Footwear is estimated to have started its long history of human use during the Ice Age some 5 million years ago. Unkind weather conditions are said to have created the necessity for footwear.

Other evidences show that footwear came to use at the end of the Paleolithic Period, at about the same time the early humans learned the art of leather tanning.

Early pieces of footwear were made of wrappings, usually made of leather or dried grasses. Later on pieces were developed from an oval piece of leather which is bound by a piece of strong leather thongs. Sandals, which are the first crafted footwear, are the successors to these wrappings.

In Egyptian funeral chambers, paintings show the different stages in the preparation of leather and footwear. The images also show that in Egypt, footwear depicted power and class.

The Pharaohs’ sandals were distinguished by the turned up toes, a characteristic which is missing in the commoners’ footwear. Egyptian sandals were crafted using straw, papyrus, or palm fiber.Later on, Egyptian women adorned their footwear with precious stones and jewels.

Material evidences showed that the Greeks loved and took good care of their feet by using different footwear for different activities. Greek women began wearing sandals to signify their social class. Their footwear signified beauty, elegance, refinement, and extravagance.

It has been said that Greek women of bad reputation attracted men by wearing elevated sandals. These sandals create a “clacking” sound when the wearer moves, and this sound was considered as a symbolic flaunting of sexual charms.

In Mesopotamia, leather wrappings are tied to the feet by a strip of the same material.

Romans, on the other hand, created durable leather thongs so their legions can travel to places on foot. It is also believed that foot fetishes began with the Romans when Senator Lucius Vitellus frequently kissed the shoe of his mistress which was hidden in his tunic.

In Rome, footwear also exhibited social class. The consuls wore white shoes, the senators wore brown shoes, and the uniform footwear for the rest of the region was a short pair of boots that uncovered the toes.

But in all of these early civilizations, footwear indicated social status. Footwear consists of garments that are worn over the feet. They are worn mainly for protection and hygiene, but also for fashion and adornment.

Footwear items come from a wide range of materials including leather, rubber, canvass, wood, and plastic. But early pieces were made from available materials like straw, leather, cowhide, and grasses.

When footwear is assembled, the main components are adhesives, cushion, counterfort, heel, hook, insole, laces, sole, steel shank, tack, toe puff, tread, and welt. Generally, footwear is classified into: boots, industrial footwear, shoes, and sandals.

Boots are available as cowboy boots, galoshes, ski boots, thigh length boots, and so on. Industrial footwear includes plastic boots and rubber loafers which are used in laboratories, construction sites, and production lines.

Shoes include athletic shoes (or running shoes), climbing shoes, clogs, high heels, mary janes, moccasins, mules, loafers, tap shoes, and cross-training shoes. Sandals, on the other hand, include espadrilles, flip-flops or thongs, slide-ons, and slippers.

Footwear is considered an extension of one’s personality. Well-maintained footwear says things about the owner, with cleanliness as the most important concern. Although the intricacy of this craft may have been lost to modernization, their influences are still present in shoes today.

The moccasins worn in early times by people in cold countries are still being worn there, while the sandal patterned after the Egyptians’ creation is still frequently used in hotter countries.

About the Author:

James Monahan is the owner and Senior Editor of and writes expert articles about footwear.

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