Do short toes make humans better runners?

April 14, 2009

Comparison of the efficiency of walking and running

Can't say that this is a question I've thought much about. But a recent study by Daniel E. Lieberman suggests that the relatively shorter toes of humans, compared to other primates, provided a mechanical advantage that enabled early humans to run more efficiently in hunting game.

Last fall, The Bounce looked at evidence for endurance running as an early human hunting strategy. Several studies over recent years have pursued the idea that early man began his hunting career by running down game. Not by outracing animals in a sprint, but by tiring them out over a long distance endurance run and forcing them to fall from overheating and exhaustion.

A recent article describes the Lieberman study in the context of a fascinating new book, Born to Run, which describes "the reclusive Tarahumara Indians of Mexico’s deadly Copper Canyons ... For centuries they have practiced techniques that allow them to run hundreds of miles without rest and chase down anything from a deer to an Olympic marathoner while enjoying every mile of it".

H/T to the Bird Dog at Maggies Farm.



4 Responses

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