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How to Walk – by Horace Kephart (1906)

This was taken from the book,  Camping and woodcraft; a handbook for vacation campers and for travelers in the wilderness (1906). I thought was a really interesting read about walking.

Horace Kephart – How to Walk
Here are a few interesting pages from the book Camping and Woodcraft, originally published in 1906.In walking through a primitive forest, an Indian or a white woodsman can wear out a town-bred athlete,
although the latter may be the stronger man.
This is because a man who is used to the woods has a knack of walking over uneven and slippery ground, edging through thickets, and worming his way amid fallen timber, with less fret and exertion than one who is accustomed to smooth, unobstructed paths.

How To Walk – There is somewhat the same difference between a townsman’s and a woodsman’s gait and there is between a soldier’s and a sailor’s.  It is chiefly a difference of hip action, looseness of the joints,
and the manner of planting one’s feet.
The townsman’s stride is an up-and-down knee action, with rather rigid hips, the toes pointing outward, movement springy and graceful, so long as one is walking over firm, level footing- but beware the banana-peel and the small boy’s sliding-place!  
 This is an ill-poised gait, because one’s weight falls first upon the heel alone, and at that instant the walker has little command of his balance.  It is an exhausting gait as soon as its normally short pace is lengthened by so much as an inch.
 A woodsman, on the contrary, walks with a rolling motion, his hips swaying an inch or more to the stepping side, and his pace is correspondingly long.  This hip action may be noticed to an exaggerated degree in the stride of a professional pedestrian; but the latter walks with a heel-and-toe step, whereas an Indian’s or sailor’s step is more nearly flat-footed.
 In the latter case the center of gravity is covered by the whole foot.  The poise is as secure as that of a rope-walker.  The toes are pointed straight forward, or even a trifle inward, so that the inside of the heel, the outside of the ball of the foot, and the smaller toes, all do their share of work and assist in balancing.     
 Walking in this manner, one is not so likely, either,
to trip over projecting roots, stones, and other traps, as he would be if the feet formed hooks by pointing outward.  The necessity is obvious in snow-shoeing.

A fellow sportsman, H.G. Dulog, once remarked: “If the Indian were turned to stone while in the act of stepping,
the statue would probably stand balanced on one foot.  This gait gives the limbs great control over his movements.  He is always poised.
If a stick cracks under him it is because of his weight, and not by reason of the impact.  He goes silently on, and with great economy of force… His steady balance enables him to put his moving foot down as gently as you would lay an egg on the table.”

There is another advantage in walking with toes pointing straight ahead instead of outward: one gains ground at each stride.  I have often noticed that an Indian’s stride gains in this manner, as well as from the rolling motion of the hips.
The white man acquires this habit, if he ever gets it, but an Indian is molded to it in the cradle.
 If you examine the way in which a papoose is bound to its cradle-board, this will be made clear.  Immediately after birth the infant is stretched out on the board, its bowlegged little limbs are laid as straight as possible, and the feet are placed exactly perpendicular and close together before being swaddled.  Often the squaw removes the bandages and gently drags and works on the baby’s limbs and spine to make them as straight as possible.  Then, in rebandaging, care is always taken that the toes shall point straight forward.

 The woodsman walks with a springy knee action.  There is a “give” at every step, and in going down-hill the knees are bent a good deal, as they are when one carries a heavy burden.  It is said of the Indian “he does not walk, he glides.”  No Indian glides in boots,
but put him in moccasins and the word does express his silent, rhythmical, tireless, surefooted progress, an admirable example of precision of movement
and economy of effort.
 A white man acquires somewhat the same slide after getting used to moccasins, and especially after some experience on snowshoes, which compel him to walk with toes pointed straight ahead or a little inward.

Care Of The Feet –
One’s feet can be toughened and hardened before starting on a hike by soaking them for some time, the night before, in a solution of alcohol and salt, or in one made by dissolving a tablespoonful of tannic acid in a wash-bowl of cold water. (American
Red Cross Text-Book on First Aid.)  A little alum in water may be substituted.

 Every morning before starting on a hike, rub some talcum powder over the feet and dust some inside your shoes. … If you have no talcum, then rub the feet with vaseline, melted tallow from a candle, or oil.  Soap often is used for the purpose, but some soaps contain too much free alkali, which is bad for the skin; Castile or Ivory soap is not objectionable.  
 But the main thing is to keep the feet clean.  Wash them well every evening, preferably in hot salted water.  If they are strained, swollen, or hot, the best treatment is to rub them with alcohol or whiskey, but hot salted water and massage will do very well.  Keep the nails cut close and square.
  If the feet are washed in the morning, or when resting on the march, it should be done briskly, not by soaking, and they should be thoroughly dried, otherwise they will be tender.
In winter, if water is hard to get, the feet may be cleaned by rubbing them with snow.



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