Riddle me this ….

We evolved:

  • barefoot
  • got plenty of exercise chasing animals to survive
  • the air was fresh
  • ate well (paleo)
  • and had a life expectancy of 35 years

Now we:

  • wear shoes
  • get less or no exercise
  • the air is polluted
  • eat junk food
  • yet we somehow manage to live to 85 years

What am I missing? What is wrong with this picture?

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9 Responses to Riddle me this ….

  1. Roman R. January 23, 2015 at 1:34 pm #

    I can recommend “The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease” by Daniel Lieberman he explains it pretty good (way better than I can).

    Much has to do with medical care and hygiene, aswell as cultural evolution making life much more easy. But I guess the first 35 years are still more pleasent not having all those degenerative diseases and other non life threatening maladies.
    Exercising too little, eating unhealthy food may make you feel bad, give you back pain or even diabetes but with the help of painkillers and other medications or medical care you can still get old.
    Back than minor maladies could stop you from going hunting and eventually you would starve to death….

  2. J January 23, 2015 at 6:57 pm #

    Historical averages (which is what you’re referring to) of life expectancy are heavily skewed by young children dying at birth, or in the years following. Back then, those first few years were very fragile. That is no longer the case.

    The actual life expectancy once you’ve made it past those first few years would been a lot higher than 35 (though not as high as what we expect now, but that’s what modern medicine gets you – we’re a lot better at making people not die these days).

  3. Rob March 27, 2015 at 9:28 pm #

    I am with J on this one. I see that historical average thrown around all willy nilly all the time. Come on Craig you are better than that.

    Yes we may live to 85, but barely. You need a entire cabinet of pills just to wake up in the morning. You are constantly in fear of falling because you may not get back up. Might be wishing you were attack by a sabertooth at 35. 🙂

  4. Al April 29, 2015 at 5:24 pm #

    I also mostly agree with Rob and J but take issue with Rob’s scolding condescension. I think Craig was open to logical ripostes on this topic (and only being a little bit ironic) when he said “What am I missing?”

  5. Ivan Rivera May 10, 2015 at 12:56 am #


    I love your blog, but come on, really? Barefooting ain’t a magic pill (which is why I don’t do it), but there’s a lot to be said about the positive intent behind it. There’s a lot of data to corroborate that the “appeal to nature fallacy” of barefooters—which does show up a lot as such, granted—does make sense.

    If you wear shoes, you get reduced variation of stimulus. That leads to reduced sensation, which leads to reduced motor function and control of the intrinsic muscles of the foot, which leads to reduced motor function and control of other muscles up the chain.

    That’s why going barefoot is a great corrective.

    But saying that it’s the best way to run a hundred miles? Unlikely: it’s telling that the first two articles of clothing are loincloths and sandals.

    Incidentally, you trashed Phil Maffetone on another post of yours. I work with him, and I think you’re being a little unfair. There’s more and more literature coming out on how increasing the quality, quantity, and intensity of movement (in that order) may be a primary driver of increased brain function and development. (Just think about how motor inhibition reduces sensory input).

    The go-to entry-level source that I can think of for what I’m talking about is “Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.”

    What goes on in the feet has such a great influence on what goes on further up the chain that it does end up affecting global neuromotor patterns, which end up facilitating movement and athletic opportunities (or inhibiting them), etc.

    I think that the argument that foot function (meaning sensation+ROM+motor control) has a powerful influence on brain development is not as outlandish or far-fetched as you make it sound.

  6. Ivan Rivera May 10, 2015 at 1:01 am #

    I meant to say that what barefooters argue make sense on some level, but it’s taken too far, and evangelized too strongly.

    Also, “sandals and loincloths” are the articles of clothing that typically come first historically.

    Sorry–didn’t edit my post right.


    • Craig Payne May 10, 2015 at 1:56 am #

      “If you wear shoes, you get reduced variation of stimulus. That leads to reduced sensation, which leads to reduced motor function and control of the intrinsic muscles of the foot, which leads to reduced motor function and control of other muscles up the chain.”

      No one knows if that is actually the case or not. That is just a made up slogan/cliche that keeps getting repeated. It is nothing more than wishful thinking – ie making a statement and wishing it was true. I have never seen any evidence that reduced sensation via footwear affects intrinsic muscles function and function further up. I have seen lots of people claim it and wish it was true.

      Phil Maffetone makes stuff up that is contradicted by the evidence; promotes pseudoscience and uses the full gambit of logical fallacies. I will trash and ridicule anyone who does that that.

  7. Ivan Rivera May 10, 2015 at 3:13 am #


    If no one knows, then there is no evidence to contradict it. (Lack of evidence does not constitute evidence, either way).

    If by “evidence” you mean experimental evidence published in a respectable scientific journal, then I don’t have that, but I think I can find it. (Give me a few days).

    However, seeing as how the reflex arc is driven by sensation (and generally, inputs drive outputs in the nervous system), it is not unreasonable to argue that a decline in the variety and quantity of sensation will coincide with a decline in the variety and quantity of motor output. And if there is a decline in motor output, there will be a decline in the variety and quantity of function—atrophy.

    Furthermore, we have strong reason to believe that muscles are neurologically connected in functional units. And in any case, they’re mechanically connected. Valgus collapse in the medial arch of the foot, for example, will have mechanical consequences all the way up the chain, in terms of how the knee and the hip function. That will have consequences on your ability to run circles around people in soccer.

    Given the functional interconnectedness of the body (which we can infer from its fascial structure alone), I don’t think it unreasonable to say that if you change something in the support structure, something up the chain will change.

    “No one knows” is a long shot from “no one has published experimental evidence in a respectable scientific journal.” I am not claiming that I know, just that Maffetone’s argument is a lot less unreasonable than you claim it is, even if there is a lack of published experimental evidence surrounding it.

    Like I mentioned in my last comment, I’m a big fan of your blog. Your observations have done a lot to temper my own thoughts about running. I want to have a candid conversation on these topics, not a shouting match.

  8. Ivan Rivera May 10, 2015 at 3:28 am #

    You know, I just saw your video on your “about” page. I think I understand what you mean by looking at the research a lot more, which I’m game with.

    If you take what is published in a respectable journal as “evidence”—with the obvious caveats of it having sufficient peer-review and citations—then I respect that. I think that generally speaking, it is reasonable to equate a lack of evidence in scientific journals with saying “no one knows.”

    Personally, that’s not how I would do it, and in general, I’m of the opinion that all theories begin as speculation, conjecture, and logical negotiations. But I see what you’re doing (or at least I think I do) and I don’t want to get in your way.

    I still want your opinion, and will continue to be an enthusiastic and constant commenter on your blog.



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