Highly insulated footwear aided human survival in the far North where thermal insulation was required and impaired mobility they caused was relatively unimportant to survival. All other footwear usage comes from an esthetic tradition of body art through foot decoration. Their use by a whole population other than those in the North commenced with civilizations, and were first used by all social classes of a society with the European Renaissance. Accordingly, humans are optimized through natural selection to be in direct contact with natural substrates.
Humans split from a common ancestor and reached fully modern form perhaps 300,000 and 70,000 years, respectively. Humans were migratory hunter-gatherers who largely lived in groupings of probably between 20 and 100 members, and survived by following large animal herds which were their main source of nutrition. This was obtained probably through scavenging the remains left by more able predators, some of which were likely near complete animals recently killed which were obtained through forcing predators off their fresh kills via groups of humans bearing weapons perhaps such as long shafted wooden spears. Considerable food was also obtained though extracting nutrients from remains of long dead animals that were left by the predators and other scavengers though the use of tools. The prime example of this was bone marrow from large animal bones. Hunter-gatherers in all but the extreme North required optimal mobility for survival both when following migrating animal herds, and obtain daily nutrition once in proximity to animals.
The only use of footwear with human hunter-gatherers is found in the extreme North, where ther "mukluk" (a.k.a. "kamak") was required for survival though preventing foot damage from hypothermia. These footwear impaired mobility compared to the bare foot unencumbered by footwear in temperate climates, but the extreme North was unique in that the animals that made up essentially their entire diet were abundant and could be harvested directly without the aid of more able predators because they were less mobile.
Other than the unique case of the far North, footwear make their appearance with civilizations. Civilizations are considered large social groupings characterized by populations in a relatively fixed locations and specialization of task. These commenced perhaps 10,000 years ago with large numbers of humans living in this form of social organization for perhaps 5,000 years. Only small groups of humans living in civilizations wore shoes until the Renaissance in Europe where all social classes began wearing them for the first time in human history. Since this represents a minute period of human history therefore evolution, and there were no clear selective pressures for footwear use that has ever been found except in the far North, it seems likely that humans retain feet that were optimized safe prolonged mobility with the plantar surface in direct contact with the supporting substrate - barefoot.
Living in a fixed location, and specialization of task allowed typically a small cohort of the upper classes of these majority slave societies to exist with minimal mobility, therefore footwear that impaired mobility did not significantly negatively affect their survival. Footwear use tended to concentrate in societies that practiced body art though painting with henna or other pigments. This practice precedes historical record and likely was present well before civilizations in some hunter-gatherers. Perhaps it served originally in tribe identification or attempts to intimidate threatening groups or status within a grouping. Feet have long been a prominent site for the expression of body art, whether it be in the form of painting, toe rings, ankle bracelets or the like.
India provides the clearest example of the transition from body decoration to shoe. Foot decoration through henna painting predates human civilizations and recorded history. Later, the anklet and toe ring were added.The sandal subsequently appeared probably as a consequence of European colonization and cultural imperialism, with the anklet and toe loop modified to attach shoe sole material to the plantar surface. The Egyptian Civilization also had an ancient henna foot aesthetic tradition.
It is thought that footwear that permitted efficient running first appeared in Victorian England in response to the popularity of running with men of the upper social classes. This cohort seemed unwilling to be barefoot because of social norms. This footwear consisted of thin-soled composed of leather shoes with protruding nails to aid traction. They closely resemble the modern running “spikes”. These shoes were functional only on prepared (“cinder”) tracks, or on naturally deposited ground, but not on pavement. As synthetic materials became available in the last half of the twentieth century, they were integrated into footwear that permitted efficient running on both natural and man-made surfaces. Clearly running with footwear as we know it is a modern phenomenon. No sensible argument can be made that humans evolved running with any shoe.
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