Daniel E. Lieberman does not hate shoes. The professor of biological science and chair of the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., wants to clear that up right away. 'There has been debate about barefoot running being good or bad, or shoes being good or bad, and this is the wrong debate. It should be about what the costs and benefits of shoes are and how we can better understand how shoes affect our feet, our health, and the way we walk."
He should know. Since Lieberman published his groundbreaking study, "Endurance Running and the Evolution of Homo," in Nature in 2004, researchers across the globe have studied the biomechanics of running, particularly as it involves bare or shod feet. Oddly, though, few have considered walking, the primary mode of transportation humans have used to get from Point A to Point B over the past 250,000 years.
Now comes Lieberman with his latest paper, also published in Nature, exploring the value of the calluses we develop while walking barefoot, finding them to be a marvel of natural selection's ability to engineer without trade-offs.
Most people are aware of how developing calluses protects skin. Common sense would suggest that there is a price to be paid in lost sensitivity. Not so, indicate Lieberman and his...