Daniel Lieberman on Brains plus Brawn

Daniel Lieberman

Daniel Lieberman

I just read this amazing conversation with Daniel Lieberman on Edge. I first read about him in the Born to Run book. He is Professor of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University and his research combines experimental biology and paleontology to ask why and how the human body looks and functions the way it does. After running barefoot for 10 months now, it’s pretty clear that it’s not about running barefoot, it’s more about running barefoot style. Big difference, but some people seemed to get hung up on this.

It’s a 45-minute conversation, but here are some key quotes from the article.

  • … that humans are essentially weak creatures … is deeply woven into how we think of our bodies
  • Early members of the genus Homo had small brains
  • Brains are very costly … 600 calories/day just for sitting around and thinking
  • A typical hunter-gatherer has to walk between nine and 15 kilometers a day
  • They’re constantly digging, they’re climbing trees, and they’re using their bodies intensely
  • We are actually remarkable endurance athletes
  • Until extremely recently … you couldn’t survive as a human being without being an endurance athlete
  • It turns out that humans have special features in our heads … that enable us to keep our head still while running
  • The reason we gave up climbing was not because of walking but because of running
  • It’s evidence that running is a fundamentally important part of our biology
  • There are many other features in the head that help us become exceptional long-distance walkers and runners
  • Running was very important for the evolution of hunting
  • Most Americans, when we run, we land on our heels
  • The world’s best runners all grew up barefoot and they all are phenomenal runners
  • By studying barefoot running it occurred to me that it helps us to understand how the body was actually evolved to run
  • Many of the ways in which we get sick today have a corporate, almost capitalist origin
  • In the Kenyan villages where I work, where people don’t wear shoes, I have yet to find a single person with a fallen arch
  • We love comfort, and people make a lot of money selling us comfort, but I would challenge the notion that comfort is usually good for us
  • In other words, if you landed on your heel, you had a 2.6-times greater chance of having a severe injury than if you landed on your forefoot

So go on and check out the conversation. Most amazing perspective on how we are all built for running. Just need to tap into that inner psyche and start moving our feet.