Tender Tootsies

Why are Hobbits such good travelers? Because they’ve never walked a mile in ANYONE else’s shoes!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Humans evolved walking barefoot, not in fancy sneakers. Calluses developed to naturally protect our feet from walking hazards, like sharp sticks and rocks. But we also need to feel the surfaces we walk on for balance. Do calluses cause us to lose that sensitivity?

Daniel Lieberman, from Harvard, and an international team of researchers wanted to know.

They analyzed the feet of about eighty Kenyans, both rural and city-dwellers. Some wore shoes every day; others never wore them at all. Ultrasound measurements determined callus thickness, and a probe determined hardness of the skin. Their feet were tested for sensitivity with a vibrating device. . Feeling lower vibrations meant more sensitivity.

So, ARE shoes better than free toe-ing it? Seems not! Folks with thick, hard calluses could still feel low vibrations! Even more so than those wearing shoes, as rubber soles barely transmit vibrations.

I guess life is a balance between style and…well, balance. Me? I choose style!