Shoe Overview

A shoe is an article of footwear intended to protect and comfort the human foot. Shoes are also used as decoration and fashion item. Shoe design has varied enormously over time and from culture to culture, and appearance was originally tied to function. In addition, fashion has often dictated many design elements, for example whether the shoes have very high or flat heels. Contemporary footwear in the 2010s varies greatly in terms of style, complexity and cost. Basic sandals can only consist of a thin sole and a simple strap and are sold cheap. High fashion shoes made by famous designers can be made from expensive materials, use complex constructions, and sell for hundreds or even thousands of dollars a pair. Some shoes are designed for specific purposes, such as boots designed specifically for mountaineering or skiing.

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Traditionally, shoes have been made of leather, wood or canvas, but in the 2010s they are increasingly made of rubber, plastic and other petrochemical-derived materials. Although the human foot is adapted to various climatic and terrain conditions, it is still vulnerable to environmental hazards, such as sharp rocks and extreme temperatures, from which shoes protect. Some shoes are used as safety equipment, such as steel-soled boots that are in demand on construction sites.
The earliest known shoes are the mugwort bark sandals dating from about 7000-8000 BC, found in the Fort Rock cave in the US state of Oregon in 1938. [4] [5] [6] The shoes of Ötzi the man of ice, dating back to 3300 BC C., had bases in brown bear skin, side panels in deerskin and a network of bark ropes that wrapped the foot. [5] The Jotunheimen shoe was discovered in August 2006: archaeologists estimate that this leather shoe was made between 1800 and 1100 BC, [7] making it the oldest garment discovered in Scandinavia.

It is believed that the shoes may have been worn much earlier, but as the materials used were highly perishable, it is difficult to find evidence of the first footwear. [8] By studying the bones of the smaller fingers (as opposed to the big toe), it was observed that their thickness decreased from about 40,000 to 26,000 years ago. This led archaeologists to infer that wearing shoes involved less bone growth, resulting in shorter and thinner toes. These early models were very simple in design, often simple “foot bags” of leather to protect the feet from rocks, debris and cold.

Many of the early natives of North America wore a similar type of footwear, known as a moccasin. These are snug, soft-soled shoes that are typically made from leather or bison leather. Many moccasins were also decorated with various beads and other ornaments. Moccasins weren’t designed to be waterproof, and in humid climates and hot summer months most Native Americans went barefoot. [10]

As civilizations began to develop, strappy sandals (the precursors of modern sandals) were worn. This practice dates back to photographs of them on ancient Egyptian murals from 4000 BC. A pair found in Europe was made from papyrus sheets and dated to around 1,500 years old. They were also worn in Jerusalem during the first century of the Common Era. [11] Thong sandals were worn by many civilizations and made from a wide variety of materials. Sandals in ancient Egypt were made of papyrus and palm leaves. The Maasai in Africa made them from rawhide. In India they were made of wood. Rice straw has been used in China and Japan. The leaves of the sisal plant were used to make ropes for sandals in South America, while the natives of Mexico used the Yucca plant. [12] [13]

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