Almost a century ago, when the writer was a boy, like most rural youngsters, he went barefooted during the summers. Our feet felt good, the soles of our feet toughened up — and it was fun to run. Often when we got together we would race each other across a field or down to the turn in the road.

A recent article in the New York Times Science Section of Aug. 23 reminded me of those joyous experiences — and explains how our heads evolved to help us understand what we are doing on this planet.

According to Dr. Lieberman at Harvard, what’s in our head and its relation to our feet is what makes Homo sapiens different from the Neanderthals and Homo erectus. Among other things we have different ears, noses, ears and teeth, and handle complex thoughts and language.

It would seem that understanding how we got the heads we have is essential to understanding who we are and what we are doing on this planet. Apparently many unpleasant conditions are the result of mismatches between the world we live in today and the Paleolithic bodies we have inherited.

Dr. Lieberman’s research hopes to better understand how our running ancestors influenced both the evolution of our feet and the influence in our heads. One significant feature is that humans are able to keep their head stable while they run — this helps us avoid falls and injuries. Always remember; keep your head directly over your shoulders.

Humans appear to have been born to run; in fact they became natural endurance runners. They had greater endurance than most small and some large creatures that overheated and ran out of breath. One can observe this capability when 45,000 people run for many hours through the streets of Manhattan every fall.

As we approach maturity many of us spend a lot of time reading, writing or being entertained; the results can be to not get enough exercise and most of us complain of weak backs. Unfortunately we did not evolve to sit in a chair all day.

Dr. Lieberman has been studying the phenomenon of barefoot running; which we and our ancestors have been doing for thousands of years. It seems that when people run wearing shoes the heal strikes first and sends shock waves up the leg to the brain and jiggles things around. For those who wear shoes this seems normal.

Researchers at Harvard have studied barefoot runners. They went to Africa and interviewed people who had never worn shoes. They discovered that people who had never worn shoes ran differently than people who wear modern shoes, they also ran more relaxed, in a lighter and gentler way. They also determined that runners who use a barefoot style have fewer injuries than those who land on their heels.

The investigators have designed a shoe that results in a barefoot style that they call a “minimal shoe” and feels like a glove on the foot. But researchers disclosed that they preferred to run barefoot whenever possible because they experienced spectacular sensory pleasures from their feet; especially in the grass.

It is hoped that they research will encourage a movement to try to better understand the continuing evolution in our mind and bodies. Certainly our ancestor’s diet and living conditions were different from the way we do today.

As researchers examine how our environmental changes occurred and our bodies adapted, we may be able to become healthier in the future.

So, what is the purpose of this analysis? I hope more readers will experience more outdoor exercise; and if you feel daring, go to the nearest park, take your shoes off — and experience the gentle sensation of the grass between your toes.

Dr. Lloyd V. Stover is an environmental scientist. While composing this he was reminded that as a youngster he had memorized Whittier’s “The Barefoot Boy” and was able to remember the first line,”Barefoot boy with cheeks of tan.”