Some interesting Facts & Figures about Walking

Biggest Feet

The record for the person with the biggest feet in the world is held by an American, called Robert Wadlow.

His feet were 47cm long and he took size 37 shoes!

He was 2.74 metres (that's nearly 9 ft) tall when he died in 1940.

Whenever he went out for a “Giant” walk, drivers would take their eyes off the road in disbelief and stare in amazement as they passed. You could hear the sound of bangs, crashes and crunches as cars following behind ran into them.


Did you know...

American President Abraham Lincoln, had size 14 feet


Giant Leaps

The first person to walk on the moon was the American astronaut, Neil Armstrong. He set foot on the lunar surface at 3.56am BST on 21st July 1969.

See if you can find out what he said as he stepped onto the moon - it’s something to do with small steps.

By the way, his footprints are still there because there's no wind or rain on the Moon.

His boots were jettisoned before returning to earth to prevent contamination.


Did you know...

If you walked at a steady speed of 5kph (3 mph) non-stop day and night, it would take you a whole year to walk round the equator - a distance of 40,000 km (25,000 miles).

The average person walks the equivalent of three and a half times around the earth in a lifetime.

One quarter of all the bones in the human body are found in the feet.

Left handed people are generally left footed as well. They also tend to put their left foot forward first when they walk.


First Walk for Charity

The first walk for charity in the UK took place on Boxing Day in 1959 in aid of the World Refugee Fund. A total of 21 walkers paid 1 shilling (5p) each to enter and raised £20 in sponsorship. The furthest anyone walked was 50 miles.


Did you know...

Cats walk on their claws and not on their paws!


Did you know...

The first pedestrian crossing in Great Britain was sited near the Houses of Parliament in London, in December 1926. It consisted of two parallel white lines painted across the road. A white rectangular sign was positioned high up on a nearby pole, with a black directional arrow and a cross shape painted on it. It read, “Please Cross Here”. They were very polite in those days.


Did you know...

About 1 in 4 children sleepwalk at least once between the ages of 7 to 12!


Did you know...

The first manually operated traffic light in GB was also sited near the Houses of Parliament in London, on 10th December 1868. It was introduced to allow MP’s to enter the parliament buildings in their horse drawn carriages.. (The streets of London were just as congested then, but with four legged motors instead!).

A revolving gas illuminated lantern was mounted on a 7 metre (22 ft) high iron pillar with Red and Green signals.

Red meant stop and Green meant caution.

It was removed in 1872 following an explosion of gas, which seriously injured the police constable operating it.


Did you know...

The first Pelican Crossing was introduced in 1969. The word “Pelican” was chosen because it is a Pedestrian Light Control. Can you see why?

Today, there are “Puffin” and “Toucan” crossings. See if you can find out why these names were chosen.


Did you know...

You need to use 200 muscles in your body to walk


Did you know...

The first Zebra Crossings in the UK were introduced in 1951. The flashing belisha beacons on either side of the crossing came first though in 1934. They were originally made of glass but were the constant prey of children with stones. They were replaced with plastic globes in 1952. See if you can find out why they are called belisha beacons.


Did you know...

The mudskipper is a fish that can actually walk on land!


Did you know...

The first school crossing patrol started work in Oxford in 1933. The name "Lollipop" person came much later when the familiar round sign on a pole was introduced. Today's Lollipop people have to deal with much more traffic than was on the roads in 1933.


Did you know...

It is against the law to take your shoes off if you have smelly feet in a theatre in Winnatka, Illinois.


Most Expensive Legs

Michael Flatley, star of "Riverdance" had his legs insured for £25 million.


Most Expensive Feet

Charlie Chaplin, Hollywood's silent comedian with the splay footed trademark walk, had his feet insured for $150,000 (£33,500) in the 1920's; a fortune at the time.

Two legs good

A five-year-old monkey at an Israeli zoo started walking exclusively on her hind legs after recovering from a serious stomach flu.

Natasha, a black macaque, almost died of a severe stomach flu about two weeks ago, say officials at the Safari Park zoo near Tel Aviv. She had difficulty breathing and her heart wasn't functioning properly. However, her condition stabilized and she was released from the zoo's clinic.

