Walk like an Anglo Saxon


I do enjoy Roland Warzecha’s high-quality videos on medieval weapons and their usage. I’m not entirely sure how to feel about this one, however. He’s suggesting that medieval people walked with a different type of step than us modern humans, because of the different footwear. The old way (he suggests) was to land on the ball of the foot first (but put the whole foot on the ground, not just the ball) instead of heel striking first. In a way it’s similar to the type of stepping you find in the Chinese martial art of Baguazhang.

I just tried this way of walking on a little trip around the office and I did notice that it was possible to walk around like this, and it definitely works the calves in a way that ‘normal’ walking does not. For me it’s still a big ask to believe that people used to do such a fundamental human activity, like walking,  in a very different way to the way we do it today. Either way, it’s interesting. Have a watch and see what you think:

Edit August 2021: A note on this video now says: “I have learned a lot about this topic ever since this video was recorded, and consider the presentation incomplete now. Read more here: https://www.patreon.com/posts/13655286

Roland also has some great videos on medieval posture and fighting with weapons that are also worth watching if you haven’t seen them before:

The thrusting posture does look odd, especially for combat,  but I can see what he means about it developing different muscles in the back.

This video about Viking arts is also a good watch:

And here’s some nice Sword and Buckler sparring from 2019:

4 thoughts on “Walk like an Anglo Saxon

  1. Thanks Heteromeles – really nice read! I spend a few hours each week barefoot on martial arts mats – although I think that’s different because the mat conforms to your foot a bit, but I go barefoot around the house just because it feels better.


  2. I’ll admit I’m pants at tai chi, but I learned this one an entirely different way.

    This started with the barefoot running craze of a few years ago. At that time, my favorite hiking spot had a lot of softball-sized cobbles on the trails. I’d originally gone in there wearing boots, but when you’re walking on cobbles, if your ankle can’t move to accommodate the rounded shapes on the trail, your hips and especially knees have to overextend and twist. After awhile, I got sick of the knee pain. I’d read McDougall’s Born to Run, and I decided to try minimal running shoes. Actually, I decided to be even cheaper: water shoes, which usually run under $30 (check out swimoutlet.com for a good selection). I also got some flat insoles to add a few millimeters of cushioning, since I was also walking around broken glass and thorns. Standard tai chi shoes are a good substitute, but much flimsier.

    I’d already read that barefoot running requires using your foot like an arch, with heel and ball hitting more or less simultaneously. Thin soled shoes teach this lesson with exquisite agony, and you learn fast. The problem is that most modern, thick-soled shoes with high insoles force you to heel slap. You come down hard on your heel, then roll your foot. In some shoes that restrict your ankle flexing, there’s no other way to walk than to land on your heel and roll onto the engineered sole. You do that walking on rocks or pavement in essentially bare feet, and you are in pain in fairly short order. You have to shorten your stride, bring down your foot softly (I disagree that it’s ball first: treat the foot arch as an arch, and come down on heel and ball simultaneously), and stretch your stride out a bit behind you, not ahead. And soft in this case is literal: you can hear someone heel pounding from some way off, and proper walking in a thin sole is very quiet. It takes some time to get used to this, because you have to strengthen the structures of your foot (muscles, tendons, fascia), since they’ve likely been swaddled by modern shoes for years. You’ve also go to redevelop flexibility and strength in your ankles. But personally, I love it, and I now wear thin-soled shoes everywhere I can. It’s not a perfect solution, as I still prefer boots for hot deserts, cold weather, mucky conditions that eat shoes, or long distance hiking with a load, but for day-to-day life, it’s great.


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