What’s the News: We’ve all fantasized about a cell phone battery that won’t quit. Now scientists hoping to harness the power generated when you walk are developing a device that might eventually use your footfalls to power small electronics. But will it overcome the hurdles of efficiency and cost?
High heel wearers likely guessed it: Walking around on your tiptoes isn’t great for your calf muscles. Researchers looking at leg sonograms of women who frequently wear 2-inch or higher heels found that these women had calf muscle fibers that were an average of 13 percent shorter than their flat-wearing counterparts.
The small study, published yesterday in the Journal of Experimental Biology, has given some credence to complaints of lasting pain even after the pumps come off.
Anecdotally it has long been said that regularly wearing high heels shortens the calf muscle. Study leader Professor Marco Narici, from Manchester Metropolitan University, said in the 1950s secretaries who wore high heels complained that they struggled to walk flat-footed when they took their shoes off. [BBC]
Three jaw-less heads and one really old shoe. These aren’t the clues in a Law and Order episode; they’re findings from a limestone cave in Armenia. As described in a paper published yesterday in PLoS ONE, archaeologists believe they have found the world’s oldest leather shoe: it’s 5,500 years old.
“It’s pretty weird,” said lead author Ron Pinhasi to CNN regarding the disembodied heads and the placement of the well-preserved shoe. The ancient sneaker was stuffed with grass, though archaeologists can’t say whether the grass was intended as insulation or whether it helped maintain the shoe’s shape.
“We thought originally it could be a discard, but at the same time, it’s very strange, because we have only one shoe, and it’s in very good shape,” Pinhasi said. “It looks like it was more than likely deliberately placed in this way.” [CNN]
The right-footed shoe–which looks a bit like a baked potato–has some features that might entice even modern buyers: for one, its maker fashioned it from a single piece of cow leather (like a pricey pair of today’s “whole cut” footwear), and it has leather laces. It’s about a women’s size seven, but, researchers say, it might have graced a small-footed man.
Perhaps the original design is still the best. In this week’s Nature, Harvard’s Daniel Lieberman and his team reported on the impact force of people who are used to running barefoot versus those of us who wear spongy sneakers to protect the bottoms of our feet. Those who ran barefoot (the way humans evolved to run) moved differently, and with far less stress on their feet than the shoe-wearing masses.
The researchers first traveled to Kenya to watch endurance runners who grew up running sans shoes. The study—the first to test lifelong barefoot runners and not simply people trying it out—found that the barefoot runners landed on the front or middle of their feet. By contrast, runners in shoes typically land on their heels. Lieberman says: “This creates an impact; it’s like someone hitting your heel with a hammer with up to three times your body weight” [BBC News]. In follow-up tests in the United States, the team noted that barefoot runners put, on average, only a third of the initial impact force on their feet than their shod counterparts did.
Nike, the world’s largest maker of athletic shoes, said yesterday it is adopting a policy that prohibits the use of leather from cattle raised in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest. The announcement came after a Greenpeace statement released about a month ago citing cattle farming as the main driver as deforestation in the region, and a significant contributor to global warming, as ranchers clear vast stretches of land for grazing.
The company established a formal Amazon leather policy and will give its leather suppliers until the first day of next July to “create an ongoing, traceable and transparent system to provide credible assurances that leather used for Nike products is from cattle raised outside of the Amazon Biome” [AP].