Is it better to run barefoot? This is one of the issues Daniel Lieberman, an evolutionary biology professor at Harvard University, has addressed in his study of how the human head and feet have evolved over time. Lieberman’s research on barefoot running recently made news when it showed that runners without shoes, who tend to land on their forefeet, generate less impact shock than do runners in sports shoes, who tend to land heel first. “So we have this idea now that in order to run all you need is a pair of shoes; well, actually, that’s not true. You don’t need shoes. You just need feet,” Lieberman says.
In January, Harvard University Press published Lieberman’s 768-page treatise The Evolution of the Human Head. The book sets out to explain how the human head functions, how it has evolved, and how its components interact in various ways both functionally and developmentally, causing them to be highly integrated. At Harvard’s Skeletal Biology Lab, Lieberman and his colleagues are currently looking at the biomechanics and evolution of running, walking, throwing, chewing, food processing, and sweating.