All About Shoes and Feet
Shoes and Feet - They Mean So Much To Us
When you arrive in the world you are blessed with perfect little feet and don't we all wish that we could have kept them in the pink?
Our feet are important to us. Just look around you; at shops full of shoes, pictures of shoes and feet, publicity on TV for footwear and foot care. See how often feet and shoes feature in films. You'd be surprised once you take notice.
We spend a great deal of time and money on our feet, shoes, stockings and socks. We take pride in our Beautiful Feet. Throughout history and across the world people have decorated their feet with patterns, tattoos and foot, toe and ankle jewellery. Feet play a part in every culture and feature in stories, legends, films, dance, drama and pictures through time and space.
Unfortunately our life style and age begin to tell on our feet and I'm afraid to say that very often we get the feet we deserve, (at least I have), but don't despair, it's never too late to improve matters and make your way towards beautiful feet.
My credentials: I'm not a foot expert, but as a lover of shoes in my youth, an artist, art historian and the wife of a podiatrist, I have long been used to taking a keen interest in feet, foot health and footwear, which is where this article on 'Everything About Feet' first came from. If you have anything to add, please leave a message in the comments box and I'll include it in this article.
One note of caution, people with certain conditions, diabetes for example, should be very careful about foot and leg treatments and footwear. Always consult your health professional.
This article is now delightfully ad-free - not a single link to Amazon products - so if anything takes your fancy, you'll have to shoot off to the sight yourself and try to find the links :)
The History of the Shoe
The shoe, that is to say, archaeological evidence for the use of human foot protection, dates from about 40,000 years ago. According to some references the oldest existing footwear in the world is a sandal found in a cave in Missouri USA, which was made 8,000 years ago, but others state that the oldest shoes we have to date are sandals found at several Archaic sites in the American southwest 6500 ago. What is a couple of thousand years between friends?
Since then a few inventions have pushed on the development of the shoe, such as the last, shoe making machines, shoe laces and rubber heels. Shoes today have come a long way since neolithic times, but I'm not so sure that they are better for our feet!
The shoe illustrated, by Mme Cleta, dates from 1905
The Museum of Shoes
Northampton Museums and Art Gallery
BBC Radio 4 Woman's Hour takes a huge interest (I first wrote 'pleasure' but that's just one part of the story) in the shoe and on the 4th December 2013 they paid a visit to Northampton to take a look at this extensive collection.
This is the largest collection of footwear heritage and design in the world. The museum looks at shoes from every possible angle: design, the manufacturing process, the role of fashion, and the shoe in history and to augment the collection a new campaign has been launched, We Want Your Shoes. The public are being asked to donate their old shoes together with their special meanings and memories.
Over the next weeks Woman's Hour will be hearing the shoe stories from three donors and in the first report Councillor Anna King from Northampton Borough Council takes Tamsin Smith a tour of the hidden stocks of footwear.
Today's shoe story is from one of latest donations 7 pairs of shoes worn by the donor's mother, Alice, in the 1950s in Singapore. The box of shoes, found in the house, took him back to the old colonial house with a piano on which his mother would play. Three pairs made by the same shoemaker and one pair of shoes was made of crocodile skin shoes. One pair with peep toe made from black velvet for evening wear. He found that the box of shoes hold many happy memories of Singapore but also many more poignant ones, his mother died aged 92 after having both legs removed due to poor circulation. The box of shoes comes with family photos and tell a story that will form the content of an exhibit in the gallery in the future.
Designer shoes and the shoe market and industry
According to the retail and consumer- information firm NPD Group, American women spent 17 billion dollars on shoes in one year (2004-2005). Shoes are big business, and design is very much a part of that business. We all know The Devil Wears Prada and the importance of the fashion industry which has given rise to top shoes designers such as Manolo Blahnik. Just have a look at these - The World's Scariest Shoes!
The Royal Wedding Shoes
"Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a silver sixpence in her shoe". For good luck the bride should place the sixpence in her left shoe. Hope Catherine is well equipped! You can see from these images how ladies royal wedding shoes have changed over the years.
Catherine Middleton stepped out in custom-made shoes by Alexander McQueen's Sarah Burton and her design team, creator of that wonderful wedding dress. The wedding shoes that Catherine wore for her walk down the aisle at Westminster Abbey were made with "ivory duchesse satin with lace hand-embroidered by the Royal School of Needlework," according to the Royal Web site. You can see a picture of the shoes here Catherine Middleton's wedding shoes
The child bridesmaids The Bridesmaids' shoes were designed and made by Devon-based Rainbow Club. They are the classic Mary Jane style, made from satin with a Swarovski crystal buckle. Devon-based Rainbow Club have been designing, making and colouring handmade wedding shoes since the mid-1980s.
