In light of Erik’s continuing struggle with plantar fasciitis, and my own neverending search for shoes which fit my monkey feet, we found this 1915 handbook on military footwear, The Soldier’s Foot and the Military Shoe, by Edward Lyman Munson, a fascinating read.
Seems that way back in 1915 we knew that arch support created weak arches, and that thick soles impaired foot dynamics.
The principle message of this book is that if you want your soldiers to able to march long distances, and arrive at their destination in any shape to fight, you have to give them flexible boots which do not squash the toes or impede the natural movement of the foot. Simple as that.
So why, exactly 100 years later, are we still debating whether the foot needs lots of external support and cushioning? Why are overbuilt athletic shoes and supportive inserts still favored by mainstream opinion?
Minimal footwear enthusiasts may find the language below eerily familiar.
You can read the whole book at the invaluable archive.org.
(o) The shoe should not support the arch of the foot in the sense of lifting it up or buttressing it from below. This fact is opposed to common belief, but the latter is based on lack of knowledge of the anatomy of the foot and misconception as to its function. Rigid support of this region weakens its intrinsic muscles by favoring their non-use, and thus tends to directly cause the condition of flat-footedness which it is attempted to avoid. Barefoot peoples have no such arch support and flat feet are practically unknown among them. . . . In the new shoe, the purpose is to have the leather accurately follow the outlines of the average soldier’s foot arch, but without compressing the sole muscles to such an extent that their function will be interfered with and their development and strengthening be impaired. Every structure of the foot concerned in marching should be left free to function to the best anatomical and mechanical advantage. For this reason, the new shoe has no metal shank as stiffening under the foot arch.
(p) The sole should be sufficiently thick to prevent injury by inequality in the ground. But if too thick, planter flexion of the foot is lost and dorsi flexion much reduced. The foot is thus reduced to the condition of a solid block, hinging at the ankle and simply furnishing a solid support for the leg. Moreover, with thick soles, the leveraging function of the great toe is interfered with…
(p. 51, The Soldier’s Foot)