Tag Archives: Indian

Walking Indian Style – Guest Post

Originally Posted on September 22, 2014 by Helga at http://www.sumofit.com/walking/walking-indian-style/Reposted with author’s permission.

As children we often sat cross-legged on the floor or ground and called it “sitting Indian-style”.  Well, how about walking Indian-style?  How did Native Americans walk before they adopted stiff-soled, constrictive European footwear?  The answer is nimbly and effortlessly, landing on the ball of the foot — or on the entire sole — instead of on the heel.  In “The Indian How Book“, published in 1927, Seneca archaeologist, Arthur C. Parker, provides this wonderful description of Indian walking:

A natural people who depended upon nimble feet know how to walk.  The stiff-soled shoe and the styles of the generation have altered our way of walking.  We come down with a jar upon our heels, then rock our feet to our toes, thrust the other foot forward and come down upon the heel again.  We also turn our feet outward in such a manner that the direction of our movement passes through the middle of our foot, instead of from toe to heel.  We toe out.  Stiff soles, heel thumping and toeing out injure many feet, and fallen arches result.

Indians directed their feet straight ahead.  The body followed the direction of the foot, — straight ahead.  Moccasins were worn, which allowed the foot to keep its natural shape.  Indians had no corns or injured toe joints.  Contrary to the idea that the foot in a loose covering grows large, the Indian’s foot was small.  The moccasin did not cause it to flatten out.  On the other hand, the moccasin favored good blood circulation and strong, hard foot muscles.  There were no fallen arches.

In walking with the foot straight ahead there was less fatigue.  In walking up a steep hill Indians turned their toes in.  This permitted them to grip the ground with the forward and outside of the foot, and prevented slipping.

Moccasins kept the Indian “on this toes” a good deal of the time.  He kept a springy feeling.  In ordinary walking the heel was not thumped down first, but the ball of the foot, or, occasionally the whole foot, planked down flat upon the ground.

Our present day military step is a fatiguing one and in the long run injures the bones of the feet.  A good many hikers are trying the Indian way with great success.

During the Civil War, General Grant had on his staff a Seneca Indian who was a Colonel in charge of military engineering.  Later he was made Grant’s military secretary, but during this Indian’s career as engineer there were many forced marches through the Wilderness.  The men in one of the brigades became foot weary and were falling out rapidly.  The Indian went to Grant and said that he could carry the men through without further fatigue.  “Take command,” said Grant.  The Indian in taking command ordered every man to toe in and march ahead.  When they were rested he had them walk with the feet straight ahead instead of at an angle of forty-five degrees or thereabouts.  Completely restored, the men went forward and joined the re-enforcements.

Going native

The Indians were right where clothing and footwear were concerned, so it’s not surprising that Europeans who spent a lot of time with Indians — mountain men, trappers, traders, and adventurers — often chose to “go native” by wearing Indian clothing and moccasins.  They must have experienced an incredible sense of freedom after shedding the tight trousers, waistcoats, stiff-collared-and-cuffed shirts, jackets, and crippling shoes and boots.  But how many European women were brave enough to cast aside their corsets, hooped skirts and button-up granny boots in favour of soft deerskin dresses, leggings and moccasins?

Or not…..

What has really changed?  We are still slaves of fashion, having merely replaced the corset with the Wonder Bra (and other undergarments that lift, separate and compress);  the hoop skirt with the pencil-skirt; and granny boots with Manolo Blahniks and motion-control, anti-pronation running shoes.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.