Did you know that Edward Rayne made the shoes that the present Queen of England was married In? They were entirely hand made by skilled craftsmen and were beige pink sling backs with a medium heel and a bit of a platform. A replica pair of shoes was worn when Alan rayne's mother was married.
Princess Diana's Wedding Shoes in Auction
Princess Diana's spare pair of wedding shoes - November 29th 2011
A replica of Diana's spare pair of wedding slippers were forcast to bring 70,000 at ayction. Princess Diana's wedding shoes were made by Clive Shilton on a specially constructed last, the size 6.5 shoes had to be altered several times as the then Lady Diana continued to lose weight before the wedding.
They were made at the same time as those worn on the big day and were identical in every way. The shoes were still 'Cinderella slippers', though not made from glass. Flat, because Diana was taller than Charles, they have the initials C and D and a heart inscribed on the soles, have ivory satin insoles, were top-stitched with a lattice design and sprinkled with 542 individually hand knotted mother of pearl sequins and 134 seed-pearl beads. The heart-shaped tabs piped in gold kidskin, applied with sequins and edged in pearl beads and Nottingham lace. Mr Shilton charged a handsome 6621.25 for them but was never paid, (the rich eh?).
Feet and shoes in stories, film and song
Shoes of one sort or another are rich in legend and feature strongly in folklore worldwide. These stories have been passed down through the ages and are still very much part of our culture. We all know the story of the Seven League Boots, the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe, Mercury's Winged Sandals, Puss in Boots, Cinderella and so many others.
The magical dancing Red Shoes seemed to have a particularly strong role in our collective subconscious. Who doesn't feel the power of the image of the red ballet shoes?
Shoes feature prominently on TV too. Sex and the City are a fairly shoe-obsessed lot and Red Shoe Diaries began with the shoe! Can you think of any others?
Feet and Films
Movies love lovely feet
This is the German poster for the Lolita movie. See more about Lolita in Heart Shaped Glasses
Kate Bush "Shoedance" (The Red Shoes 1994 Dance Mix)
The Pope Wears Red Shoes
The Papal Red Shoes
These red shoes belonged to Pope Benedict XVI
These red loafers were made by the papal shoemaker Adriano Stefanelli, Novara and were worn by Pope Benedict XVI.
The Red Shoes is Reimagined for Radio by Frances Byrnes - Listen to a retelling of the Red Shoes fairytale on BBC Radio 4
One of the many fairy stories and folk tales collected by Hans Christian Andersen, this dark tale is retold for radio by Frances Byrnes. Here teenage Karen (played by Lizzy Watts) demands a forbidden pair of red shoes, against all good advice. The red shoes, she has been told, are so imbued with sin and lasciviousness that they utterly destroy those who wear them.
The Red Shoes was directed in Belfast by Eoin O'Callaghan and first broadcast: Saturday 29 December 2012
- The Red Shoes
By Frances Byrenes
Gorgeous Shoes on the Stage
Dance shoes are amonst the most beautiful shoes. How many little girls dream of becoming ballerinas and have posters and pictures of ballet shoes on their walls? Ballroom dancing is becoming more fashionable and these shoes are glamorous as well as functional.
Shoes the Musical
Combine dance, music song and shoes and here you have 'Shoes the Musical'! "After the smash-hit world premiere at Sadler's Wells, Richard Thomas and Stephen Mear's fabulously original new show, Shoes, transfers to the Peacock Theatre for a limited eight-week run. A celebration of one of the greatest passions of the modern age, Shoes is a song and dance spectacular that takes audiences on a journey from the lows of the croc via the agony and ecstasy of the stiletto, to the highs of the platform boot. Fresh from the pen of Richard Thomas (co-creator of Jerry Springer - The Opera) and the feet of top showbiz choreographer Stephen Mear (Sweet Charity, Mary Poppins), Shoes is a wickedly irreverent and affectionate look at the special power this seemingly innocuous item of clothing holds over many a shoe-addict." Quotation from Sadlers Wells The show features over 250 pairs by everyone from Georgina Goodman, Salvatore Ferragamo, to Finsk and L.K. Bennett; this is a veritable feast for the shoe addict.
Songs include 'A brief history of shoes'. Hear more in the interview with Richard Thomas, (who explains what an 'extreme heel' is), and shoe designer Emma Hope on Womans Hour, BBC Radio 4
What Are Lolita Shoes? - And who is Lolita?
