The earliest footwear was essentially sandal-like. It was meant to insulate human feet against the hard, spiky and jaggy surface, snow bound areas like Alaska and blistering hot areas in Middle East.
The oldest surviving pair of shoes is a pair of sandals from California that date to 9,000 years. They are simple sandals made of plant fibres. In the Middle Ages, people wrapped a single piece of hide around the feet and tied it with a leather thong.
Beginning twelfth century, European peasants started wearing sabot, a shoe made of single piece of wood following the example of the Dutch. In England, the sabot was improved upon by clog which had an upper made of fabric while the sole remained wooden.
The French aristocracy introduced pointed shoes, which were designed by Count of Anjou who in fact wanted to hide his own deformed feet. Aristocratic French women started wearing high-heeled shoes in sixteenth century, which led to the introduction of the phrase well-heeled meaning rich women.
Starting 14th century, BC shoes were made by hand using tools used in Egypt such as curved awl, scraper and the chisel-type knife. Later on tools like pincers, hammer, lapstones and a variety of rubbing sticks were also used.
The first industrial unit to mechanize the shoe production was set up in Lynn, Massachusetts in 1760. Jan Matzeliger, a native of Dutch Guiana who immigrated to United States in 1870 helped revolutionize the shoe industry by developing a shoe lasting machine that could attach a sole to the shoe in just one minute. Unfortunately he died a poor man in Lynn, Massachusetts.
Here are two interesting pieces on shoes:
The former First Lady Imelda Marcos of Philippines had around 3,400 pairs of shoes when she fled to Hawaii following the People’s Power Revolution in 1986.
The largest shoe size of 37 was worn by Robert Wadlow, who was the world’s tallest man at 8′ 11″.
Different kinds of shoes
The earliest sports shoes called Pedila were worn by the sports loving Greeks in Homer’s time in 1000-700 BC. Sports shoes have to be specially designed using different materials to provide comfort and prevent injury. They are designed keeping in view the guidelines fixed by the American Orthopedic Foot & Ankle Society.
Sports shoes have, since 1960s, been generally made in all-purpose sneaker design though there is an overwhelming choice in sneaker type sports shoes.
Slip-lasted shoes are made by stitching the upper part like a moccasin and gluing it with the sole. This method makes for lightweight and flexible shoes with no torsion rigidity.
A board-lasted shoe has “upper” leather or canvas that is sewn to a cardboard like material. It provides more support and control to players with flat feet.
Some shoes are made by combining both the methods. A shoe like this may be a slip-lasted in the front and board-lasted in the back. They provide very good heel control and remain quite flexible as well. They are good for a wide variety of foot types.
Running shoes are designed to provide more cushioning impact, shock absorption and heel control to the runners and joggers They are designed to prevent shin splints, tendinitis, heel pain, stress fractures and other overuse syndromes.
Sports persons need walking exercises for cardiovascular conditioning for which they need lightweight shoes. They allow extra shock absorption at the heels to reduce heel pain especially under the ball of the foot (the metatarsal area). Some walking shoes have a little rounded sole or “rocker bottom” which helps to move the weight from the heel to the toe.