J.D. Moyer

sci-fi writer, beat maker, self-experimenter

Walk Like a Medieval

About 18 months ago, shortly after we gave up our car, I started to get some weird nerve sensations–tingling and a little numbness–along the inside of my legs and pelvic floor. Since I’d been riding my bike a lot more, I guessed that was probably the source of the issue. I got a fitted, more ergonomic bike seat, and fatter tires. That helped, but I was still experiencing some symptoms. I’d been playing a lot of racquetball, so I thought maybe the high-impact running around the court might be part of the problem. But taking a few weeks off from racquetball didn’t make any difference.

I was worried it might be some kind of prostate issue, but some tests at the doctor’s office ruled that out. My doctor’s opinion matched my own–this was some kind of nerve irritation or minor compression from physical activity.

Then I broke my foot, and within a week (spending most my time on the couch), all my leg and pelvic nerve symptoms were gone. So some kind of locomotion had been causing the issue. But what?

After my foot had healed up, I got back on my bike, but this time I lowered the bike seat even more, and pedaled standing up much of the time. With these adjustments, I could ride my bike every day and not have any nerve issues.

Just recently I put two and two together and deduced another causative factor. Right when I first started experiencing leg and pelvic nerve issues, not only was I walking a lot more, but I was breaking in some new shoes, including dress shoes and work boots, all with low heels. I think the repeated hard heel strikes from walking miles on pavement in shoes or boots with heels (as opposed to sneakers) was aggravating the nerves in my legs and pelvic floor.

Easy enough to fix. I picked up a few more pairs of sneakers and wore the Fluevogs and Wolverines less often. But maybe I was walking wrong. Was there a way to walk that didn’t involve sending a giant shockwave up my leg with each step?

It turns out there is. As the historically attired gentleman in the video demonstrates, one can walk on the balls of one’s feet, and there are many mechanical and postural advantages to doing so.

I’m still experimenting with this new way of walking. I don’t walk entirely on the balls of my feet, but I’m learning to reach with my forward foot, keeping my weight a little more back, and then transferring my weight more smoothly as I move forward. The net result is more of a gliding walk, with my spine much more upright. It results in a slower pace, but not by much.

I’m glad I addressed my symptoms quickly before they progressed into pain or more serious discomfort, such as pudendal neuralgia. It’s probably something I’ll need to be aware of for the rest of my life, especially if we keep up the no-car lifestyle and continue to rely heavily on walking and biking for transportation. But with the right bicycle seat configuration, and a gentler way of walking, I think I’m on the right path.


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  1. You might enjoy “Dynamic Aging” and other writing by Katy Bowman, a biomechanist with an interesting view on movement, she frames movements as nutrients, among other ideas.

  2. Anonymous

    OMG!! Fantastic stuff! Thank you. Walking on My balls now. It’s amazing. My body feels lighter after 15 minutes

  3. Lol, I find it amusing. A person could get depressed thinking how much he is doing wrong in everything he does…

  4. Ook

    I would be interested to learn how or if this is related to the walk of a classical ballet dancer.

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