American Journal of Physical Anthropology

Abstract: This study investigates biomechanical implications of walking with indigenous “Kolhapuri”
footwear compared to barefoot walking among a population of South Indians.

Materials and methods: Ten healthy adults from South India walked barefoot and indigenously
shod at voluntary speed on an artificial substrate. The experiment was repeated outside, on a natural
substrate. Data were collected from (1) a heel-mounted 3D-accelerometer recording peak
impact at heel contact, (2) an ankle-mounted 3D-goniometer (plantar/dorsiflexion and inversion/
eversion), and (3) sEMG electrodes at the m. tibialis anterior and the m. gastrocnemius medialis.

Results: Data show that the effect of indigenous footwear on the measured variables, compared
to barefoot walking, is relatively small and consistent between substrates (even though subjects
walked faster on the natural substrate). Walking barefoot, compared to shod walking yields higher
impact accelerations, but the differences are small and only significant for the artificial substrate.
The main rotations of the ankle joint are mostly similar between conditions. Only the shod condition
shows a faster ankle rotation over the rapid eversion motion on the natural substrate.
Maximal dorsiflexion in late stance differs between the footwear conditions on an artificial substrate,
with the shod condition involving a less dorsiflexed ankle, and the plantar flexion at toe-off
is more extreme when shod. Overall the activity pattern of the external foot muscles is similar.

Discussion: The indigenous footwear studied (Kolhapuri) seems to alter foot biomechanics only in
a subtle way. While offering some degree of protection, walking in this type of footwear resembles
barefoot gait and this type of indigenous footwear might be considered “minimal”.


Biomechanical implications of walking with indigenous footwear

Research article: Biomechanical implications of walking with indigenous footwear.

By Catherine Willems, Gaetane Stassijns, Wim Cornelis and Kristiaan D’Août.

Version of Record online : 19 JAN 2017, DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.23169