Shoes History, Origins & Beginnings

Shoes History

First Shoe

Picture from

Did you ever wonder how the first pairs of shoes look like? How this fashion “tool” evolve from its early stages? All of this questions will be answered in this post.

Shoes History:

In the beginnings, human kind learned to protect their feet by grabbing what was at their reach like bark, large leaves and grass – and tie them under the foot with vines.
In countries where the climate was warm they developed sandals made out of woven palms, grass and attached to the foot with toe loops. <<(Like in the pic above)>>
While in cold weather countries, men used the skin of animals for better protection and to preserve the warmth in their feet.
A piece of treated skin with holes punched around the edge was put under the foot and laced with a leather strap that acted as a drawstring to hold the shoe in place around the foot, formed the precarious moccasin.

Few early shoes have survived; though fragments of Bronze Age footwear have been found in excavations, but not enough to determine styles. From the Roman times onwards many shoes have survived suggesting that there were several more shoe styles than one would expect.
But in the present days it is common to find that style and fashion are more important than comfort. (wait till our next post were we are going to discuss and show one of the most uncomfortable shoes ever !!!)

Very First Shoes

Very First Shoes:

There is a lot of evidence that foot covering was one of the first things made by our primitive ancestors. Necessity obliged them to invent some method of protecting their feet from the jagged rocks, burning sands, and rugged terrain over which they walked in search of food and shelter.
The history of human progress shows that the importance of protecting the foot was early recognized (Interesting facts here). Records of the Egyptians, the Chinese and other early civilizations all contain references to shoes.

Egyptian History Shoes

The Romans produced a variety of footwear (click link for def). They arrived in Britain wearing the military sandal, called the caliga, (Asterix look a like sandals) which exposed the toes, had a lattice, front lacing and a heavily nailed sole. Other styles were the calceus and the gallica, both with a closed toe – a style more suited to the British weather.

Roman history shoes

Greek history shoes

After the Romans left, Britain began producing its own styles, usually a closed toe leather shoe with an oval or round toe shape. The ankle shoe was popular in the 9th Century and was made as a turn-shoe, which meant the separate upper and sole were tonged together inside out and then turned. Some of these shoes were straights, made for either foot.

Footwear styles continued to change during the medieval age.
The sole and upper were no longer thonged but stitched together with thread and the toe became a sharp point, known as scorpion tails, they began to get longer in the 1320s and became known as pikes or poulaines. The length of ones toe was an indication of status. The King and his court had shoes with the largest toes. This style wasn’t worn by women. The ankle shoe remained popular, it was usually side laced with three pairs of holes.

Medieval Shoes

The pointed toe disappeared at the end of the middle Ages and was replaced by round and square toe shapes. At first a sensible size, toes became larger and larger. During the reign of Henry VIII soles reaching 6½ inches wide were common and known as foot bags.

Another popular style was a low cut shoe with a strap and buckle fastening across the ankle and a square toe. Both styles could have slashed decorations on the toe.

The Japanese, long a sandal wearing people indicated the social status of the wearer by making distinctive sandals for the Imperial Household, merchants and actors, in fact, for the whole range of vocations and professions.
The Greeks emphasized design and beauty, while the Romans devised a military type of sandal that enabled their legions to travel on foot throughout the world. In the more luxurious days of the late Empire the sandals were often beautifully wrought with ornaments of gold and precious stones.

Chinese history shoes

The moccasin is the foot protection of cold countries. The puckered seam which outlines the forepart of the moccasin is all that remains of the puckering string once gathered and tied about the ankle.

The shoe has always had an important place in costume. Until recent years, many shoes were made to be worn only on occasions of great ceremony. Some of these were very abundant in design and ornament, providing importance and distinction to proud wearers.
Through all this development, comparatively little attention was devoted to fitting qualities or comfort. When the medieval guilds controlled craftsmanship in Europe, perfection in workmanship and extravagance in style seems to have been sought in shoes rather than foot comfort and protection.

European First Shoes

European First Shoes

Among the more peculiar style in this period was the peaked shoe or Crackow, with a toe so long that it made walking difficult if not impossible and the passage of laws to prohibit its wearing was necessary before it was discontinued. It was followed by the Duckbill shoe in Elizabethan times. Laws were enacted limiting its maximum width to 51/2 inches. These footwear oddities in turn were followed by a succession of fantastic creations and shapes.

As late as 1850 most shoes were made on absolutely straight lasts, there being no difference between the right and the left shoe.
There were but two widths to a size; a basic last was used to produce what was known as a “slim” shoe. When it was necessary to make a larger shoe the shoemaker (the old fashion “Shoe Stores“) placed over the cone of the last a pad of leather to create the additional foot room needed.

Up to 1850 all shoes were made with practically the same hand tools that were used in Egypt as early as the 14th century B.C. as a part of a sandal maker’s equipment.
To the curved awl, the chisel-like knife and the scraper, the shoemakers of the thirty-three intervening centuries had added only a few simple tools such as the pincers, the lapstone, the hammer and a variety of rubbing sticks used for finishing edges and heels.

In 1845 the first machine to find a permanent place in the shoe industry came into use. It was the Rolling Machine, which replaced the lapstone and hammer previously used by hand shoemakers for pounding sole leather, a method of increasing wear by compacting the fibers.
This was followed in 1846 by Elias Howe’s invention of the sewing machine. The success of this major invention seems to have set up a chain reaction of research and development that has gone on ever since. Today there are no major operations left in shoe making that are not done better by machinery than formerly by hand.

First Boots

Thanks God for our current quality system and all the brands that nowadays take care of every detail possible.



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2 Responses to “Shoes History, Origins & Beginnings”

  1. Terry Says:

    Very interesting origins of the sandals and moccasin. The
    other fascinating point was how shoe features denoted the
    class and position of people in Rome and Greece! Thanks
    for the history lesson!


  2. food in elizabethan times Says:

    […] All of this questions will be answered in this post. Shoes History: In the beginnings, human kin results for food in elizabethan timesDescription of elizabethan England […]

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