Stayed on their toes: How medieval people walked, ran and fought.
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Staying on their toes: How medieval people walked, ran and fought.


As a consequence of my 20+ years of genealogy research into our family’s history, I have become fascinated with how medieval people lived, including the flexibility and adaptability of the different times and cultures.


Part of life was learning to live and succeed by using our own body mechanics for the best result in adapting to our environment, available materials, etc.


This video is particularly fascinating as it illustrates how medieval people walked, ran and fought prior to the invention of hard soled shoes with built in heels.



On impulse, I took the time to explore some of the comments and found them quite illuminating, educational or funny.

And he isn’t using only the fencing manual illos as evidence, he just happened to toss that one up as an example. You see this ball-first gait and posture in illuminations, illustrations, and tapestries all over the damn place in medieval through early Renaissance artwork depicting all sorts of activities. It’s why so many figures in these look kind of dainty compared to what we might expect.     Xaos Bob


I think you’re missing an important distinction here;  walking gaits vs running/athletic gaits. Wear patterns on historical shoes (see the MoL – Shoes and Pattens chapter dedicated to this) and observation of primitive people of today suggest a normal heel to toe walking gait, just as we perform today in modern soled and heeled shoes.  However, when running you do have to forefoot strike in historical shoes just as you do in modern barefoot style running shoes if you value the health of your joints.  Historical people walked just like we do, but they likely ran differently than most modern people do.  You can observe proper mechanics in young children.  They instinctively walk heel-to-toe, but they run with a mid to forefoot strike.  It’s not until years of sitting in a chair (adaptive shortening of the heel-cords, and reduced glute function etc.) and walking with modern footwear that they ‘re-train’ to heel-strike while running.     Knyght Errant

This was quite interesting and it hit close to home. My father was an avid runner for most of his life. At different times I took up jogging to help lose weight but I struggled with it….as my time and distance was difficult to improve. I told this to my father who in turn told me a story.

My father said he had read a book by a man (I don’t remember his name) who was from Europe and was a long distance runner. Long story short, he said that we should run as ancient people ran. These people ran on the balls of their feet. They never let there heels hit the ground first, even when they walked! Heel walking is not how our is designed to function. He also said conventional running shoes with the thick soles under the heel is a horrible shoe and we should run in shoes with little to  no heel at all.

I started ball running after that…and took about 3 days to get used to it and I bought track shoes that had no heel at all. By the end of the week I was easily running twice the distance at a faster pace. It felt like every time I had put my heel down first, I was “breaking” my forward momentum.     POPPASHANGO

Supposedly back in colonial times trackers could differentiate between Native American tracks and European tracks because of the different body mechanics.     Furor Teutonicus
You can’t just trust the word of other reenactors and illustrations of dueling, go back to the artifacts.  Check out “Shoes and Pattens” by Grew & de Neergaard or their source “Interpretation of wear marks seen in footwear” by Swallow, A W.  Fighting, stalking, and other activities certainly start with a ball or toe strike, but not for normal walking.     deadextra


A fifties' child, mom, wife, avid genealogy researcher, web contributor and author/owner of four blogs including Empty Nest Ancestry, Feathering the Empty Nest Nest, Top Web Blog Tips, Job Bully, and our extensive family genealogy database site at Blythe Genealogy.