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Museum display of shoes Skor fran 1700- till 1960-talet - Nordiska Museet - NMA.0056302.jpg
Museum display of shoes

A shoe is an item of footwear intended to protect and comfort the human foot. Shoes are also used as an item of decoration and fashion. The design of shoes has varied enormously through time and from culture to culture, with appearance originally being tied to function. Though the human foot is adapted to varied terrain and climate conditions, it is still vulnerable to environmental hazards such as sharp rocks and temperature extremes, which shoes protect against. Some shoes are worn as safety equipment, such as steel-soled boots which are required on construction sites.


Additionally, fashion has often dictated many design elements, such as whether shoes have very high heels or flat ones. Contemporary footwear varies widely in style, complexity and cost. Basic sandals may consist of only a thin sole and simple strap and be sold for a low cost. High fashion shoes made by famous designers may be made of expensive materials, use complex construction and sell for hundreds or even thousands of dollars a pair. Some shoes are designed for specific purposes, such as boots designed specifically for mountaineering or skiing, while others have more generalized usage such as sneakers which have transformed from a special purpose sport shoe into a general use shoe.

Traditionally, shoes have been made from leather, wood or canvas, but are increasingly made from rubber, plastics, and other petrochemical-derived materials. [1] The shoe industry is $200 billion dollar a year industry. [1] 90% of shoes end up in landfills, because the materials are hard to separate, recycle or otherwise reuse. [1]



The oldest known leather shoe, about 5500 years old, found in Armenia Chalcolithic leather shoe from Areni-1 cave.jpg
The oldest known leather shoe, about 5500 years old, found in Armenia
Esparto sandals from the 6th or 5th millennium BC found in Spain Sandalias de esparto (29139609730).jpg
Esparto sandals from the 6th or 5th millennium BC found in Spain
Roman shoes: a man's, a woman's and a child's shoe from Bar Hill Roman Fort, Scotland. Romanwallinscotl00macduoft raw 0263.png
Roman shoes: a man's, a woman's and a child's shoe from Bar Hill Roman Fort, Scotland.

The earliest known shoes are sagebrush bark sandals dating from approximately 7000 or 8000 BC, found in the Fort Rock Cave in the US state of Oregon in 1938. [5] The world's oldest leather shoe, made from a single piece of cowhide laced with a leather cord along seams at the front and back, was found in the Areni-1 cave complex in Armenia in 2008 and is believed to date to 3500 BC. [6] [7] Ötzi the Iceman's shoes, dating to 3300 BC, featured brown bearskin bases, deerskin side panels, and a bark-string net, which pulled tight around the foot. [6] The Jotunheimen shoe was discovered in August 2006: archaeologists estimate that this leather shoe was made between 1800 and 1100 BC, [8] making it the oldest article of clothing discovered in Scandinavia.

It is thought that shoes may have been used long before this, but because the materials used were highly perishable, it is difficult to find evidence of the earliest footwear. [9] By studying the bones of the smaller toes (as opposed to the big toe), it was observed that their thickness decreased approximately 40,000 to 26,000 years ago. This led archaeologists to deduce that wearing shoes resulted in less bone growth, resulting in shorter, thinner toes. [10] These earliest designs were very simple in design, often mere "foot bags" of leather to protect the feet from rocks, debris, and cold.

Many early natives in North America wore a similar type of footwear, known as the moccasin. These are tight-fitting, soft-soled shoes typically made out of leather or bison hides. Many moccasins were also decorated with various beads and other adornments. Moccasins were not designed to be waterproof, and in wet weather and warm summer months, most Native Americans went barefoot. [11]

As civilizations began to develop, thong sandals (the precursors of the modern flip-flop) were worn. This practice dates back to pictures of them in ancient Egyptian murals from 4000 BC. One pair found in Europe was made of papyrus leaves and dated to be approximately 1,500 years old. They were also worn in Jerusalem during the first century of the Common Era. [12] Thong sandals were worn by many civilizations and made from a wide variety of materials. Ancient Egyptian sandals were made from papyrus and palm leaves. The Masai of Africa made them out of rawhide. In India they were made from wood. In China and Japan, rice straw was used. The leaves of the sisal plant were used to make twine for sandals in South America while the natives of Mexico used the Yucca plant. [13] [14]

While thong sandals were commonly worn, many people in ancient times, such as the Egyptians, Hindus and Greeks, saw little need for footwear, and most of the time, preferred being barefoot. The Egyptians and Hindus made some use of ornamental footwear, such as a soleless sandal known as a "Cleopatra",[ citation needed ] which did not provide any practical protection for the foot. The ancient Greeks largely viewed footwear as self-indulgent, unaesthetic and unnecessary. Shoes were primarily worn in the theater, as a means of increasing stature, and many preferred to go barefoot. [15] Athletes in the Ancient Olympic Games participated barefoot—and naked. [16] Even the gods and heroes were primarily depicted barefoot, the hoplite warriors fought battles in bare feet and Alexander the Great conquered his vast empire with barefoot armies. The runners of Ancient Greece are also believed to have run barefoot. [17]

Footwear of Roman soldiers (reconstruction) 6 Schoen inheemse soldaat LegioIIAugusta BlackBox endeLimes fotoAvdOord.jpg
Footwear of Roman soldiers (reconstruction)

The Romans, who eventually conquered the Greeks and adopted many aspects of their culture, did not adopt the Greek perception of footwear and clothing. Roman clothing was seen as a sign of power, and footwear was seen as a necessity of living in a civilized world, although the slaves and paupers usually went barefoot. [15] Roman soldiers were issued with chiral (left and right shoe different) footwear. [18] Shoes for soldiers had riveted insoles to extend the life of the leather, increase comfortability, and provide better traction. The design of these shoes also designated the rank of the officers. The more intricate the insignia and the higher up the boot went on the leg, the higher the rank of the soldier. [19] There are references to shoes being worn in the Bible. [20]

