This article was published in an Elsevier journal.
Footwear as it is known today is a relatively recent development in human culture with archaeological evidence dating back to at least the middle Upper Paleolithic (Gravettian) in parts of Europe. Modern footwear has evolved from simple foot coverings primarily for thermal protection in colder climates and mechanical protection in all environments, to more elaborate devices reflecting different cultures, fashion and behaviours. These forces have led to the habitual wearing of footwear in most contemporary societies, even when footwear not always serves any practical purpose. Considering Wolff’s model of bone remodeling, it has been hypothesised that with prolonged constriction and changes in the function of the foot in order to accommodate the shape and form of footwear, structural changes may result.
The results presented here suggest that the unshod lifestyle of the pre-pastoral group was associated with a lower frequency of osteological modification. The influence of modern lifestyle including the use of footwear, appears to have some significant negative effect on foot function, potentially resulting in an increase in pathological changes. The recent human groups additionally presented with greater osteological modification than the pre-pastoral Holocene group. Presuming that a similar biomechanical pattern exists in both shod and unshod groups, the most obvious variable between the groups was that of footwear, lifestyle and environment. As both recent and ancient groups presented with similar patterns of pathological variation, but notable differences in frequency, these changes are interpreted, at least in part, as a result of subtle variation in function due to environment, and to a greater extent as a result of differences in habitual behavior.