Sunday, February 14, 2010

Does History Explain Why Humans Love Shoes?

The oldest shoes discovered are from 8,000 to 2000 years BC. Archeologists believe that humans have been covering their feet for protection for 40,000 years. Amazingly, archeologists know how long humans have been wearing shoes because they have created anatomic changes in feet. Scientists believe that toes have gotten more graceful and narrow, compared to legs, because toes in shoes have less impact with the ground. As a result, toes do not need to be strong. (Hirst, n.d.).

Yet, why do humans wear shoes? Why did they begin to do something that weakened part of their body? The classic response is to protect their feet from the cold and sharp objects; however, no other species, even those closely related to humans, protects their feet. Furthermore, shoes may not actually be good for feet. Harvard evolutionary biologist Dr. Daniel Lieberman studied barefoot runners and compared their movements to runners wearing shoes. He found that when barefoot runners land on the part of their foot that can most handle the impact (Fantz, 2010). Thus, although humans have been wearing shoes for thousands of years they may be causing injuries because when wearing shoes, one has less ability to judge the proper point of impact with the ground. No specific research has been done to understand why humans began wearing shoes. Instead, people accept that shoes were invented for protection from the elements. Nevertheless, Lieberman’s recent research suggests shoes may not be as necessary for protection and safety as humans think. Thus, history does not present a clear explanation for why humans began to wear shoes.

Interestingly, shoe history begins to explain the wide array of shoes available today—flip-flops, sneakers, stilettos, and lace-up booties. According to Jenna Tedrick Kuttruff, a textile expert at Louisiana State University, among 8,000 year old shoes found in a Missouri Cave, no two were alike. She said, “They didn't need to make each pair different. But it's human nature to make things visually appealing, to make one pair a little more complex than others to set it apart from someone else's" (Newman, 2006). Thus, the earliest shoe wearers seem to have taken pride in their shoes akin to the pride a woman today feels putting on her new platform wedges or a man today feels in his brightly colored new sneakers.

Although ancient humans may not have needed to wear shoes, they felt the need to cover their feet and began to use shoes to represent their individuality.

Hirst, K.K. (n.d.) History of Shoe. Archeology. Retrieved February 14, 2010 from
Newman, C. (2006). The Joy of Shoes. National Geographic. Retrieved February 14, 2010 from

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