The human foot is at least 3.6 million years old, but human beings are only about 130,000 years old. The bare foot is so well designed that it has hardly changed in millions of years. From 40,000 years ago to the twelfth century, most people went barefoot or wore thin sandals or moccasins (3). Prior to the 1970s, people ran either barefoot or in thin, flat shoes. In the early 70s, Nike and New Balance started making cushioned running shoes with elevated heels. Today, many people would not think about going for a run without shoes that promise support and cushioning, yet the human foot has been successfully doing just that for millions of years. Why do we "need" running shoes today?
In walking, people typically land with their heels first. Running generates much more force, so when people run barefoot, they tend to land in the mid to forefoot area so that the foot's arches can help absorb and dissipate the impact force. The more elevated a shoe's heel is, the more it encourages heel striking. Landing heel first when running sends the impact force directly up the leg whereas landing in the mid foot allows much of the impact to be translated to rotational force, which is much more easily controlled and dissipated.