Barefoot Running Part II – Graphic Evidence

One would think a foot is a foot. But not so. If you had never worn shoes in your life, your own foot might be unrecognizable to you because it certainly wouldn’t look like the foot you use today.

20179356-ILCMA Feet Shoes












In 1905 an orthopedist wrote an article entitled “Conclusions Drawn From a Comparative Study of the Feet of Barefooted and Shoe-Wearing People”.

Using photos from his paper as a reference, we are providing two sketches. The sketch A shows the foot of a man who had been wearing the classic dress shoe of his time. When comparing the shape of his shoe to the shape of his foot, we can see that the shoe itself became a kind of mold. (Hoffman)

Ready for a visually breathtaking comparison to someone who had never worn shoes and lived close to the earth? Sketch B illustrates the foot a Bagobo tribesman who had never worn shoes.

The first response of a westernized shoe wearer might be “Ugh–how primitive.” But that would be the point. Feet were designed to be in connection with the earth. Nowhere else in the human body will you find 26 bones, 33 joints and myriads of muscles, tendons and ligaments designed to marvelously adapt to a changing terrain under a load.

In Part I: The Incredible Human Foot of this series, we delved into the evolution of the human need (perceived or otherwise) for footwear. This article continues a bit further along these lines. The difference between a more “original model” foot that is shaped by its direct contact with the earth and a foot that bears the wear and tear of a mold causes us to consider when and how we shoe our ourselves and our children.

“Shoes are the problem. No matter what type of shoe. Shoes are bad for you.” (Sternbergh)

This quote rather shocked me when I read it a few years ago because it was made by Galahad Clark, a member of the Clark family long known for creating comfortable shoes and founder of his own successful shoe company, Terra Planna. Clark was one of the first on the scene with the natural shoe. When a team that included an Alexander Technique teacher proposed a shoe that was micro thin, Clark began production.

It seems like Hoffman, the 1905 orthopedist, already knew what we are discovering: there are pluses and minuses to covering the foot.

If you read Part I, you already know my position is not either/or but both. Yet, I am inclined to believe that most of us (myself included) wear shoes far more of the day than is helpful for a healthy skeletal system and perhaps even mental state.

How much of the day do you wear shoes or go barefoot? What are your thoughts on children and shoes? If you are a runner, have you been exploring the barefoot running possibilities? We enjoy hearing your thoughts.

Part III?  Coming in a few days.

By the way, the 1905 article is well worth reading.  It takes a while to load but follow the reference below if more interests you. It also contains more graphic evidence through pictures.

____________________Cynthia Allen is a Feldenkrais Practitioner and Bones for Life Teacher/Trainer. She is co-creator of the Integral Human Gait Theory and teacher of Gait for Wild Human Potential workshops. ___________________


Read Part I and Part III of this series.



Hoffman, P. (1905). Conclusions drawn from a comparative study of the feet of barefooted and shoe-wearing peoples, The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, 2 (3), 105-136.

Sternbergh, A. (2008, April 21) You walk wrong.

Retrieved 01/15/10 from


About the Author


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Cynthia is a certified Feldenkrais practitioner, a Senior Trainer in Movement Intelligence, and a co-creator of Integral Human Gait theory. By day, she helps children and adults find easier ways to navigate life challenges and thrive. By night, she is dreaming up new options for how we can all become more fully human through awareness, curiosity, elegance and action.

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  1. Pingback: Barefoot Running: Are shoes are they are cracked up to be?

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