Walking the medieval way

YouTube user Roland Warzecha has produced an interesting video on this subject.  He’s disabled embedding, but you can view it at this link.  Recommended.

He’s listed the video as “outdated”, saying:

I have learned a lot about this topic ever since this video was recorded, and consider the presentation incomplete now, which is why it is not listed any more.

However, his updated video is restricted to his Patreon subscribers, and isn’t available for public viewing;  therefore, I’ve chosen to link the earlier version.  Even if he regards it as “incomplete”, it’s an interesting concept.  I agree with his comments about “ball-walking”:  I’ve seen the same thing in some (not all) savanna tribes in Africa.

I think it’d be rather painful to re-learn to walk the medieval way, and we’d need a drastic change of shoe and boot design.  I daresay modern footwear such as the well-known Vibram Five Fingers range of fitness shoes (and their knock-offs) would work well for the purpose.  However, I’m too old and crotchety to change now!



  1. So, people walking barefoot walk on their toes. Or, rather, toe to heel. Most kids do the same thing today. MY own kids walked on their toes until I got them boots to wear in the winter. My son still mostly walks on his toes when he's barefoot. (He didn't use his heels until he was a teenager, except for running and stomping around in boots. Just the toes and balls of his feet. I think he likes being both taller and silent.)

  2. Hey Peter;

    I remember reading something a long time ago how an Indian(feather not dot) could tell if the person walking in the woods or the field was a white man or a native by the footsteps in the dirt, a whiteman was heel heavy and the native was toe/ball of the feet was more impressed in the dirt.

  3. Some film via satellite (C-band dish) in the 1980's…

    Pa: Naked people run funny.
    Ma: *Barefoot* people run different.

  4. My experience of wearing Vibram products is that the change in step/stride is a natural one (you step on a pebble or other object heel first only a very few times before you automatically start stepping ball-of-the-foot first). The problem I've consistently found with the basic design is one of inconsistency of construction of the shoe itself, almost certainly as a result of the inconsistent nature of the human foot and the necessary requirements of mass production technology in its current iteration. Differences in the relative length of human toes results in an uncomfortable fit from shoes that require very little "room for your toes" in the design. It's an odd feeling really; you're not actually in pain, but the sensation caused by one of your toes being compressed slightly back into itself is definitely off putting (especially since the ball-of-the-foot-first stride places more emphasis on the toes pushing off from the ground into the next step than the heel-first stride does).

    I'm familiar with this video through my HEMAA membership and practice, which first raised this topic in consideration of the recurrent questions about how well anyone can learn a martial art from written texts only. The historic differences in body mechanics generally, and specific to walking/running in historically accurate costume and armour (spell check points out to me that I reflexively use the English spelling of armor in this context :)), is a common objection (or at least doubt) raised regarding training with modern costume and equipment. As a side note; we mostly end up on agreeing that modern gear is just safer for practitioner's than historically accurate gear would be, and we can live with the cognitive dissonance easier than we can the (historically intended, remember!) major trauma and death that are the otherwise natural outcomes of our hobby.

  5. His entire hypothesis was disproven by the archeological record. So far every recovered piece of footwear has shown a heel toe stride. Reenactors have found that a heel toe stride with a very light heel strike while walking and a running stride on the balls of the feet cause matching wear patterns in historically accurate reproductions of turnshoes. Roland sometimes makes rather definite comments on the basis of very slight evidence.

  6. I first became aware of this when I read Christopher McDougal's excellent book "Born To Run". He kept getting injured running until he discovered bare foot running. His journey to that knowledge was easily the best thing I read that year and I'm not even much of an athlete.

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