More than just protecting our feet, shoes have a fascinating history. From boots to sandals and everything in-between, read on for fun facts about shoes!
Let’s be honest here, shoes are a major fashion statement. But they’re so much more than that too.
Shoes are also for comfort, protection, and work. Imagine riding a horse in sandals, or hiking a mountain in high heels? You couldn’t, could you!?
Shoes are so much more important in life than we realize. That’s what this article is all about, to show you that these fun facts about shoes prove they’re more than just fancy fashion footwear.
Did you know your shoe size could have been measured in barleycorns had you lived in an earlier century? Or that high heels were originally created for men? These are just some of the shoe facts that will amaze you!
Throughout history and to modern times, shoes have varied in price, function, and style. Yet, they have always covered our feet, well at least mostly anyway. Hopefully these facts will give you some background on why shoes are so essential and why we love them so much!
20 Fun Facts About Shoes
1. Sneakers got their name for being quiet
In 1839, Charles Goodyear (of Goodyear Tires) figured out that heating rubber and adding sulfur made it flexible and durable. From this realization came the invention of rubber-soled shoes.
These shoes were originally called “sneaks,” as the wearer could walk quietly with little noise. Eventually, the term evolved into “sneakers,” the term we know and love today.
2. Wedges were a wartime invention
In the 1940s during World War II, sanctions and shortages affected the entire world. In Italy, Salvatore Ferragamo was unable to get steel to create high heels.
So, he experimented with Sardinian cork instead. In his trials he attached cork to the sole of a shoe, the infamous wedge was born.
3. High heels were originally for men
High heels were originally designed for men when riding horses. The design of the heel on the shoe created a secure foothold on the saddle while men were riding.
This is likely why cowboy boots today have a slight heel on them. Eventually, this style became associated with upper-class Europeans and spread to both men and women.
4. Shoe addiction is real
As long as there have been shoes, there have been people obsessed with having many of them. Scientists recognize that shoes trigger the “collecting spot.” Collectible items, like shoes, stimulate this area in the prefrontal cortex. Altocalciphilia is the term for this addition.
Some people own thousands of pairs. Celine Dion, the Canadian singer, has admitted to owning thousands of pairs herself. Marie Antoinette had over 500 pairs of shoes. The Guinness Book of World Record holder owns more than 3,400 pairs. That’s a lot of closet space!
5. The most expensive shoes
One of the most fun facts about shoes is that a pair sold for more than half a million dollars. While shoes vary in price, the most expensive shoes ever sold were the ruby red slippers that made the journey to Oz.
One of the four surviving pairs worn by Judy Garland sold for $660,000 in 2000. Now that’s an expensive pair of shoes!
If you are wearing shoes in your dreams, it has significance. Apparently, shoes in a dream can mean you are grounded while not wearing shoes can mean you are carefree.
Or, shoes can mean you have resources while being shoeless means you have little to no resources. If you change shoes in your dreams, big changes might be coming in life, as well. You heard it here first!
7. Shoes are thousands of years old
The first shoes were made from wood and animal skin. The oldest shoes found date to around 8,000 years ago. About 4,000 years later, shoemakers used rawhide in shoes to create more stability.
Middle Easterners added heels to shoes to make walking on hot sand easier. It took until the 1800s that makers created specific shoes for left or right feet.
8. Famous Louboutin red
Shoe facts come from high fashion, as well. Andy Warhol inspired Christian Louboutin to create a new high heel. However, he felt the finished product lacked something.
An assistant was painting her nails red. Louboutin started painting the bottom of the shoe red and the rest is history.
9. Wedding shoes
Wedding shoes have long been an important part of wedding ceremonies. In China, brides would often throw one of their bridal shoes, which were the color red, onto the roof of their house. This act attempted to bring happiness and luck to the newlyweds.
In Hungary, the groom would often drink a toast of celebration out of the bride’s wedding shoe.
In America, friends of the couple sometimes tie shoes to the bride and groom’s car after the ceremony.
10. Queen Victoria’s influence
Of course, there are royal shoe facts too. Queen Victoria had quite the impact on the world, and her influence expanded into shoes, as well.
In 1837, an English designer created boots with elastic on both sides to do away with complicated laces and buttons. He presented these boots to Queen Victoria, who loved them and made them popular.
11. The first shoe measurement was in barleycorn
Until the 1300s, there was no standard for shoe measurements. King Edward II decided to use barleycorns as a means of standardized shoe measurements.
In his system, three barleycorns equaled one inch, and this was the basis for the first shoe sizes.
12. Boots in space
The boots Neil Armstrong wore on the moon are in fact still on the moon. One small step for mankind, but the boots are still out there somewhere.
The tallest man on record wore an incredible size 42, or 44 depending on the measurement. Robert Wadlow was born with hypertrophy of the pituitary gland. He was over 23 feet tall and weighed 580 pounds. Those are some big shoes to fill.
14. The invention of shoelaces
Shoelaces, as we know them, were not a thing until 1790. An English inventor, Harvey Kennedy, came up with the aglet. This metal or plastic end to your shoelaces keeps the laces from fraying and makes lacing easier.
However, using string to tie shoes had been around since the 12th century. How cool is that!?
15. From Chopines to Platforms
In the 1930s, platform shoes were invented. However, they took a cue from chopines, an Italian invention. These tall shoes were popular in the 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries, particularly in Venice.
The height of the shoes served two purposes: to keep the wearer above the mud and sludge of the city streets and to show status.
16. Laws limiting shoes
In the 1500s, shoes began to get very tall. People associated class and society with the height of one’s shoes. In fact, some shoes were so tall that the wearer required the servants to help them move and walk.
In response to this craze, many countries passed laws limiting the height of shoes. For example, Italy limited shoes to only 3 inches, though these laws were often ignored.
There were times in history when monarchs made laws about shoes for personal reasons. At least, that is how legend has it. For example, King Henry VIII, the now infamous king who beheaded some of his wives, preferred wide-tied shoes.
He had extreme gout, and the wide-ties benefited him. So, he passed a law that mandated ties be at least six inches wide.
18. The Industrial Revolution revolutionized the shoe industry
The invention of the sewing machine along with other advancements during the Industrial Revolution created the footwear industry. Before this time, shoemakers handcrafted shoes, and they were often quite expensive.
With the advent of machines and factories, shoes were mass-produced and more widely available. By the late 1800s, most people in developed countries owned at least one pair of shoes.
19. Lotus feet, and we don’t mean flower
In China, beauty trends have varied over their long history. During the 10th-11th centuries, Golden Lotus Feet were extremely popular among the wealthy. In this practice, family members broke and bent the feet of young girls so they would fit into special shoes that resembled the flower.
Society considered small and delicate feet beautiful. Unfortunately, this practice left many women unable to walk well for the rest of their lives.
20. Just like the Greeks and the Romans
Greeks and Romans both wore intricate sandals. We know about their footwear habits from writings and paintings. In both civilizations, the sandals were long and went up to the wearer’s knee, and both men and women wore the same shoes.
However, class and rank played a role in what type of sandals one wore. For example, in Greece, only free people could wear sandals. In Rome, soldiers wore sandals. The more laces and thinner the sole, the higher ranking the soldier was.
Well, there you have it. All of the shoe facts you could possibly want, and likely a few more.
Next time you lace up your sneakers, you might think about Mr. Goodyear discovering the method to create the rubber soles on your favorite shoes.
What is your favorite fun facts about shoes? You can let us know in the comments below!