I expect that you’ve heard of ‘Doing the Hussle’ or maybe even ‘Doing the funky Chicken’ (they’re dances by the way), but what about ‘Doing the Medieval Walk’? No ? Well, it’s not a dance craze but a real historic thing. Apparently our Medieval ancestors walked differently to us and it’s all down to the type of shoes they wore and the places they had to walk.
Medieval shoes were more like leather socks than the firm well healed shoes we have today. So, in order to protect their feet from harm, people had to tread more carefully. Consequently the medieval step was much more toe-focused. Instead of hitting the ground with the heel, medieval European strollers stuck out their feet like ballerinas, touching the ball of the foot down on the ground first before putting their full weight down.
This lighter step takes more muscle effort but it allows you to feel your way along a road or through the long grass and so avoid potentially painful encounters with sharp objects. It also puts less pressure on your heels, for which there’s less impact protection. Once you’re armed with this knowledge looking at medieval drawings of people in motion opens up a whole new way of seeing what they are doing. What you might, at first, take for dramatic posturing begins to make a whole lot more sense.
This YouTube video recorded by Cornelius Berthold in the History Park Bärnau explains it very well.