The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Does footwear change energy expenditure? Application to understanding the energetics of extinct bipeds


1Anthropology, University of Washington, 2Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, University of Washington

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Although extinct hominins did not wear shoes, most energetic studies conducted to explore their energetics have used shod participants. Using this data to understand the hominin fossil record might, therefore, be misleading. In this study we explore the effects of footwear on velocity profiles and the variables that describe energy expenditure.

Twenty-three women walked on a treadmill at five self-selected velocities (15 shod and 8 unshod) while their oxygen intake (VO2) was monitored. Standard anthropometrics were also measured. For normal (p=0.015), medium fast (p=0.022) and fast (p=0.025) velocity trials, unshod participants chose to walk at lower velocities than those subjects wearing shoes. After controlling for velocity and mass, the shod group was not, however, different from the unshod group in VO2 (p=0.71), cost of transport (p=0.57), minimum cost of transport (p=0.81) or optimal velocity (p=0.97).

The self-selected velocity differences between the shod and unshod groups might be due to the increased ground reaction forces associated with faster velocities. Although footwear does change the velocity profiles, the energy expenditure variables of the shod group were not different from those of the unshod group. Using shod data to understand the fossil record should, therefore, not be misleading regarding energy expenditure variables.

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