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Articles on the Evolution of Running in Humans

I’ve been mulling over the idea that humans have evolved to be excellent endurance runners quite a bit lately. Three of my recent blog posts have touched on the topic to different degrees:

New Running Book: Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen, by Christopher McDougall

Video Clip: Persistence Hunting and the Evolution of Running in Humans

The Evolution of Running in Humans: Why We Are Meant to Run

With this in mind, I thought it might be worthwhile to compile a list of links to articles/podcasts that discuss the evolution of running in humans. Here goes:


Humans – built for long-distance running?
@ ABC Radio The Science Show (audio)

Popular Articles:

Faster Than a Hyena? Running May Make Humans Special @ Science Magazine

Running ‘key to human evolution’ @ BBC News

Running paced human evolution @ Harvard University Gazette

The Evolution of Human Running @ Run the Planet

Evolution made humans marathon runners @ New Scientist

Born To Run @ Discover Magazine

Humans hot, sweaty, natural-born runners @

Optimal Running Speed Associated With Evolution Of Early Human Hunting Strategies @ ScienceDaily

Running Extra Mile Sets Humans Apart in Primates’ World @ New York Times

Distance running ‘shaped human evolution’ @ BioEd Online

Humans Were Born to Run, Fossil Study Suggests @ National Geographic

The endurance running hypothesis, the idea that humans evolved as long-distance runners, may have legs thanks to a new study on toes. @ Seed Magazine

These Toes Were Made for Running @ Wired Magazine

Was Ability To Run Early Man’s Achilles Heel? @ ScienceDaily

Tendons play key role in running
@ BBC News

Blog posts:

Human Evolution – Built For Running Long Distances @ Live Fit Blog

Do short toes make humans better runners? @ The Daily Bounce

Scholarly Journal Articles:

Bramble DM, Lieberman DE. 2004. Endurance running and the Evolution of Homo. Nature 432:345-352.

Lieberman DE, Bramble DM. 2007. The evolution of marathon running capabilities in humans. Sports Med 37:288-90.

Steudel-Numbers KL, Weaver TD, Wall-Scheffler CM. 2007. The evolution of human running: Effects of changes in lower-limb length on locomotor economy. Journal of Human Evolution 53(2):191-196.

Rolian C, Lieberman DE, Hamill J, Scott JW, Werbel W. 2009. Walking, running and the evolution of short toes in humans. Journal of Experimental Biology 212:713-721.

Steudel-Numbers KL, Wall-Scheffler CM. 2009. Optimal running speed and the evolution of hominin hunting strategies. Journal of Human Evolution 53(2):191-6.

For the sake of fairness, here’s an article that disagrees with the human evolution-endurance running hypothesis:

Pickering TR, Bunn HT. 2007. The endurance running hypothesis and hunting and scavenging in savanna-woodlands. Journal of Human Evolution 53(4): 434-438.

and here is the rebuttal/response from Lierberman et al.:

Lieberman DE, Bramble DM, Raichlen DA, Shea JJ. 2007. The evolution of endurance running and the tyranny of ethnography: A reply to Pickering and Bunn. Journal of Human Evolution 53:434-437.

All of this is a lot to digest, but I feel better for having compiled this information here for anyone interested in digging deeper into the topic. The evidence for the endurance hypothesis for the evolution of running in humans is compelling, and it will be interesting to watch this story develop as more data are collected over the coming years.

Happy Running!

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About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a biology teacher, track/soccer coach, and dad (x3) with a passion for running, soccer, and science. If you'd like to learn a little bit more about who I am and what I do, click here, or visit

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