The biodiversity of human feet

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Native Americans get custom sneaker:

Nike researchers and developers spent two years designing the shoe, traveling to seven locations to look at the feet of 224 Native Americans from 70 different tribes. They created a shoe to fit the average Native American foot, which is wider than the foot the Nike Air Pegasus running shoe is designed to fit. About 164 members of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs tested prototypes of the shoe before its release, the company said.

Jeff Piscotta, senior researcher in Nike’s Shoe Research Laboratory, said company researchers have developed a similar custom-fit shoe design for Japanese runners, and as part of the run-up to the 2008 Olympics are researching the feet of Chinese athletes and runners to produce a better-fitting product.

This is fascinating. The reason these shoes were developed was to encourage physical activity, something that comes more naturally when your feet aren’t aching. Assman has noted before that South Asians might be more flexible than the typical human, which likely results in flatter feet, so this foot’s-eye viewpoint might be pretty practical in tailoring shoes toward populations.

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17 Comments

  1. Makes me wonder why more firms don’t spend some time trying to make shoes, and indeed clothes, that fit their target customers well.

  2. Because people will buy the clothes that don’t fit well, obviously. 
     
    There’s a reason why American feet tend to have the large toe bent inward – it’s because no one has enough sense to buy properly-fitting shoes.

  3. Political correctness has erased much common knowledge of past times. As children in Central Europe, the writer Karl May informed us that Indians had different feet and left different tracks, and we practiced the “Indian walk” with big toes pointed inwards. We also knew all about Africans, things that were common knowledge in the Victorian era and now are non-things, a way of saying.

  4. We should sue all the shoe companies for all those bunions.

  5. Haha. I can’t buy shoes or boots that have elasticized gores because my huge arches won’t fit (I broke a plastic shoe horn trying once — the way you break a plastic spoon trying to eat dense ice cream). Don’t know if high arches correlate with wide feet, though. Thank god for putting zippers on the side of boots! 
     
    There’s probably some marketing research on the arches issue since the Japanese and Hong Kong-ians spend so much on looking nice.

  6. There’s probably some marketing research on the arches issue since the Japanese and Hong Kong-ians spend so much on looking nice. 
     
    ? What does that have to do with high arches? There is a lot of flat feet in my family. It causes problems if we have to walk long distances. My brother has some sort of prosthetic shoe, but I haven’t bothered to get them yet, I should. I’m developing a weird image in my head of “feet across the world” with all the different types. Anyway, my brother keeps telling me that I pay too much attention to the top of my body and not the bottom, I neglect my feet issues but use a lot of hair care (and my hair is even a pretty short style! Little beyond shoulders). He keeps saying that for all the spray, moisturizer and control paste I buy per month I could afford a podiatrist (I don’t have insurance right now).

  7. I think this is a terrific start to what might become a welcome consumer product. 
    But I think it’s REALLY weird that they will only sell to Native Americans.  
    As it happens, my feet are very wide and very high. I look more like my Nordic ancestors but my great grandmother was definitely Native American. Maybe the feet are her legacy; maybe not. But I got pretty excited when I read that they would be selling a shoe for people with my foot problem until I found out that there is this creepy racial prohibition against buying them.

  8. Oakley makes asian fit sunglasses.  
     
    http://oakley.com/asian_fit

  9. Interesting, I have large (size 13) and very wide feet (EEE) and very flat feet, with no arches… 
     
    If I walk in regular shoes for a mile or so, I get blisters on the inside soles of my feet – almost all shoes are too narrow for me… 
     
    BTW, I’m Irish.

  10. Isn’t it somewhat likely that the wider feet among Native Americans is in part due to high rates of obesity? Heavy people’s feet spread out to handle the extra weight…

  11. BTW, I’m Irish. 
     
    i’m brown irish!

  12. i’m brown irish! 
     
    No you’re not — this is Brown Irish: 
    http://www.nriinternet.com/ENTERTAINMENT/Model/SairaMohan/Gallery/saira_11.jpg 
     
    Warning: girl in bikini. Jesus Christ.

  13. Well, I have large and very wide feet and had trouble with flat feet as a boy. And one of my grandfathers was Irish. Probably comes from eating too many tatties and not enough fish.

  14. Razib, Bio, 
     
    Maybe large, wide, flat and flexible feet were/are being selected foe swimming. 
     
    Whereas the smaller, high arched, non-flexible are selected for running.

  15. On second thoughts, maybe not swimming, but walking over marshy or snowy ground – like snow shoes…

  16. As it happens, my feet are very wide and very high. I look more like my Nordic ancestors but my great grandmother was definitely Native American. Maybe the feet are her legacy; maybe not. 
     
    Maybe you have Finn feet. 
     
    walking over marshy or snowy ground – like snow shoes… Heh, that would fit, except that ur-Finns would probably have had skis.

  17. Nike should be sued for racial discrimination. Race is merely a social construct. We can all wear the same shoe.

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