Starting around 4 BC, the Greeks began wearing symbolic footwear. These were heavily decorated to clearly indicate the status of the wearer. Courtesans wore leather shoes colored with white, green, lemon or yellow dyes, and young woman betrothed or newly married wore pure white shoes. Because of the cost to lighten leather, shoes of a paler shade were a symbol of wealth in the upper class. Often, the soles would be carved with a message so it would imprint on the ground. Cobblers became a notable profession around this time, with Greek shoemakers becoming famed in the Roman empire. [21]

Middle Ages and Early Modern period

A common casual shoe in the Pyrenees during the Middle Ages was the espadrille. This is a sandal with braided jute soles and a fabric upper portion, and often includes fabric laces that tie around the ankle. The term is French and comes from the esparto grass. The shoe originated in the Catalonian region of Spain as early as the 13th century, and was commonly worn by peasants in the farming communities in the area. [14]

Dutch pattens, ca. 1465. Excavated from the archeological site of Walraversijde, near Ostend, Belgium Walraversijde49.jpg
Dutch pattens, ca. 1465. Excavated from the archeological site of Walraversijde, near Ostend, Belgium

Many medieval shoes were made using the turnshoe method of construction, in which the upper was turned flesh side out, and was lasted onto the sole and joined to the edge by a seam. [22] The shoe was then turned inside-out so that the grain was outside. Some shoes were developed with toggled flaps or drawstrings to tighten the leather around the foot for a better fit. Surviving medieval turnshoes often fit the foot closely, with the right and left shoe being mirror images. [23] Around 1500, the turnshoe method was largely replaced by the welted rand method (where the uppers are sewn to a much stiffer sole and the shoe cannot be turned inside-out). [24] The turn shoe method is still used for some dance and specialty shoes.

By the 15th century, pattens became popular by both men and women in Europe. These are commonly seen as the predecessor of the modern high-heeled shoe, [25] while the poor and lower classes in Europe, as well as slaves in the New World, were barefoot. [15] In the 15th century, the Crakow was fashionable in Europe. This style of shoe is named because it is thought to have originated in Kraków, the capital of Poland. The style is characterized by the point of the shoe, known as the "polaine", which often was supported by a whalebone tied to the knee to prevent the point getting in the way while walking. [26] Also during the 15th century, chopines were created in Turkey, and were usually 7–8 inches (17.7–20.3 cm) high. These shoes became popular in Venice and throughout Europe, as a status symbol revealing wealth and social standing. During the 16th century, royalty, such as Catherine de Medici or Mary I of England, started wearing high-heeled shoes to make them look taller or larger than life. By 1580, even men wore them, and a person with authority or wealth was often referred to as, "well-heeled". [25] In 17th century France, heels were exclusively worn by aristocrats. Louis XIV of France outlawed anybody from wearing red high heels except for himself and his royal court. [27]

Eventually the modern shoe, with a sewn-on sole, was devised. Since the 17th century, most leather shoes have used a sewn-on sole. This remains the standard for finer-quality dress shoes today. Until around 1800, welted rand shoes were commonly made without differentiation for the left or right foot. Such shoes are now referred to as "straights". [28] Only gradually did the modern foot-specific shoe become standard.

Industrial era

A shoemaker in the Georgian era, from The Book of English Trades, 1821. Shoemaker 1821.jpg
A shoemaker in the Georgian era, from The Book of English Trades, 1821.

Shoemaking became more commercialized in the mid-18th century, as it expanded as a cottage industry. Large warehouses began to stock footwear, made by many small manufacturers from the area.

Until the 19th century, shoemaking was a traditional handicraft, but by the century's end, the process had been almost completely mechanized, with production occurring in large factories. Despite the obvious economic gains of mass production, the factory system produced shoes without the individual differentiation that the traditional shoemaker was able to provide.

The first steps towards mechanisation were taken during the Napoleonic Wars by the engineer, Marc Brunel. He developed machinery for the mass production of boots for the soldiers of the British Army. In 1812, he devised a scheme for making nailed-boot-making machinery that automatically fastened soles to uppers by means of metallic pins or nails. [29] With the support of the Duke of York, the shoes were manufactured, and, due to their strength, cheapness, and durability, were introduced for the use of the army. In the same year, the use of screws and staples was patented by Richard Woodman. Brunel's system was described by Sir Richard Phillips as a visitor to his factory in Battersea as follows:

By the late 19th century, the shoemaking industry had migrated to the factory and was increasingly mechanized. Pictured, the bottoming room of the B. F. Spinney & Co. factory in Lynn, Massachusetts, 1872. Bottoming room.jpeg
By the late 19th century, the shoemaking industry had migrated to the factory and was increasingly mechanized. Pictured, the bottoming room of the B. F. Spinney & Co. factory in Lynn, Massachusetts, 1872.

In another building I was shown his manufactory of shoes, which, like the other, is full of ingenuity, and, in regard to subdivision of labour, brings this fabric on a level with the oft-admired manufactory of pins. Every step in it is affected by the most elegant and precise machinery; while, as each operation is performed by one hand, so each shoe passes through twenty-five hands, who complete from the hide, as supplied by the currier, a hundred pairs of strong and well-finished shoes per day. All the details are performed by the ingenious application of the mechanic powers; and all the parts are characterised by precision, uniformity, and accuracy. As each man performs but one step in the process, which implies no knowledge of what is done by those who go before or follow him, so the persons employed are not shoemakers, but wounded soldiers, who are able to learn their respective duties in a few hours. The contract at which these shoes are delivered to Government is 6s. 6d. per pair, being at least 2s. less than what was paid previously for an unequal and cobbled article. [30]

However, when the war ended in 1815, manual labour became much cheaper, and the demand for military equipment subsided. As a consequence, Brunel's system was no longer profitable and it soon ceased business. [29]

Similar exigencies at the time of the Crimean War stimulated a renewed interest in methods of mechanization and mass-production, which proved longer lasting. [29] A shoemaker in Leicester, Tomas Crick, patented the design for a riveting machine in 1853. His machine used an iron plate to push iron rivets into the sole. The process greatly increased the speed and efficiency of production. He also introduced the use of steam-powered rolling-machines for hardening leather and cutting-machines, in the mid-1850s. [31]

Advertisement in an 1896 issue of McClure's for "The Regal". The Shoe for '96.jpg
Advertisement in an 1896 issue of McClure's for "The Regal".
Attila, a former shoe factory from the 1910s in Tampere, Finland Attila Elina Linkopuu (16556987222).jpg
Attila, a former shoe factory from the 1910s in Tampere, Finland

The sewing machine was introduced in 1846, and provided an alternative method for the mechanization of shoemaking. By the late 1850s, the industry was beginning to shift towards the modern factory, mainly in the US and areas of England. A shoe the stitching machine was invented by the American Lyman Blake in 1856 and perfected by 1864. Entering into a partnership with McKay, his device became known as the McKay stitching machine and was quickly adopted by manufacturers throughout New England. [32] As bottlenecks opened up in the production line due to these innovations, more and more of the manufacturing stages, such as pegging and finishing, became automated. By the 1890s, the process of mechanisation was largely complete.

On January 24, 1899, Humphrey O'Sullivan of Lowell, Massachusetts, was awarded a patent for a rubber heel for boots and shoes. [33]

A process for manufacturing stitchless, that is, glued, shoes—AGO—was developed in 1910. Since the mid-20th century, advances in rubber, plastics, synthetic cloth, and industrial adhesives have allowed manufacturers to create shoes that stray considerably from traditional crafting techniques. Leather, which had been the primary material in earlier styles, has remained standard in expensive dress shoes, but athletic shoes often have little or no real leather. Soles, which were once laboriously hand-stitched on, are now more often machine stitched or simply glued on. Many of these newer materials, such as rubber and plastics, have made shoes less biodegradable. It is estimated that most mass-produced shoes require 1000 years to degrade in a landfill. [34] In the late 2000s, some shoemakers picked up on the issue and began to produce shoes made entirely from degradable materials, such as the Nike Considered. [35] [36]

In 2007, the global shoe industry had an overall market of $107.4 billion, in terms of revenue, and is expected to grow to $122.9 billion by the end of 2012. Shoe manufacturers in the People's Republic of China account for 63% of production, 40.5% of global exports and 55% of industry revenue. However, many manufacturers in Europe dominate the higher-priced, higher value-added end of the market. [37]

Culture and folklore

Haines Shoe House in Hallam, Pennsylvania Shoehouse.jpg
Haines Shoe House in Hallam, Pennsylvania
Sports shoes in Hong Kong Shoes and Fruit (p365 20).jpg
Sports shoes in Hong Kong
Children's shoes at school in Ladakh Children's shoes at school in Ladakh.jpg
Children's shoes at school in Ladakh

As an integral part of human culture and civilization, shoes have found their way into our culture, folklore, and art. A popular 18th-century nursery rhyme is There was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe . This story tells about an old woman living in a shoe with a lot of children. In 1948, Mahlon Haines, a shoe salesman in Hallam, Pennsylvania, built an actual house shaped like a work boot as a form of advertisement. The Haines Shoe House was rented to newlyweds and the elderly until his death in 1962. Since then, it has served as an ice cream parlor, a bed and breakfast, and a museum. It still stands today and is a popular roadside attraction. [38]

Shoes also play an important role in the fairy tales Cinderella and The Red Shoes . In the movie adaption of the children's book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz , a pair of red ruby slippers play a key role in the plot. The 1985 comedy The Man with One Red Shoe features an eccentric man wearing one normal business shoe and one red shoe that becomes central to the plot.

Athletic sneaker collection has also existed as a part of urban subculture in the United States for several decades. [39] Recent decades have seen this trend spread to European nations such as the Czech Republic. [40] A Sneakerhead is a person who owns multiple pairs of shoes as a form of collection and fashion. A contributor to the growth of sneaker collecting is the continued worldwide popularity of the Air Jordan line of sneakers designed by Nike for Basketball star Michael Jordan.

In the Bible's Old Testament, the shoe is used to symbolize something that is worthless or of little value. In the New Testament, the act of removing one's shoes symbolizes servitude. Ancient Semitic-speaking peoples regarded the act of removing their shoes as a mark of reverence when approaching a sacred person or place. [41] In the Book of Exodus, Moses was instructed to remove his shoes before approaching the burning bush:

Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest [is] holy ground (Exodus 3:5).

Salt Crystal Shoes, art installation at the Dead Sea by Israeli artist Sigalit Landau Salted Lake (Salt Crystal Shoes on a Frozen Lake).jpg
Salt Crystal Shoes, art installation at the Dead Sea by Israeli artist Sigalit Landau

The removal of the shoe also symbolizes the act of giving up a legal right. In Hebrew custom, the widow removed the shoe of her late husband's brother to symbolize that he had abandoned his duty. In Arab custom, the removal of one's shoe also symbolized the dissolution of marriage. [41]

In Arab culture, showing the sole of one's shoe is considered an insult, and to throw a shoe and hit someone with it is considered an even greater insult. Shoes are considered to be dirty as they frequently touch the ground, and are associated with the lowest part of the body—the foot. As such, shoes are forbidden in mosques, and it is also considered unmannerly to cross the legs and display the soles of one's shoes during conversation. This insult was demonstrated in Iraq, first when Saddam Hussein's statue was toppled in 2003, Iraqis gathered around it and struck the statue with their shoes. [42] In 2008, United States President George W. Bush had a shoe thrown at him by a journalist as a statement against the war in Iraq. [43] More generally, shoe-throwing or shoeing, showing the sole of one's shoe or using shoes to insult are forms of protest in many parts of the world. Incidents where shoes were thrown at political figures have taken place in Australia, India, Ireland, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, the United States, and most notably the Arab world. [44] [45]

Empty shoes may also symbolize death. In Greek culture, empty shoes are the equivalent of the American funeral wreath. For example, empty shoes placed outside of a Greek home would tell others that the family's son has died in battle. [46] At an observation memorializing the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, 3,000 pairs of empty shoes were used to recognize those killed. [47] The Shoes on the Danube Bank is a memorial in Budapest, Hungary. Conceived by film director Can Togay, he created it on the east bank of the Danube River with sculptor Gyula Pauer to honor the Jews who were killed by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen in Budapest during World War II. They were ordered to take off their shoes and were shot at the edge of the water so that their bodies fell into the river and were carried away. The memorial represents their shoes left behind on the bank.


The basic anatomy of a shoe is recognizable, regardless of the specific style of footwear.

All shoes have a sole, which is the bottom of a shoe, in contact with the ground. Soles can be made from a variety of materials, although most modern shoes have soles made from natural rubber, polyurethane, or polyvinyl chloride (PVC) compounds. [48] Soles can be simple—a single material in a single layer—or they can be complex, with multiple structures or layers and materials. When various layers are used, soles may consist of an insole, midsole, and an outsole. [49]

The insole is the interior bottom of a shoe, which sits directly beneath the foot under the footbed (also known as sock liner). The purpose of the insole is to attach to the lasting margin of the upper, which is wrapped around the last during the closing of the shoe during the lasting operation. Insoles are usually made of cellulosic paper board or synthetic non woven insole board. Many shoes have removable and replaceable footbeds. Extra cushioning is often added for comfort (to control the shape, moisture, or smell of the shoe) or health reasons (to help deal with differences in the natural shape of the foot or positioning of the foot during standing or walking). [49]

The outsole is the layer in direct contact with the ground. Dress shoes often have leather or resin rubber outsoles; casual or work-oriented shoes have outsoles made of natural rubber or a synthetic material like polyurethane. The outsole may comprise a single piece or maybe an assembly of separate pieces, often of different materials. On some shoes, the heel of the sole has a rubber plate for durability and traction, while the front is leather for style. Specialized shoes will often have modifications on this design: athletic or so-called cleated shoes like soccer, rugby, baseball and golf shoes have spikes embedded in the outsole to improve traction. [49]

The midsole is the layer in between the outsole and the insole, typically there for shock absorption. Some types of shoes, like running shoes, have additional material for shock absorption, usually beneath the heel of the foot, where one puts the most pressure down. Some shoes may not have a midsole at all. [49]

The heel is the bottom rear part of a shoe. Its function is to support the heel of the foot. They are often made of the same material as the sole of the shoe. This part can be high for fashion or to make the person look taller, or flat for more practical and comfortable use. [49] On some shoes the inner forward point of the heel is chiselled off, a feature known as a "gentleman's corner". This piece of design is intended to alleviate the problem of the points catching the bottom of trousers and was first observed in the 1930s. [50] A heel is the projection at the back of a shoe which rests below the heel bone. The shoe heel is used to improve the balance of the shoe, increase the height of the wearer, alter posture or other decorative purposes. Sometimes raised, the high heel is common to a form of shoe often worn by women, but sometimes by men too. See also stiletto heel.

The upper helps hold the shoe onto the foot. In the simplest cases, such as sandals or flip-flops, this may be nothing more than a few straps for holding the sole in place. Closed footwear, such as boots, trainers and most men's shoes, will have a more complex upper. This part is often decorated or is made in a certain style to look attractive. The upper is connected to the sole by a strip of leather, rubber, or plastic that is stitched between it and the sole, known as a welt. [49]

Most uppers have a mechanism, such as laces, straps with buckles, zippers, elastic, velcro straps, buttons, or snaps, for tightening the upper on the foot. Uppers with laces usually have a tongue that helps seal the laced opening and protect the foot from abrasion by the laces. Uppers with laces also have eyelets or hooks to make it easier to tighten and loosen the laces and to prevent the lace from tearing through the upper material. An aglet is the protective wrapping on the end of the lace.

The vamp is the front part of the shoe, starting behind the toe, extending around the eyelets and tongue and towards back part of the shoe.

The medial is the part of the shoe closest to a person's center of symmetry, and the lateral is on the opposite side, away from their center of symmetry. This can be in reference to either the outsole or the vamp. Most shoes have shoelaces on the upper, connecting the medial and lateral parts after one puts their shoes on and aiding in keeping their shoes on their feet. In 1968, Puma SE introduced the first pair of sneakers with Velcro straps in lieu of shoelaces, and these became popular by the 1980s, especially among children and the elderly. [51] [52]

The toe box is the part that covers and protects the toes. People with toe deformities, or individuals who experience toe swelling (such as long-distance runners) usually require a larger toe box. [53]


There are a wide variety of different types of shoes. Most types of shoes are designed for specific activities. For example, boots are typically designed for work or heavy outdoor use. Athletic shoes are designed for particular sports such as running, walking, or other sports. Some shoes are designed to be worn at more formal occasions, and others are designed for casual wear. There are also a wide variety of shoes designed for different types of dancing. Orthopedic shoes are special types of footwear designed for individuals with particular foot problems or special needs. Other animals, such as dogs and horses, may also wear special shoes to protect their feet as well.

Depending on the activity for which they are designed, some types of footwear may fit into multiple categories. For example, Cowboy boots are considered boots, but may also be worn in more formal occasions and used as dress shoes. Hiking boots incorporate many of the protective features of boots, but also provide the extra flexibility and comfort of many athletic shoes. Flip-flops are considered casual footwear, but have also been worn in formal occasions, such as visits to the White House. [54] [55]

Random display of different shoes Shoes display 01.jpg
Random display of different shoes


A pair of athletic running shoes Puma shoes.jpg
A pair of athletic running shoes

Athletic shoes are specifically designed to be worn for participating in various sports. Since friction between the foot and the ground is an important force in most sports, modern athletic shoes are designed to maximize this force, and materials, such as rubber, are used. Although, for some activities such as dancing or bowling, sliding is desirable, so shoes designed for these activities often have lower coefficients of friction. [56] The earliest athletic shoes date back to the mid 19th century were track spikesleather shoes with metal cleats on the soles to provide increased friction during running. They were developed by J.W. Foster & Sons, which later become known as Reebok. By the end of the 19th century, Spalding also manufactured these shoes as well. Adidas started selling shoes with track spikes in them for running and soccer in 1925. Spikes were eventually added to shoes for baseball and American football in the 20th century. [14] Golfers also use shoes with small metal spikes on their soles to prevent slipping during their swing. [57]

The earliest rubber-soled athletic shoes date back to 1876 in the United Kingdom, when the New Liverpool Rubber Company made plimsolls, or sandshoes, designed for the sport of croquet. Similar rubber-soled shoes were made in 1892 in the United States by Humphrey O'Sullivan, based on Charles Goodyear's technology. The United States Rubber Company was founded the same year and produced rubber-soled and heeled shoes under a variety of brand names, which were later consolidated in 1916 under the name, Keds. These shoes became known as, "sneakers", because the rubber sole allowed the wearer to sneak up on another person. In 1964, the founding of Nike by Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman of the University of Oregon introduced many new improvements common in modern running shoes, such as rubber waffle soles, breathable nylon uppers, and cushioning in the mid-sole and heel. During the 1970s, the expertise of podiatrists also became important in athletic shoe design, to implement new design features based on how feet reacted to specific actions, such as running, jumping, or side-to-side movement. Athletic shoes for women were also designed for their specific physiological differences. [14]

A pair of Converse All-Stars A classic Black pair of Converse All Stars resting on the Black & White Ed. Shoebox (1998-2002).JPG
A pair of Converse All-Stars

Shoes specific to the sport of basketball were developed by Chuck Taylor, and are popularly known as Chuck Taylor All-Stars. These shoes, first sold in 1917, are double-layer canvas shoes with rubber soles and toe caps, and a high heel (known as a "high top") for added support. In 1969, Taylor was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in recognition of this development, and in the 1970s, other shoe manufacturers, such as Nike, Adidas, Reebok, and others began imitating this style of athletic shoe. [58] In April 1985, Nike introduced its own brand of basketball shoe which would become popular in its own right, the Air Jordan, named after the then-rookie Chicago Bulls basketball player, Michael Jordan. The Air Jordan line of shoes sold $100 million in their first year. [59]

As barefoot running became popular by the late 20th and early 21st century, many modern shoe manufacturers have recently designed footwear that mimic this experience, maintaining optimum flexibility and natural walking while also providing some degree of protection. Termed as Minimalist shoes, their purpose is to allow one's feet and legs to feel more subtly the impacts and forces involved in running, allowing finer adjustments in running style. [60] Some of these shoes include the Vibram FiveFingers, [61] Nike Free, [62] and Saucony's Kinvara and Hattori. [63] [64] Mexican huaraches are also very simple running shoes, similar to the shoes worn by the Tarahumara people of northern Mexico, who are known for their distance running abilities. [65] Wrestling shoes are also very light and flexible shoes that are designed to mimic bare feet while providing additional traction and protection.

Many athletic shoes are designed with specific features for specific activities. One of these includes roller skates, which have metal or plastic wheels on the bottom specific for the sport of roller skating. Similarly, ice skates have a metal blade attached to the bottom for locomotion across ice. Skate shoes have also been designed to provide a comfortable, flexible and durable shoe for the sport of skateboarding. [66] Climbing shoes are rubber-soled, tight-fitting shoes designed to fit in the small cracks and crevices for rock climbing. Cycling shoes are similarly designed with rubber soles and a tight fit, but also are equipped with a metal or plastic cleat to interface with clipless pedals, as well as a stiff sole to maximize power transfer and support the foot. [67] Some shoes are made specifically to improve a person's ability to weight train. [68] Sneakers that are a mix between an activity-centered and a more standard design have also been produced: examples include roller shoes, which feature wheels that can be used to roll on hard ground, and Soap shoes, which feature a hard plastic sole that can be used for grinding.


A pair of steel-toed safety boots S3 safety footwear.jpg
A pair of steel-toed safety boots

A boot is a special type of shoe which covers the foot and the ankle and extends up the leg, sometimes as far as the knee or even the hip. Most boots have a heel that is clearly distinguishable from the rest of the sole, even if the two are made of one piece. They are typically made of leather or rubber, although they may be made from a variety of different materials. Boots are worn both for their functionality—protecting the foot and leg from water, snow, mud or hazards or providing additional ankle support for strenuous activities—as well as for reasons of style and fashion.

Cowboy boots are a specific style of riding boot which combines function with fashion. They became popular among cowboys in the western United States during the 19th century. Traditional cowboy boots have a Cuban heel, rounded to pointed toe, high shaft, and, traditionally, no lacing. [69] They are normally made from cowhide leather but may be made from more exotic skins such as ostrich, anaconda, or elephant skins. [70]

Hiking boots are designed to provide extra ankle and arch support, as well as extra padding for comfort during hiking. They are constructed to provide comfort for miles of walking over rough terrains, and protect the hiker's feet against water, mud, rocks, and other wilderness obstacles. These boots support the ankle to avoid twisting but do not restrict the ankle's movement too much. They are fairly stiff to support the foot. A properly fitted boot and/or friction-reducing patches applied to troublesome areas ensures protection against blisters and other discomforts associated with long hikes on rugged terrain. [71]

During wet or snowy weather, snow boots are worn to keep the foot warm and dry. They are typically made of rubber or other water-resistant material, have multiple layers of insulation, and a high heel to keep snow out. [72] Boots may also be attached to snowshoes to increase the distribution of weight over a larger surface area for walking in snow. Ski boots are a specialized snow boot which are used in alpine or cross-country skiing and designed to provide a way to attach the skier to his/her skis using ski bindings. The ski/boot/binding combination is used to effectively transmit control inputs from the skier's legs to the snow. Ice skates are another specialized boot with a metal blade attached to the bottom which is used to propel the wearer across a sheet of ice. [73] Inline skates are similar to ice skates but with a set of three to four wheels in lieu of the blade, which are designed to mimic ice skating on solid surfaces such as wood or concrete. [74]

Boots are designed to withstand heavy wear to protect the wearer and provide good traction. They are generally made from sturdy leather uppers and non-leather outsoles. They may be used for uniforms of the police or military, as well as for protection in industrial settings such as mining and construction. Protective features may include steel-tipped toes and soles or ankle guards. [75]

Dress and casual

Dress shoes are characterized by smooth and supple leather uppers, leather soles, and narrow sleek figure. Casual shoes are characterized by sturdy leather uppers, non-leather outsoles, and wide profile.

Some designs of dress shoes can be worn by either gender. The majority of dress shoes have an upper covering, commonly made of leather, enclosing most of the lower foot, but not covering the ankles. This upper part of the shoe is often made without apertures or openings, but may also be made with openings or even itself consist of a series of straps, e.g. an open toe featured in women's shoes. Shoes with uppers made high to cover the ankles are also available; a shoe with the upper rising above the ankle is usually considered a boot but certain styles may be referred to as high-topped shoes or high-tops. Usually, a high-topped shoe is secured by laces or zippers, although some styles have elastic inserts to ease slipping the shoe on.


This male dress shoe, known as a derby shoe, is distinguished by its open lacing. Blucher (PSF).jpg
This male dress shoe, known as a derby shoe, is distinguished by its open lacing.

Men's shoes can be categorized by how they are closed:

  • Oxfords (also referred as "Balmorals"): the vamp has a V-shaped slit to which the laces are attached; also known as "closed lacing". The word "Oxford" is sometimes used by American clothing companies to market shoes that are not Balmorals, such as bluchers.
  • Derby shoe: the laces are tied to two pieces of leather independently attached to the vamp; also known as "open lacing" and is a step down in dressiness. If the laces are not independently attached to the vamp, the shoe is known as a blucher shoe. This name is, in American English, often used about derbys.
  • Monk-straps: a buckle and strap instead of lacing
  • Slip-ons: There are no lacings or fastenings. The popular loafers are part of this category, as well as less popular styles, such as elastic-sided shoes.

Men's shoes can also be decorated in various ways:

  • Plain-toes: have a sleek appearance and no extra decorations on the vamp.
  • Cap-toes: has an extra layer of leather that "caps" the toe.
  • Brogues (American: wing-tips): The toe of the shoe is covered with a perforated panel, the wing-tip, which extends down either side of the shoe. Brogues can be found in both balmoral and blucher styles, but are considered slightly less formal.

Formal high-end men's shoes are manufactured by several companies around the world, amongst others in Great Britain, France, Hungary, Romania, Croatia, Italy, and to a lesser extent in the United States. Notable British brands include: Church's English Shoes (est. 1873), John Lobb Bootmaker (est. 1849), Edward Green Shoes (est. 1890), and Crockett & Jones (est. 1879). Both John Lobb and Edward Green offer bespoke products. In between the world wars, men's footwear received significant innovation and design, led by cobblers and cordwainers in London's West End. [76] A well-known French maker is J.M. Weston. Armani of Italy was a major influence on men's shoe design in the 1960s–1980s until they returned to the larger proportions of its forebears, the welt-constructed Anglo-American dress shoe originally created in Edwardian England. Another well-known Italian company is Salvatore Ferragamo Italia S.p.A.. Higher end companies in the United States are Allen Edmonds and Alden Shoe Company. Alden, located in New England, specializes in genuine shell cordovan leather from the only remaining horse tannery in the US, in Chicago [77] and is completely manufactured domestically, whereas Allen Edmonds, of Wisconsin, is a larger company that outsources some of its production. [78]


High heel sandals My Shoes.jpg
High heel sandals
Women's high heel pump Red High Heel Pumps.jpg
Women's high heel pump

There is a large variety of shoes available for women, in addition to most of the men's styles being more accepted as unisex. Some broad categories are:

  • High-heeled footwear is footwear that raises the heels, typically 2 inches (5 cm) or more above the toes, commonly worn by women for formal occasions or social outings. Variants include kitten heels (typically 1+12–2 inches high) and stiletto heels (with a very narrow heel post) and wedge heels (with a wedge-shaped sole rather than a heel post).
  • Mules are shoes or slippers with no fitting around the heel (i.e. they are backless)
  • Slingbacks are shoes which are secured by a strap behind the heel, rather than over the top of the foot.
  • Ballet flats, known in the UK as ballerinas, ballet pumps or skimmers, are shoes with a very low heel and a relatively short vamp, exposing much of the instep. They are popular for warm-weather wear, and may be seen as more comfortable than shoes with a higher heel.
  • Court shoes, known in the United States as pumps, are typically high-heeled, slip-on dress shoes.



A wide variety of footwear is used by dancers. The choice of dance shoe type depends on the style of dance that is to be performed and, in many cases, the characteristics of the surface that will be danced on.


Orthopedic shoes are specially-designed footwear to relieve discomfort associated with many foot and ankle disorders, such as blisters, bunions, calluses and corns, hammer toes, plantar fasciitis, or heel spurs. They may also be worn by individuals with diabetes or people with unequal leg length. These shoes typically have a low heel, tend to be wide with a particularly wide toe box, and have a firm heel to provide extra support. Some may also have a removable insole, or orthotic, to provide extra arch support. [14]

Measures and sizes

World's largest pair of shoes, Riverbank Center, Philippines--5.29 metres (17.4 ft) long and 2.37 metres (7 ft 9 in) wide, equivalent to a French shoe size of 75. MarikinaRiverBankShoesjf9425 30.JPG
World's largest pair of shoes, Riverbank Center, Philippines—5.29 metres (17.4 ft) long and 2.37 metres (7 ft 9 in) wide, equivalent to a French shoe size of 75.

The measure of a foot for a shoe is from the heel to the longest toe. Shoe size is an alphanumerical indication of the fitting size of a shoe for a person. Often it just consists of a number indicating the length because many shoemakers only provide a standard width for economic reasons. There are several different shoe-size systems that are used worldwide. These systems differ in what they measure, what unit of measurement they use, and where the size 0 (or 1) is positioned. Only a few systems also take the width of the feet into account. Some regions use different shoe-size systems for different types of shoes (e.g., men's, women's, children's, sport, or safety shoes).

Toddler-sized shoe. Toddler-Size Shoe.jpeg
Toddler-sized shoe.

Units for shoe sizes vary widely around the world. European sizes are measured in Paris Points, which are worth two-thirds of a centimeter. The UK and American units result in whole-number sizes spaced at one barleycorn (13 inch), with UK adult sizes starting at size 1 = 8+23 in (22.0 cm). In the US, this is size 2. Men's and women's shoe sizes often have different scales.[ citation needed ] Shoe size is often measured using a Brannock Device, which can determine both the width and length size values of the foot. [79] A metric standard for shoe sizing, the Mondopoint system, was introduced in the 1970s by International Standard ISO 2816:1973 "Fundamental characteristics of a system of shoe sizing to be known as Mondopoint" and ISO 3355:1975 "Shoe sizes – System of length grading (for use in the Mondopoint system)". [80] the current version of the standard is ISO 9407:2019, "Shoe sizes—Mondopoint system of sizing and marking". [81] The Mondopoint system includes measurements of both length and width of the foot.


Removal of shoes

PLZZ REMOVE YOUR SHOES. Sign at entrance to stupa. Nubra, India PLZZ REMOVE YOUR SHOES. Sign at entrance to stupa. Nubra, India.jpg
PLZZ REMOVE YOUR SHOES. Sign at entrance to stupa. Nubra, India

In many places in the world shoes are removed when moving from exteriors to interiors, particularly in homes and religious buildings. In many Asian countries outdoor shoes are exchanged for indoor shoes or slippers. Some fitness centres require that shoes be exchanged for indoor shoes to prevent dirt and grime from being transferred to the equipment.

See also

Related Research Articles

Footwear Garments worn on feet

Footwear refers to garments worn on the feet, which typically serves the purpose of protection against adversities of the environment such as ground textures and temperature. Footwear in the manner of shoes therefore primarily serves the purpose to ease locomotion and prevent injuries. Footwear can also be used for fashion and adornment as well as to indicate the status or rank of the person within a social structure. Socks and other hosiery are typically worn additionally between the feet and other footwear for further comfort and relief. Cultures have different customs regarding footwear. These include not using any in some situations, usually bearing a symbolic meaning. This can however also be imposed on specific individuals to place them at a practical disadvantage against shod people, if they are excluded from having footwear available or are prohibited from using any. This usually takes place in situations of captivity, such as imprisonment or slavery, where the groups are among other things distinctly divided by whether or whether not footwear is being worn.

Boot Type of footwear extending above the ankle joint

A boot is a type of footwear. Most boots mainly cover the foot and the ankle, while some also cover some part of the lower calf. Some boots extend up the leg, sometimes as far as the knee or even the hip. Most boots have a heel that is clearly distinguishable from the rest of the sole, even if the two are made of one piece. Traditionally made of leather or rubber, modern boots are made from a variety of materials.

Clog Footwear made in part or completely of wood

Clogs are a type of footwear made in part or completely from wood. Clogs are used worldwide and although the form may vary by culture, within a culture the form often remained unchanged for centuries.


Slippers are light footwear that are easy to put on and off and are intended to be worn indoors, particularly at home. They provide comfort and protection for the feet when walking indoors.

Flip-flops Type of sandal

Flip-flops are a type of sandal, typically worn as a form of casual wear. They consist of a flat sole held loosely on the foot by a Y-shaped strap known as a toe thong that passes between the first and second toes and around both sides of the foot or can be a hard base with a strap across all the toes.

Zori Flat Japanese sandals similar to flip-flops

Zori, also rendered as zōri, are thonged Japanese sandals made of rice straw, cloth, lacquered wood, leather, rubber, or—most commonly and informally—synthetic materials. They are a slip-on descendant of the tied-on waraji sandal.