- Lolita Shoes, Gothic, Tokyo Fashion
Find out more about the Lolita shoes, sweet Lolita, classic Lolita and Gothic Lolita shoes
The shoe in art
Shoes, like feet, appear more frequently than I had ever noticed throughout the history of art. The ancient Greeks loved to sculpt feet clan in intricate sandals and artists like the flemish painter, Jan Van Eyck painted shoes with loving realism. Vincent Van Gogh painted his old boots over and over again like the face of an old friend.
Over the centuries shoes have featured in still lives, portraits and portrayals of everyday life and continue to fascinate the artist to the present day.
Did you know that Leonardo da Vinci drew shoes designed to enable a person to walk on water?
Beautiful photographs of the shoe
Shoes continue to fascinate and feature in portraits of the shoe in photographs as well as other artistic media. These wedding shoes were taken by Ian Hamilton of Ian Hamilton who live some of the time in Limousin. Ian lives in the UK but spends part of his time in Limousin, S W France.
The Devil Wears Prada Poster
I doubt that it is any coincidence that the poster for The Devil Wears Prada features a red, high heel shoe.
Feet and ritual
The meek shall inherit the earth. The washing of feet is a lesson in humility and we all know of the ritual of washing feet; most famously when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. Washing of Feet, Lessons in Love and Humility
In Ireland in ancient times the fitting of a shoe was part of the inauguration of a King. (anything to do with Cinderella?)
Lucky Shoes Ward Off The Devil
Shoes and superstition
When I moved into my farmhouse in Limousin, France, and began renovation work to create our Les Trois Chenes, I found wooden clogs under the floor boards, including this sweet little clog. It's a shame that I didn't include something in this photograph for scale as this little wooden shoe is only about 15 cm long and clearly made for a small child.
Delighted with these tokens of times gone by, I proudly put them on display in the house. Imagine my disquiet when I found out that in the past shoes were put under the floor boards to bring luck to the house. It is on the top of my agenda to get them back under the floor! (Not that I'm superstitious, you understand). The custom of throwing the shoe after the newly wedded couple is another example in which the shoe was supposed to bring luck.
They may also have been used to ward off witches. In this case they are typically placed at points that witches could enter the house - windows, doors and fireplaces.
There are many superstitions attached to shoes, and the link between shoes and good luck is strong. It is said to bring a traveler luck if you throw a shoe after them as they set off on their journey, shoes are tied behind the wedding car and we all know about putting horse shoes on the house to bring good luck.
In Tudor times in England people carefully placed their shoes upside down at night to prevent the pixies using them.
Our dog, Molly, tried her best to negate my efforts to make our house a luckier house by trying to dig out the shoe again - so we put a mill stone over the ventilation gap, this foiled her.
Specialised sports shoes are big business these days. Look who wears trainers. Everyone. These shoes are designed for running, but how many of us actually run in these shoes? Converses, originally designed for basketball, are a good example of shoes that have crossed the boundary from sport to fashion, and have become a real craze.
There are specialised shoes for all sorts of sports, running, cycling, riding ... The list is endless - and so are the shoes specially adapted to them.
Right from the word go it is essential that you choose the correct shoes for our child's feet. Childrens' feet are precious and they grow quickly, so shoes should be properly fitted to accommodate both the length and width of the food, and suited to the childs age and needs.
Of course we all know the pressure that is put onto children at an early age to wear fashionable shoes rather than sensible ones, so what is a good parent to do?
Happy Feet are Healthy Feet
Shoes like this may look glamorous but they can cause ugly foot disorders. Our feet suffer from many minor but distressing complaints, mostly because we wear shoes, and we don't always choose our footwear wisely. First give your feet a health check-up. Here are a few common foot complaints:
- Athlete's foot: Fungal infections in between your toes
- Fungal infections in the nails which will appear yellow and rough
- Plantar warts, otherwise known as verrucas
If you answer 'yes' to any of these questions, you should see your doctor who will be able to prescribe medication that will quickly, easily and efficiently deal with the problem. Do remember that all three of these conditions are highly contagious, and you risk passing them onto those around you.
- Thickened, hard skin
If you answer yes to any of these then see your podiatrist (chiropodist) who will be able to help.
Shoes for healthy feet
The illustration shows the healthy feet of an 11-year-old girl who regularly goes barefoot. Note the presence of ideal arches, looking at her footprints on the floor.
