More on Minimalist Running Shoes: What the Heck Are Pampooties?

April 6, 2011

Pampooties! What on earth was my brother going on about? I had been telling my sister-in-law Monika about Vibram Five Fingers and the trend towards minimalist running shoes when Larry piped up in the background, “Ask her if she knows about pampooties.” Needless to say I’d never heard of such a thing; the name alone suggested something unmentionable like adult diapers renamed to sound inoffensive and discreet. Of course, nothing could have been farther from the truth.

Pampooties are one of the oldest forms of footwear dating back 5,000 years and were still worn by the fishermen in the Aran Islands (part of Ireland) into the 1950s. They’re made from a single piece of untanned hide folded around the foot and stitched with twine or a leather strap and were used to climb along the rocky coastline. The leather shoe acted as protection and yet afforded the wearer to mould his feet to the surface he was climbing on; this kept his feet flexible and strong.

I have come to ask myself what was it besides a lot of spin that led us to believe that highly supported, engineered shoes would be better for our feet than something that’s proven itself over thousands of years. After only a few decades of these high tech shoes we now have convincing evidence that they may be causing more damage than they’re preventing. If you think about it, it makes sense that when we wear highly supported running shoes with thick soles our feet become stiff and inflexible; the muscles in our feet becoming weakened from lack of use. I’ve notice over and over again in my private Feldenkrais practice that when my clients first come to see me they all have rigid inflexible feet and ankles that barely move.

Follow Susinn in this video and notice how your feet respond. Does each foot move incrementally or does the whole foot move as one piece? For a great many people the entire foot lifts all at once; this happens because your foot is moving as if you’re still wearing a shoe.

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