How Ancient is that New Shoe Design?


Many women love shoes, and finding the latest styles is a popular hobby. Shockingly, some of the “latest styles,” aren’t really that new at all. They’re modern twists on very old concepts. Here is some of the history behind a few popular shoe types.

  1. High heels – In the fashion industry, a shoe is only a  true high heel  if the heel is over 3.5 inches tall. Even though they’re considered women’s footwear today, that isn’t how they started out. Another interesting thing about heels is that they apparently were developed for purposes unrelated to fashion. Murals from 3500 BC show that they originally had religious significance: In Egypt, the heel took the form of an ankh ““ a symbol of life. Another use for high heels was even more prosaic. They were worn by butchers who wanted to elevate their feet above the blood and offal on the floor!Interestingly, some menswear boots are technically high heels, even today. The cowboy boot, in particular, qualifies for this designation. The functional reason for the high heel is to help keep the foot in a horse’s stirrup, but like women’s high heels, most cowboy boots are now worn as a fashion statement.
  2. Moccasins – Moccasins were invented by Native Americans, and originally were used by many different tribes. They are fully enclosed shoes with soft soles. This construction allows the wearer to feel the ground while protecting his or her feet from hazards. They are traditionally made of locally available animal skins, so the preferred hides varied by tribe. According to the  Chickasaw Library, their tribe originally made moccasins from deer hides, bear hides and elk hides. The type of leather used to make the shoes varied according to the occasion, as well as availability.In modern times, the moccasin concept has evolved into many of the types of shoes seen in today’s stores. Oxfords, sneakers and other types all feature enclosed construction, and in most cases, leather or other hides are still seen as the best material.
  3. Sandals ““  Sandals  take many fancy forms now, but at their base, they’re simply a mostly open shoe featuring a solid bottom. It’s no wonder, then, that sandals were likely the first form of footwear ever invented. Sandals woven from sagebrush bark have been carbon dated to 10,000 years old. These shoes started out as purely functional protection, but it wasn’t that long before people realized that they could also serve as status symbols and fashion statements.


The most shocking shoe-related fact of all may be that ancient cultures often didn’t use shoes at all. Even ancient Greece’s military hoplite units fought barefoot. Shoes were seen as ostentatious and unnecessary for all but ceremonial occasions, and it took a while for their use to spread even in that instance. One thing is clear: Once shoes became accepted, people took to them with great vigor. Now, there are several major categories of footwear and millions of individual designs.

The next time you’re in a shoe store, take a good look at how the latest pair is really made. While the specific style may be cutting edge, chances are that underneath its lines, it’s a moccasin, a sandal or a high heel ““ and the basic concept behind it has been around for thousands of years.

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