and often lacks adequate traction.
For these reasons, most human cultures have attempted to protect and enhance the function of the foot with some form of footwear (fig. 1), from sandals (leather, reed, rice straw) to moccasins.
As human cultures ‘evolved’, footwear was no longer considered a purely functional tool but became one of the many status symbols of the social elite.
The most desirable shoes often being deliberately designed to be non-functional to confirm the elevated social position of the wearer from the hard, physical lives of the lower classes who laboured barefoot or in pragmatic-functional footwear.
The problem with ‘fashionable’ footwear (fig. 2) is that it is designed with little regard for the inherent plasticity of the human foot (it takes 18-21 years for the bones of the human foot to fully ossify) or for the biological law that ‘form follows function’.
Footwear design and technology may continue to change over time but the design and technology of the human foot will not.
BTR’s footwear manifesto can be found here, Anatomically-Intelligent Footwear and as Leonardo da Vinci said: “The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art” – let’s keep it that way.
Hoffman, P. (1905). Conclusions drawn from a comparative study of the feet of barefooted and shoe-wearing peoples. The American Journal of Orthopedic Surgery, 3(2), 105-136.