Workers at the zoo say that's when she started walking upright exclusively. Monkeys usually alternate between upright walking and moving on all fours. A zoo veterinarian, Igal Horowitz says he's not sure why she has altered her behaviour, speculating that the illness could have caused brain damage.

Other than walking upright, the vet says Natasha's behaviour has returned to normal.

Evolution of Gait

from Lowly Origin: Where, When, and Why Our Ancestors First Stood Up, by Jonathan Kingdon

Born to Run

Humans evolved from ape-like
                         ancestors because they needed to run long
                         distances – perhaps to hunt animals or scavenge
                         carcasses on Africa’s vast savannah – and the
                         ability to run shaped our anatomy, making us look
                         like we do today.

                         That is the conclusion of a study published in the
                         Nov. 18 issue of the journal Nature by University of
                         Utah biologist Dennis Bramble and Harvard
                         University anthropologist Daniel Lieberman. The
                         study is featured on Nature’s cover.

                         Bramble and Lieberman argue that our genus,
                         Homo, evolved from more ape-like human ancestors,
                         Australopithecus, 2 million or more years ago
                         because natural selection favored the survival of
                         australopithecines that could run and, over time,
                         favored the perpetuation of human anatomical
                         features that made long-distance running possible.

                         “We are very confident that strong selection for
                         running – which came at the expense of the
                         historical ability to live in trees – was instrumental in
                         the origin of the modern human body form,” says
                         Bramble, a professor of biology. “Running has
                         substantially shaped human evolution. Running
                         made us human – at least in an anatomical sense.
                         We think running is one of the most transforming
                         events in human history. We are arguing the
                         emergence of humans is tied to the evolution of

                         That conclusion is contrary to the conventional
                         theory that running simply was a byproduct of the
                         human ability to walk. Bipedalism – the ability to
                         walk upright on two legs – evolved in the ape-like
                         Australopithecus at least 4.5 million years ago while
                         they also retained the ability to travel through the
                         trees. Yet Homo with its “radically transformed
                         body” did not evolve for another 3 million or more
                         years – Homo habilis, Homo erectus and, finally,
                         our species, Homo sapiens – so the ability to walk
                         cannot explain anatomy of the modern human body,
                         Bramble says.

                         “There were 2.5 million to 3 million years of bipedal
                         walking [by australopithecines] without ever looking
                         like a human, so is walking going to be what
                         suddenly transforms the hominid body?” he asks.
                         “We’re saying, no, walking won’t do that, but
                         running will.”

                         Walking cannot explain most of the changes in
                         body form that distinguish Homo from
                         Homo – had short legs, long forearms, high
                         permanently “shrugged” shoulders, ankles that were not visibly apparent and more muscles
                         connecting the shoulders to the head and neck, Bramble says. If natural selection had not favored
                         running, “we would still look a lot like apes,” he adds.

                         I Run, Therefore I Am

                         Bramble and Lieberman examined 26 traits of the human body – many also seen in fossils of
                         Homo erectus and some in Homo habilis – that enhanced the ability to run. Only some of them
                         were needed for walking. Traits that aided running include leg and foot tendons and ligaments that
                         act like springs, foot and toe structure that allows efficient use of the feet to push off, shoulders
                         that rotate independently of the head and neck to allow better balance, and skeletal and muscle
                         features that make the human body stronger, more stable and able to run more efficiently without

                         “We explain the simultaneous emergence of a whole bunch of anatomical features, literally from
                         head to toe,” Bramble says. “We have a hypothesis that gives a functional explanation for how
                         these features are linked to the unique mechanical demands of running, how they work together
                         and why they emerged at the same time.”

                         Humans are poor sprinters compared with other running animals, which is partly why many
                         scientists have dismissed running as a factor in human evolution. Human endurance running
                         ability has been inadequately appreciated because of a failure to recognize that “high speed is not
                         always important,” Bramble says. “What is important is combining reasonable speed with
                         exceptional endurance.”

                         Another reason is that “scientists are in developed societies that are highly dependent on
                         technology and artificial means of transport,” he adds. “But if those scientists had been embedded
                         in a hunter-gatherer society, they’d have a different view of human locomotor abilities, including

                         Why Did Humans Start Running?

