Shoes are items worn on the feet for comfort and protection during regular activities like walking, running and working. They are a functional item, but they can also be fashionable.
Shoes were first designed with function in mind: They can protect the feet from potentially dangerous hazards like sharp rocks and bacteria as well as weather conditions like cold, rain and snow.
Shoe styles and designs have varied over time. Shoe styles have also varied greatly with culture. Some shoes are simple constructed with cheap materials, while others are handcrafted with expensive materials and can cost thousands of dollars per pair. Other shoes are made specifically for certain activities or weather conditions, like ski boots and rain boots.
The oldest shoes known to man are sandals dating back to approximately 7,000 BCE. They were found in a cave in Oregon. However, it is believed that human beings were wearing shoes much earlier than that, including a type of leather bag that served as shoe-like footwear many years ago. Other early forms of shoes include sandals, moccasins, papyrus flip-flops, espadrilles and pattens. Many of these shoes were made by hand.
Shoemaking became commercialized in the mid-18th century and the craft — left to shoemakers, cobblers and cordwainers up until that point — was suddenly taken over by machines. Suddenly, shoes were mass produced with the process being mostly mechanized. The process was further mechanized with the introduction of the sewing machine in 1846.
The mid-20th century saw the introduction of materials like plastic, rubber, synthetic cloth and adhesives. These materials further changed the shoe industry, as leather and wood were the traditional shoemaking materials in many places around the world for most of history.
No matter the style or the materials used to make shoes, they all share a couple of common features. They include:
A shoe’s sole is on the bottom of the shoe. It is what comes into contact with the ground. It can be made from various materials and can be either one layer or several layers. A sole that contains several layers usually has an insole (interior bottom of a shoe), a midsole (a layer used for shock absorption) and an outsole (the layer in direct contact with the ground).
A shoe’s heel is located at the bottom rear of footwear. It can be used to help support the foot, as in the case of running shoes, but it can also be used for fashion (as in the case of high heels and stilettos) and for functional purposes (as in the case of horse riding boots that help keep the feet in stirrups).
A shoe’s upper is the part that helps hold the shoe on the foot. This can be anything from two small straps (flip-flops, for example) to leather that completely covers the foot and most of the leg (thigh-high boots, for example). Uppers with laces usually have a tongue that helps protect the foot from lace abrasion.
Some shoes also include:
A shoe’s toebox is the part of the shoe that protects and covers the toes. Shoes with large toeboxes are usually recommended for people with bunions, foot swelling and other foot problems and deformities.
There are countless types of footwear ranging from everyday shoes for normal activity, fashionable shoes that strive to make personal statements, to specialized shoes for activities like running, skiing and engaging in sports. Athletic shoes/sneakers, boots, ballet flats, oxfords, mules, slingbacks, clogs, loafers, booties, slippers, boat shoes and orthopedic shoes are all examples of different shoe types.
Shoes can be bought almost anywhere, but some of the most popular places include Zappos, Aldo, DSW, Famous Footwear, Foot Locker, Shoe Carnival and various department stores.
Some of the most famous shoe brands and designers include Manolo Blahnik, Christian Louboutin, Michael Kors, Sam Edelman, Ralph Lauren, Steve Madden, Stuart Weitzman and Jimmy Choo.