Reaching back into time: The illustrated history of the shoe

by Shea Gunther


Founded in 2004,’s mission is to help people make ideal buying decisions. Know your shoe history from gladiator wedges to oxford shoes and every style in between, with this infographic. For more information about shoes, check out our shoe tips center. has a fantastic infographic showing the history of the shoe starting in 8,000 BC and stretching through 2010. Here are a few highlights, you can click over to for a navigable and zoomable graphic.

8000 BC
The first shoes were utilitarian – used as a protection from the elements and from sharp rocks and burning sand.

1,234 BC
In ancient Egypt, the sandal was a sign of power and rank, as they were considered a luxury and not everyone could afford good ones. They were made from fabric or soft leather. Gold and jeweled sandals were for the king and his court, pastels for dignitaries with red and yellow allowed for the middle class. The poor and the slaves went barefoot.

Duck’s Bill shoes were made of silk, brocade or velvet and were heavily padded, puffed and embroidered with the upper part slashed so that colored hose showed through. Colored hose for men was popular and a slashed shoe was the ideal way to display it.

None of the shoes of the day were good for snow, muck or the average dirty street. Another type of shoe was developed called the Patten. Pattens were shoes to be worn over other shoes which raised the feet up. They consisted of a very thick sole made of wood or leather with leather straps that you stuck your feet into.

Boots became fashionable at the English court during Charles I’s reign. Due to the probability that he had rickets as a child, Charles couldn’t walk without use of supports, thus a shoemaker designed boots to hide them. Charles could later walk without these supports but by the time he became king, boots had become the style. Everyone wore boots. All classes and sorts. Indoors and out and for every type of occasion.

In 1908, Marquis Mills Converse opened the Converse Rubber Shoe Co. The company released the first of its signature canvas sneakers in 1917. Sneakers were being produced by small rubber companies who specialized in the production of bicycle tires. Other companies, including B.F. Goodrich and Spalding were producing tennis shoes.

Dr. Klaus Martens designed a shoe for his injured ankle. He decided he wanted to sell them, but didn’t have much luck until he met up with an old university friend. His friend was intrigued by the new shoe design, and the two went into business that year, using discarded rubber from Luftwaffe airfields. The comfortable and durable soles were a big hit with housewives, with 80% of sales in the first decade going to women over the age of 40. Today we call them Dr. Martens.

The first Nike shoe was the 1972 Nike Moon Shoe. Brand founder used his wife’s waffle iron to mold the sole of the shoe for better traction. The Nike Moon shoe was given to track and field athletes including Steve Prefontaine. As the first basketball shoe with a swoosh, the Nike Blazer marked Nike’s entry into the basketball shoe market.

Photo credit: Wikipedia Commons

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: