Shoes are something that many people take for granted, and stereotypically, women collect. Let’s take a look at some of the real facts about shoes and those who wear them.
- Shoes have been around for as long as recorded history. While they probably began as wrappings, they became more fitted and more substantial as time went on.
- Shoes are meant as protection from the elements. Early shoes included sandals to protect against hot sand (purportedly originated in Egypt) and hide shoes were used to protect against the cold of snow and ice.
- Heels were added to shoes in the Middle East to add more space between the foot and the hot sand.
- Early sandals had soles from braided hemp or papyrus and were given different features depending on the wearer. For example, a toe that was long and curled up over the foot was the sign of royalty.
- In the Second Century AD, Asians heavily reinforced their boots for outdoor use.
- Similar boots in Europe often had different materials and designs but were based on their Asian forerunners.
- In 1660, Samuel Pepys began adding buckles to shoes. This helped keep the boots closed and the feet warm.
- Lace-up shoes were originally done with leather. Shoelaces as we know them today and their complementary shoe holes were created in 1790.
- Until the 1800s, shoes were universal – that is, any shoe would fit either foot (as long as it was the right size). It wasn’t until the nineteenth century that left and right shoes were first made different – in Philadelphia.
- Additionally, shoes were universal in Europe. Shoes for men and women were the same styles.
- Pointed toes were viewed as a sign of wealth and power, in Europe, especially through the 11th to 15th centuries.
- High-heeled shoes became popular in the 16th century, primarily among royal families, nobles and courtiers. Heel heights ranged from 3″ to 24″ depending on current trends. The taller heights required wearers to need assistance in order to wear them.
- For many centuries, the Japanese wore shoes mounted on wooden blocks of 3-4 inches (and some as high as 10 inches). The sound when walking was a consideration when purchasing shoes.
- It is said that Marie Antoinette had 500 pairs of shoes.
- Queen Victoria was the recipient and wearer of the first fashionable boot for women, in 1840.
- Europe began creating sneakers in the 1800s, and they became popular once factories in the United States began producing them.
- Sneakers, trainers, and tennis shoes, while they are used interchangeably, are actually different types of shoe. Trainers can arguably be used for either one, but sneakers – at least in the early- to mid-1900s – referred to high-topped canvas shoes with rubber soles, which provide ankle support. Tennis shoes, on the other hand, were low-topped shoes, usually with white uppers, that do not provide ankle support.
- In the early 1900s, the Duke of Wellington defeated Napoleon. Boots styled after his boots became very popular among the elite in Europe. The US Confederate Army issued these Wellington boots.
- In 1954, Roger Vivier created stiletto heels. The name comes from Latin, from a word meaning “stake” or “small knife.”
- Chinese brides toss a bridal shoe onto the roof of their home, in a move meant to ensure the happiness of the couple.
- A Hungarian groom drinks a toast from the wedding slipper of his bride.
- During the Middle Ages, a groom would receive the shoes of his bride from her father.
- In Anglo-Saxon wedding ceremonies, shoes were used something like we use rings today. The bride handed her shoes to the groom, and he used a shoe to tap her on the head.
- Some newlyweds have shoes tied in amongst tin cans as a “Just Married” car decoration.
- In Bible times, a shoe was used in bargains and contracts.
- The myths of the ancient world included some particularly special footwear, such as Mercury’s or Hermes’ winged sandals.
- The Seven League Boots, from ancient folklore, were boots that allowed the wearer to travel one league (3 miles, or 4.4 km) in one step. The concept probably came from the fact that a league was considered to be how far the average man could walk in an hour; therefore, walking 7 hours in a day, one would walk 7 leagues in a day (nearly 30 kilometers or just over 18.5 miles).
- Puss in Boots was special because he wore boots.
- Cinderella’s glass slipper was the key to her happy ending.
- Hans Christian Andersen wrote about “The Red Shoes,” which were shoes that forced their wearer to dance continuously.
- Dorothy kept the shoes she took from the feet of the Wicked Witch of the East, on which her house fell, in The Wizard of Oz. While the movie portrayed these as ruby slippers, the original book by L. Frank Baum describes them as silver.
- Werner Herzog told a friend that if he finished a movie, he would eat his shoe. In 1978, that friend, Errol Morris, did indeed finish and release a movie – Gates of Heaven – and Herzog, in a show of good sportsmanship, cooked his shoe in garlic and duck fat and consumed it onstage in front of a live audience.
- Hanover Township, Indiana, has a corner where people toss shoes. They may be used or new, and this has been going on for over fifty years. Nobody knows what started it, but even though the highway department regularly cleans up the pile, it never stays gone. Nobody admits to putting shoes there, and nobody has ever been caught leaving shoes. There are some theories about the origin of the tradition. Some say that there was once a homeless person who begged for shoes, and even after he moved on, people kept leaving shoes. Another suggestion is that people left shoes for underprivileged families, anonymously, and the tradition continued. And, of course, there are always those who declare that someone left a male shoe and a female shoe together, and they reproduced!
- Altocalciphilia is the word for the desire to collect high heeled footwear.
- The average quantity of shoes owned by American women is 30 pairs! The average yearly cost of these shoes is $300, and more than half have regretted a shoe purchase at least once. Of course, some women have much larger collections of shoes. Imelda Marcos was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as having 3,400 pairs of shoes.
- Conversely, the average number of pairs owned by American men is around 12.
- The average shoe size of adult women in America is size 8.5. The average shoe size of adult men in America is 10.5.
- The average life of a pair of sneakers is 400 miles, though most people trade them in after 200.
- Penny Gold, a retired teacher in Florida, has a collection of Converse sneakers that she began 15 years ago. $15,000 later, she has 733 pairs!
- Brahim Takioullah, born in Morocco, has the world’s biggest feet – European size 58 (somewhere around 18 or 20 in US sizing)!
- The largest pair of shoes in the world is in Marikina City, Philippines. Each shoe measures 5.29m (17.36 ft) long and 2.37m (7.78 ft) high!
- North America’s only shoe museum resides in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Sonja Bata collected the shoes; she is part of a family that makes shoes. The collection spans 4,500 years of shoe history.
- Bill Nye, the Science Guy, has also stepped into the world of shoes. After noticing blood on the shoes of ballet dancers, he set out to create a safer, more comfortable ballet shoe while preserving the traditional look. He has a patent on such a shoe.
- It is not unusual for a person to need two different sizes of shoe. It is best to choose a size that fits the larger foot while standing. If finding shoes is difficult, you may also want to shoe shop during the afternoon as the foot will generally swell during the day and would ensure the shoe still fits after wearing them for long periods of time.
- An Adidas store in Amsterdam is built to look like a giant shoebox.
- If your shoes are smelly, try putting dry tea bags in them to absorb the odor.
- There are shoes, named “No Place Like Home,” that were invented to help lost people find their way home. Clicking the heels together three times activates the built-in GPS.
- A craftsman in Africa recycles old tires into shoes. He can measure a pair of feet and create perfectly-fitting shoes.