Medieval "Turn Shoes": How we used to walk.

In the 1500's in Western Europe, shoes were different. People wore “turn shoes”, leather shoes that were made inside out then reversed for wear. This was likely the beginning of the use of molds to make shoes, carpenters up until the twentieth century would carve a wooden foot model of various sizes to model the process and standardize it.

These "Turn Shoes" were replaced by shoes with a frame construction as shoes changed to adapt to different environments, as streets changed.

The Turn shoes were basically a slip on or lace up thick leather sock. Thus, they were zero drop, soft, and provided much "feel" for the ground. Proprioception was obviously well appreciated.

We have spoken about the difference between heel strike and heel contact in walking. One can safely heel strike if barefoot on soft grass, but one cannot on the hard concrete or asphalt that we have covered much of our world with. Thus, if one were to wear "turn shoes" in our modern era, one would be forced to adapt to a heel contact or "heel kiss" on the ground, meaning, a more predominant forefoot loading style as described in this video.

What he describes, is largely not a choice, it was because they were in soft thin leather sock all day long, and even on wood or hard dirt packed floors and cart paths all day long, the heels would want some reprieve from heel "strike".

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Another way around this, to reduce heel strike, is to do it more naturally, by shortening the step and stride lengths a little, by keeping the body mass over the foot strike. "Chi Running" and "Chi walking" are based off of this principle. By moving the body mass forward with the foot, one has to naturally reduce heel strike. If one lags the body mass behind the foot however, the foot moves out in front, and heel strike begins to naturally (or shall we say, unnaturally) out in front, more heavily. This is not exactly desirable, for many reason.  Yet, since most of our shoes have some form of heel lift (a heel to forefoot drop), particular dress shoes (yes, even men's dress shoes, see photo), and even many modern day running shoes, the heel is essentially made more prominent (the heel rise essentially makes the brain think our heel (calcaneus) that much longer. This makes it easier, yet undesirable, to heel "strike" first. Oh what we have done for fashion !

He gets a few things wrong in the video, in terms of "ease" of walking, but largely it is decently done. One has to be careful if they perch the foot out in front like he does in the slower demonstration, in a plantarflexed ankle and foot, one can easily begin to lock up the knees. We often see this in teenagers in flip-flops.

-Shawn and Ivo, the gait guys

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