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Footwear alters normal form and function of the foot - Fundamental biological research into human foot function awarded by Nike
24 July 2009
With the Nike Research Award, Nike wants to encourage research into the prevention of injuries in athletics. It is striking that the Prize, worth $ 25 000, is awarded for fundamental-biological research into the function of the human foot.
Different feet with or without shoes
Kristiaan D’Aout and Peter Aerts from the Biology Department at the University of Antwerp collaborated for their work on the biomechanics of barefoot walking with Dirk De Clercq (University of Gent, Belgium) and with Todd Pataky (University of Liverpool, UK). This team made the first detailed analysis of foot function in people who have never worn shoes. For this project, they travelled to South India, where many people walk barefoot throughout life, mostly for spiritual or financial reasons.
In this way, the researchers wanted to gain an insight into the biologically normal function of the foot, which evolved for millions of years - unshod.
The research was funded by the Fund for Scientific Research – Flanders, and was based on dynamic measurements of pressure distribution under to foot sole during walking. It showed that he foot of habitual barefoot walkers differs, both in shape and in function, from that of habitually shod peers. Barefooters have a relatively wide forefoot and manage at better distributing pressures over the entire surface of the foot sole, resulting in lower (and most likely favourable) peak pressures. As such, the fundamental scientific results are also important for clinicians and for the design of quality footwear, which should not hamper the foot’s biologically normal function.