Saturday, February 15, 2003

Footwear through the ages

I was working on another page of my website about the U.S. Cavalry Museum in Fort Riley, Kansas and was researching the barracks shoe when I came across this interesting website by Cameron Kippen, a member of the Department of Podiatry at Curtin University of Technology in Perth, Australia. Cameron explains that the thong or toe strap became distinctive in sandal design. Subsequent civilisations preferred different toes, the Greeks for example made use of the great toe; the Romans, the second digit; and the Mesapotanians, the third toe.

Etruscan sandals were rather delicate footwear with thin straps and binding laces, attached to leather sole There was an open toed and backless variation which laced at the instep. The soles of the sandals were made from wood with thin bronze plates. Shoes were made with closed fronts and heel shields with gilded straps. They were low cut and had pointed toes similar to those worn by the Egyptians in the XIX and XX dynasties. Some had soles which were jointed or hinged and re-inforced with wood and bronze. Noted for their metal work they included nails on the sole of their shoes, which gave, better traction. Also to protect feet from mud the thick wooden sandals were hinged with a piece of flexible leather nailed with bronze nails to the two halves of the wooden sole. These manufacturing techniques were eventually adopted by the Romans who started to make robust military sandals.

With the introduction of Christianity, idea of dress to glorify and display the body was replaced by the new Christian belief to cover up. Sandals were replaced with shoes which had no distinction between left and right and made walking more difficult!