Footwear Facts

Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff

  • Red Sandals
    Sandals originated in warm climates where the soles of the feet needed protection but the top of the foot needed to be cool.
  • 4,000 years ago the first shoes were made of a single piece of rawhide that enveloped the foot for both warmth and protection.
  • In Europe pointed toes on shoes were fashionable from the eleventh to the fifteenth centuries.
  • In the Middle East heels were added to shoes to lift the foot from the burning sand.
  • In Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries heels on shoes were always colored red.
  • Shoes all over the world were identical until the nineteenth century, when left- and right-footed shoes were first made in Philadelphia.
  • In Europe it wasn't until the eighteenth century that women's shoes were different from men's.
  • Six-inch-high heels were worn by the upper classes in seventeenth-century Europe. Two servants, one on either side, were needed to hold up the person wearing the high heels.

  • Sneakers were first made in America in 1916. They were originally called keds.
  • Boots were first worn in cold, mountainous regions and hot, sandy deserts where horse-riding communities lived. Heels on boots kept feet secure in the stirrups.
  • The first lady's boot was designed for Queen Victoria in 1840.

Shoe Museum

The Bata Shoe Museum, located in Toronto, Canada, is the only shoe museum in North America. The collection was compiled by Sonja Bata, of the Bata shoemaking family. The museum features shoes and shoe-related artifacts spanning 4,500 years.

Bata Shoe Museum
327 Bloor Street
West Toronto, Ontario, M5S 1W7

Shoes as symbols

  • In Biblical times a sandal was given as a sign of an oath.
  • In the Middle Ages a father passed his authority over his daughter to her husband in a shoe ceremony. At the wedding, the groom handed the bride a shoe, which she put on to show she was then his subject.
  • Today in the U.S. shoes are tied to the bumper of the bridal couple's car. This is a reminder of the days when a father gave the groom one of his daughter's shoes as a symbol of a changing caretaker.
  • In China one of the bride's red shoes is tossed from the roof to ensure happiness for the bridal couple.
  • In Hungary the groom drinks a toast to his bride out of her wedding slipper.
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