The origin of…Shoe

“What spirit is so empty and blind, that it cannot recognize the fact that the foot is more noble than the shoe, and skin more beautiful than the garment with which it is clothed?” Michelangelo

Post 56 Shoe

The oldest shoes ever found are sandals found in the Fort Rock Basin in Oregon, US, made of weft fibers and have been dated to be 10,500-9,300 years old.
The oldest leather shoe ever found is a shoe found in the Areni-1 cave complex in Armenia made of a single piece of cured cowhide laced along seams at the front and back with a leather cord. It is believed to be 5,500 years old and it has been preserved so well thanks to several layers of sheep dung, which accumulated in the cave after its Copper Age human inhabitants had gone. The shoe has probably been made to protect the foot from the rugged terrain, sharp bushes and stones and the extremes of temperature that exist in this region.

In North America many natives wore shoes known as moccasins. They were made of soft leather or bison hides. Differences in the cut of the shoe and the extensive beadwork existed according to the styles of different tribes.
All over the world different civilizations developed a type of thong sandal, made from a many different materials. In Ancient Egypt they were made from papyrus and palm, in Africa from rawhide, in India from wood, in China and Japan from rice straw and in Mexico they used the yucca plant.

Although the Ancient Greeks preferred to go barefoot, they did wear basic leather sandals, known as carbatines. This type of sandal had a single piece of leather secured to the sole of the foot with laces, which pulled the tops of the shoes together when tied, leaving the toes exposed. They also wore a type of simple boot known as cothurnus. It was also made of leather and laced in front, but cover the whole foot and the soles were thicker.
In Roman times many people wore sandals in warm climates, but Roman men only wore them indoors. Roman soldiers wore boots called caligae, which were durable and practical to make sure they were suitable for the long marches Roman soldiers had to make. The sole of the caliga was studded with hobnails, iron nails nailed through the sole of the boot to keep the boot together and to prevent the sole of the boot from wearing out.

Until the end of the 18th century shoemaking was a traditional handicraft and it was not until the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) that the first steps towards mechanization took place. In 1812 Marc Brunel developed machinery for mass-production of boots for the British soldiers. However, when the war ended in 1815, manual labor became much cheaper. Together with the falling demand for military gear, Brunel’s system was no longer profitable and his business soon ended.
Several innovations in the 19th century, like the sewing machine and the shoe-stitching machine, made it possible to mass manufacture shoes. The footwear industry now has a revenue of USD 123 billion worldwide (2014).

For a more detailed history of shoes, check:


  1. an outer covering for your foot that usually has a stiff bottom part called a sole with a thicker part called a heel attached to it and an upper part that covers part or all of the top of your foot
  2. a flat U-shaped piece of iron that is nailed to the bottom of a horse’s hoof
  3. shoes: another person’s situation or position (source: Merriam Webster).

The English shoe and Dutch schoen possibly come from Proto-Germanic *skokhaz, cover, maybe from the Proto Indo European root *skeu-, cover. Some say the words derive from Proto-Germanic *skehan-, to move fast.
Spanish zapato comes from Arabic sabbat, tanned leather.
Italian scarpa comes from Middle High German scharf, sharp/acute, from the root skar-/skarp-, to cut/carve.

Shoe in other languages:
Dutch: de schoen
Spanish: el zapato
Italian: la scarpa


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