                         The researchers do not know why natural selection favored human ancestors who could run long
                         distances. For one possibility, they cite previous research by University of Utah biologist David
                         Carrier, who hypothesized that endurance running evolved in human ancestors so they could
                         pursue predators long before the development of bows, arrows, nets and spear-throwers reduced
                         the need to run long distances.

                         Another possibility is that early humans and their immediate ancestors ran to scavenge
                         carcasses of dead animals – maybe so they could beat hyenas or other scavengers to dinner, or
                         maybe to “get to the leftovers soon enough,” Bramble says.

                         Scavenging “is a more reliable source of food” than hunting, he adds. “If you are out in the African
                         savannah and see a column of vultures on the horizon, the chance of there being a fresh carcass
                         underneath the vultures is about 100 percent. If you are going to hunt down something in the heat,
                         that’s a lot more work and the payoffs are less reliable” because the animal you are hunting often
                         is “faster than you are.”

                         Anatomical Features that Help Humans Run

                         Here are anatomical characteristics that are unique to humans and that play a role in helping
                         people run, according to the study:

                         -- Skull features that help prevent overheating during running. As sweat evaporates from the scalp,
                         forehead and face, the evaporation cools blood draining from the head. Veins carrying that cooled
                         blood pass near the carotid arteries, thus helping cool blood flowing through the carotids to the

                         -- A more balanced head with a flatter face, smaller teeth and short snout, compared with
                         australopithecines. That “shifts the center of mass back so it’s easier to balance your head when
                         you are bobbing up and down running,” Bramble says.

                         -- A ligament that runs from the back of the skull and neck down to the thoracic vertebrae, and
                         acts as a shock absorber and helps the arms and shoulders counterbalance the head during

                         -- Unlike apes and australopithecines, the shoulders in early humans were “decoupled” from the
                         head and neck, allowing the body to rotate while the head aims forward during running.

                         -- The tall human body – with a narrow trunk, waist and pelvis – creates more skin surface for our
                         size, permitting greater cooling during running. It also lets the upper and lower body move
                         independently, “which allows you to use your upper body to counteract the twisting forces from
                         your swinging legs,” Bramble says.

                         -- Shorter forearms in humans make it easier for the upper body to counterbalance the lower body
                         during running. They also reduce the amount of muscle power needed to keep the arms flexed
                         when running.

                         -- Human vertebrae and disks are larger in diameter relative to body mass than are those in apes
                         or australopithecines. “This is related to shock absorption,” says Bramble. “It allows the back to
                         take bigger loads when human runners hit the ground.”

                         -- The connection between the pelvis and spine is stronger and larger relative to body size in
                         humans than in their ancestors, providing more stability and shock absorption during running.

                         -- Human buttocks “are huge,” says Bramble. “Have you ever looked at an ape? They have no
                         buns.” He says human buttocks “are muscles critical for stabilization in running” because they
                         connect the femur – the large bone in each upper leg – to the trunk. Because people lean forward
                         at the hip during running, the buttocks “keep you from pitching over on your nose each time a foot
                         hits the ground.”

                         -- Long legs, which chimps and australopithecines lack, let humans to take huge strides when
                         running, Bramble says. So do ligaments and tendons – including the long Achilles tendon – which
                         act like springs that store and release mechanical energy during running. The tendons and
                         ligaments also mean human lower legs that are less muscular and lighter, requiring less energy to
                         move them during running.

                         -- Larger surface areas in the hip, knee and ankle joints, for improved shock absorption during
                         running by spreading out the forces.

                         -- The arrangement of bones in the human foot creates a stable or stiff arch that makes the whole
                         foot more rigid, so the human runner can push off the ground more efficiently and utilize ligaments
                         on the bottom of the feet as springs.

                         -- Humans also evolved with an enlarged heel bone for better shock absorption, as well as shorter
                         toes and a big toe that is fully drawn in toward the other toes for better pushing off during running.

                         The study by Bramble and Lieberman concludes: “Today, endurance running is primarily a form of
                         exercise and recreation, but its roots may be as ancient as the origin of the human genus, and its
                         demands a major contributing factor to the human body form.”