Did you know that shoe manufacturers make shoes half a centimeter larger than the man's foot but half a centimeter smaller for women's shoes? For me this shows that foot binding, albeit in a milder form than the original, is still alive and kicking today. Fight against this if you want to keep your feet, legs and back healthy. Make sure that you can spread your toes inside your shoes, choose materials and styles that let your feet breath, wear high heels only for the occasional night out and don't actually walk in them! Go barefoot where possible.
As for exercise shoes, they are selling well but the jury is still out as to weather they are effective.
The Final Word
It's clear from this brief resum that, myths, erotic overtones, big business and sexual politics are all mixed up in our perceptions of our feet and footwear. Rise above it. Treat your feet sweet and put your best foot forward!
Comfortable Shoes - Treat your feet good!
Wide Fitting Shoes
And shoes for bunions
Bunions are a problem as we age, but they can also occur in the very young. When the big toe moves toward the other toes, the joint is pushed out, the feet become wider, the other toes can be pushed up and corns can form on the pushed up toes and the little toe as the feet are crushed in shoes that are now too narrow.
What to do?
Get you feet measured, Clarks Shoes are famous for this, and buy suitably wide shoes with a nice, high toe box. Wear flat shoes made from good materials. Here are a few that I've found on the internet and high street in the UK.
More Shoes in Wide Fittings - Treat your feet sweet
Don't be a martyr to your feet.
More Information for Those With Wide Feet - Help is at 'hand'
- Shoes for Wide Feet
Find shoes in wide fittings
What about Slippers? - I forgot all about them!
- Cool Slippers
Have a laugh at these wonderfully wacky slippers
10 Top Tips to keep your feet healthy
- Keep your feet clean. Wash your feet frequently to avoid a fungal infection. Applying medicated foot powders will help to avoid athletes foot
- Keep them dry, especially between the toes! Wearing cotton socks will help to keep feet dry by absorbing moisture from your feet.
- Remove hard skin at least once a week.
- To deal with smelly feet use anti-perspirant and refreshing foot sprays.
- Only ever cut your toe nails straight across to avoid in growing nails.
- Buy correct fitting shoes.
- Keep shoes fresh. Alternate your footwear.
- If possible wear shoes that will let your feet breath - either a sandal or leather shoes.
- Keep your implements clean. Dirty tools and towels can harbour germs and cause infections.
- Treat your feet. Massage for relaxation and to get the blood circulation going.
Give yourself a pedicure
A home pedicure is easy to do and will clean your feet thoroughly, remove hard skin, tidy nails and cuticles, moisturise the skin, beautify your feet, keep your feet healthy and relax you. Easy steps to neat feet!
Here's how .... Beautiful Feet
Treat Your Feet to a French Polish - How to French polish your toe nails
Never heard of French polish? This makes your toe nails look natural, fresh, young and very clean!
The idea is that you put a natural pink base colour on your toes, and then paint a white edge so that you end up with lovely little pinkies!
How to exfoliate the feet
Treat your feet to a massage
Are foot massages good for the health? These are the benefits claimed for the foot massage:
- Reduced tension or pain
- Alleviation of various ailments
- Improved blood circulation
- Relaxation and stress reduction
Try one yourself and see if you agree with the received wisdom. If you can't get a talented friend or a professional masseur/masseuse to give you a foot massage, you can buy an electric foot massager for home use.
Image courtesy of Lubyanka Creative Commons
How to give a foot massage
Reflexology - are feet the key to your body's good health?
What is reflexology?
"Reflexology is the practice of applying pressure to the feet and hands utilizing specific thumb, finger and hand techniques. It is based on a system of zones and reflex areas that reflect an image of the body on the feet and hands with a premise that such work effects a physical change in the body." Reflexology Research
Does reflexology really work? Many people think it does but doctors and podiatrists have yet to be convinced. This diagram, though, clearly shows the areas of the feet that relate to various parts of the body and give a good idea of the thinking behind the practice.
(Image courtesy of Apangshusaha, Creative commons)
People like to decorate their feet. In this illustration a semi-permanent dye, henna, has been used.
Foot tattoos are a very different matter. There are many good reasons why it is a bad idea to get your feet tattooed. But people still do it. Here are some of the reasons why you should, and why you shouldn't: The Bad and the Beautiful
(Image courtesy of Nvvchar, creative commons)
The psychology of the shoe and shoe fetish
As a child I was always so delighted when I was bought nice, new shoes, that I kept them under my bed and could hardly stop myself from having a peak to check that they were still there. As adults, many women, and perhaps men, take great delight in choosing and wearing shoes. Imelda R. Marcos, the Filipino politician and wife of the 10th Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, is often remembered for her symbols of extravagance and it was her collection of 2700 pairs of shoes that has captured popular attention. Clearly, love of shoes is high on our cultural adjenda, but for some they have additional meaning and the line is crossed into Shoe fetishism.
To delve further into the psychology of shoes, we could look to Freud who saw stiletto-style pumps as some sort of phallic symbol, and by wearing them women can mitigate their inevitable "penis envy". Shoes clearly signal power, and certainly have something to do with sexuality.
Shoe fetishism, also known as retifism, after Nicolas-Edme Rtif, a French novelist, is, like foot fetishism, an erotic interested in shoes.
Shoe Fetish A paperback novel about three young women moving into adulthood. Written by Sharon Bennett, a health care profession, poet, writer, and artist. Available on Amazon.com
Or listen to music:
Shoe Fetish: A Tribute to the Shoes
Shoe music - Audio CD. Tracks include : 1. Too Late - DM3
The psychology of feet and foot fetishes
The first surviving mention of foot fetish is by Bertold of Regensburg in 1220, but it certainly has a much longer and interesting history.
Freud considered foot binding as a form of fetishism and Casanova, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Thomas Hardy, amongst many others, were all considered to be attracted to the foot.
Foot fetishism has been defined as a sexual interest in the feet and/or footwear.
There are many books about foot worship - this is a classic:
La Comtesse au Fouet - By Pierre Dumarchey
Martin van Male (1863 - 1926) was born Maurice Franois Alfred Martin van Mile) was a French illustrator now best known for his work in the field of erotic literature.
Worshippers of the foot - Lovers of feet
Bertold of Regensburg was one of the first people to note symptoms of podophilia, or love of feet and footware, in in 1220. The interest in feet seems to be very much with us today and is now said to be so prevelent that it can almost be classed as mainstream.
The foot in art
Despite studying the History of Art for six years and being a professional artist, I had never noticed until now how often feet have been used as a subject in the arts. Sometimes they are incidental, but often feet are the main story line or motif. Van Gogh drew and painted shoes, Degas painted a girl having a pedicure, the ancient Greeks were keen on depicting sandals and foot washing is a common image in Christian art.
A good example is the sculpture illustrated, Pan pulling a thorn from the foot of a satyr. It is a Roman copy from the 1st-2nd centuries, itself a copy of a Hellenistic original of the middle 1st century BC. Now in the Louvre. It looks to me for all the world as if Pan is tickling the satyr's foot! Tickling the feet crops up as part of the fetishism around feet.
Aled Jones sings 'How Beautiful Are The Feet' from Handel's Messiah
Feet have played a part in Religion, music and our culture generally.
From the sublime to the delightfully ridiculous, this is one of my personal favourites:
One big, funny foot song - 'Those pedal extremities really are obnoxious!'
Your Feet's Too Big
Your Feets Too Big was one of the songs that all our family loved when I was a child and it still makes me laugh out loud today. Cheer yourself, (or somebody else), up with this all time favourite classic.
Jennifer Aniston feet
Angels Feet - Picture of an angels feet from Highgate Cemetery, London
There are so many powerful statues of angels in highgate cemetery, many with beautifully carved feet. Feet of stone rather than feet of clay!
Feet and Shoes Feature in Our Use of Language
It started with 'toe the line'. I saw this expression written down, (in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Steig Larsson) and realised that I had always imagined that it was toe the line. According to Wikipedia, 'the most likely origins of the term go back to the usage of the wooden ships in the Royal Navy. Barefooted seamen had to stand at attention for inspection and had to line up on deck along the seams of the wooden planks, hence to "toe the line"'.
For better of worse, that started me thinking about all the other references to shoes and feet in the English language. One of the most obvious is using the foot as a unit of measurement. I still think in yards, feet and inches, although I'm not too bad at meters and centimeters.
What about Cockney rhyming slang? Plates of meat - feet. Other sayings that I came to mind are: feet of clay, pull your socks up, put your best foot forward, knock the socks off, put a sock in it, bless its little cotton socks, to dip you toe in the water, dig your heels in, kick the bucket, put your foot in your mouth .... I'm sure I'll think of many more. Do you have any ideas?
Find out more: Feet and Footwear: A Cultural Encyclopedia
More articles about shoes and feet
Other articles by the same author
- A Vacation in France for Fitness and Health
Now that you have lovely feet, show them off with a healthy break in the 'Lake District' of south west France
- Romantic Weddings in Limousin, France
Run-away wedding? There is nowhere more romantic than a French Chateau!
- An Index of Articles by Les Trois Chenes
All articles written by me under the name of our B & B Les Trois Chenes