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Scientific publications that barefoot enthusiasts must read !

Zipfel & Berger  Comparing foot injury frequency when barefoot and shod

The contemporary standard of causality in health sciences is both a statistical association between causal agent and disorder and a plausible known  mechanism. The mechanism relating attenuated plantar sensibility and stability caused by footwear is now well established. However, the statistical association between footwear use and injury has been difficult to establish because there are presently no entirely barefoot population. Zipfel & Berger's report is important because it fills this void. They have provided data that convincingly suggests that groups living totally barefoot sustain fewer foot injuries.

Zipfel & Berger have examined skeletal remains of unshod South African hunter gatherers (aged 2000 - 9720 years). This group is relatively old yet contemporary in evolutionary terms considering homo sapiens have existed for at least 250,000 years. Their foot bones constitute a record of a population of humans who lived their lives entirely barefoot. When compared to the unshod, forefoot injury was approximately 100% greater in contemporary groups of African origin inhabiting the same region (now Zulu and Sotho) and well as Europeans.

These data also provide evidence that foot structures are spared when barefoot according to plantar pain threshold differences as I proposed. What makes these data all the more  remarkable is that as hunter gatherers the unshod were bearing weight almost all their wakeful hours whereas the contemporary cohorts were sedentary. The exposure of the contemporary groups to the injury producing condition (weight-bearing) was considerably lower.

Zipfel, B. & Berger, L.R. Shod versus unshod: the emergence of forefoot pathology in modern humans. (The Foot:  The International Journal Of Foot Science - Volume 17, issue 4 - December 2007)




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