Sandal Type of footwear with an open upper

Sandals are an open type of footwear, consisting of a sole held to the wearer's foot by straps going over the instep and around the ankle. Sandals can also have a heel. While the distinction between sandals and other types of footwear can sometimes be blurry, the common understanding is that a sandal leaves all or most of the foot exposed. People may choose to wear sandals for several reasons, among them comfort in warm weather, economy, and as a fashion choice.


Shoemaking is the process of making footwear.

Motorcycle boot

Motorcycle boots are associated with motorcycle riders and range from above ankle to below knee boots. They have an outside of a typical boot but a low heel to control the motorcycle. To improve motorcycle safety, motorcycle boots are generally made from a thick, heavy leather and may include energy absorbing and load spreading padding, metal, plastic and/or composite materials to protect the motorcycle rider's feet, ankles and legs in an accident. For use in wet weather, some boots have a waterproof membrane lining such as Gore-Tex or SympaTex.

Combat boot

Combat boots are military boots designed to be worn by soldiers during combat or combat training, as opposed to during parades and other ceremonial duties. Modern combat boots are designed to provide a combination of grip, ankle stability, and foot protection suitable for a rugged environment. They are traditionally made of hardened and sometimes waterproofed leather. Today, many combat boots incorporate technologies originating in civilian hiking boots, such as Gore-Tex nylon side panels, which improve ventilation and comfort. They are also often specialized for certain climates and conditions, such as jungle boots, desert boots, and cold weather boots as well as specific uses, such as tanker boots and jump boots.


Opanci are traditional peasant shoes worn in Southeastern Europe. The attributes of the opanci are a construction of leather, lack of laces, durable, and various endings on toes. In Serbia, the design of the horn-like ending on toes indicates the region of origin, though this specific design is not exclusive to Serbia. The opanci are also considered as the traditional peasant footwear for people in the Balkan region. In Bulgaria they are referred to as "tsarvuli".

Jump boot

Jump boots are standard footgear for Paratroopers and Airborne Forces featuring calf-length lacing and rigid toe caps. The style is a type of combat boot and versions were developed in many countries simultaneously with the adoption of airborne infantry forces during World War II. Modern jump boots are earned in some countries and therefore have become a mark of achievement and distinction, mainly worn as dress and parade boots. The uppers are generally made of smooth black leather with toe-caps and heel counters that accept a high polish. It is also a paratrooper tradition to lace jump boots in a ladder or cobweb style which increases ankle support during a parachute jump.

Skate shoe Type of footwear designed for use in skateboarding

Skate shoes or skateboard shoes are a type of footwear specifically designed and manufactured for use in skateboarding. While numerous non-skaters choose to wear skate shoes as they are popular in fashion, the design of the skate shoe includes many features designed especially for use in skateboarding, including a vulcanized rubber or polyurethane sole with minimal tread pattern or no pattern, a composition leather or suede upper, and double or triple stitching to extend the life of the upper material. A low, padded tongue is often included for comfort. The most important aspect of skate shoes is that they have flat soles which allow the skater to have better board control.

Brogue shoe Style of low-heeled shoe or boot

The brogue is a style of low-heeled shoe or boot traditionally characterised by multiple-piece, sturdy leather uppers with decorative perforations and serration along the pieces' visible edges.

Engineer boot Leather work-boots

Engineer boots, also known as engineer's boots or engineering boots, are an American type of traditional leather work-boots. Their lace-less, rugged construction made them popular among motorcycle riders. Originally developed in the 1930s for firemen working on steam locomotives, the boots gained substantial popularity in the post–World War II era during a growing motorcycling culture. They became popular symbols of teenage rebellion in the 1950s and a common component of greaser wear. They were later adopted by skinheads and punks in the 1970s. By the 2010s, engineer boots were being popularly worn for fashion purposes, especially by non-traditional customers such as women, young urban professionals, and hipsters.

Court shoe

A court shoe, or pump, is a shoe with a low-cut front, or vamp, with either a shoe buckle or a black bow as ostensible fastening. Deriving from the 17th and 18th century dress shoes with shoe buckles, the vamped pump shape emerged in the late 18th century. By the turn of the 19th century, shoe buckles were increasingly replaced by black bows, which has remained the contemporary style for men's formal wear, leather or patent leather evening pumps ever since. This latter style is sometimes also called an opera pump or opera slipper.

Moccasin type of traditional footwear of many indigenous people of North America

A moccasin is a shoe, made of deerskin or other soft leather, consisting of a sole and sides made of one piece of leather, stitched together at the top, and sometimes with a vamp. The sole is soft and flexible and the upper part often is adorned with embroidery or beading. Though sometimes worn inside, it is chiefly intended for outdoor use. Historically, it is the footwear of many indigenous people of North America; moreover, hunters, traders, and European settlers wore them. Etymologically, the moccasin derives from the Algonquian language Powhatan word makasin, and from the Proto-Algonquian word *maxkeseni (shoe).

Dress shoe

A dress shoe is a shoe to be worn at smart casual or more formal events. A dress shoe is typically contrasted to an athletic shoe.

Cleat (shoe) Projection on sole of shoe

Cleats or studs are protrusions on the sole of a shoe or on an external attachment to a shoe that provide additional traction on a soft or slippery surface. They can be conical or blade-like in shape and can be made of plastic, rubber or metal. The type worn depends on the environment of play: grass, ice, artificial turf, or other grounds.

Huarache (running shoe)

Huaraches are an open type of outdoor footwear, consisting of a sole held to the wearer's foot by straps passing over the instep and around the ankle. The common understanding is that these sandals were a variant of traditional Mexican huaraches, the difference being in design and construction.


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Further reading