The simple reality is that someone somewhere once had the realization that walking barefoot everywhere simply was not practical.
While other ancient people were just living with the reality of having brutalized (and probably totally ratchet) feet, someone decided to do something about it by designing the first pair of shoes in the world, and everything has been changed ever since.
Now, it is unlikely that the person who made the first shoe had fashion in mind given what we know about the priorities of ancient civilizations, but their singular decision to protect the bottoms of their feet while they worked has given birth to an entire industry that balances on the precipice between fashion and function.
It’s easy to forget that someone had to make the decision to create the concept of a shoe in the first place in a world where we have six inch heels, but we are of the opinion that the original shoemaker deserves a little bit of credit for their awesome contributions to humanity and fashion.
How Old Are The Oldest Shoes?
In the beginning, shoes were definitely not Yeezy’s. The simple truth is that shoes were not invented to make anyone look fashionable at all, but rather as a practical tool designed to help limit injury and probably block ancient tetanus.
Researchers have traced the original shoe back to the Middle Paleolithic or Middle Stone Age time period, which ranges a whopping 30,000 to 300,000 years in the past.
The oldest shoes ever found are estimated to be from the Upper Paleolithic subdivision that existed about 40,000 years ago. Surprisingly, the oldest known shoes ever located were actually pairs of ancient sandals that were uncovered in America.
Several pairs of these ancient and bizarre sandals were uncovered in various locations around the country, leading researchers to believe that the trend of these shoes took on relatively quickly upon their creation.
Though we may not have the first pair of shoes ever made, we have some seriously old footwear that would not be useful for playing basketball, but probably did the job when it came to traversing nature’s less than forgiving terrain.
How Were Ancient Shoes Made?
Since we didn’t really have some of the more refined materials that we do now to make high end shoes, it should come as no surprise that ancient shoes were very different from the shoes that we know today.
Considering how limited the available materials were, the ancient sandals that were found were certainly not your average pair of flip flops, but rather more of a foot covering than a shoe.
We aren’t experts on ancient fashion, but the shoes really don’t seem like they were designed with aesthetic in mind. Their composition consists of animal hide large enough to wrap around the foot with corresponding ancient ties in place of laces.
Making these shoes was the same process as making a dress or a satchel. They simply killed an animal, tanned the hide in an ancient leather making process, and then proceeded to literally wrap the slices of hide around their feet that likely needed a serious pedicure.
These ancient shoes were unlikely to provide any kind of support or true protection of the foot, but probably did a great job at keeping ancient feet safe from sharp weeds, rough rocks, and any unfriendly bugs that were looking to chomp on some ancient toes.
By today’s standards they were basically the equivalent of wrapping your feet in a fairly durable blanket. These ancient kicks weren’t going to stop anyone from stubbing their toes, but that doesn’t mean that they weren’t still useful.
If anything, they were so useful that the trend caught on and has now gone so far that people intentionally wear shoes that actually limit their ability to walk rather than assisting with it.
What Started The Foot Protection Trend?
In an age where our feet are so pampered that we even pay money to make them softer and less resilient to the elements, it is pretty easy to imagine why shoes became a thing in the first place.
As is true with most ancient trends that were not exclusively ritualistic, wearing shoes probably played a good role in helping the ancient Americans to survive the cold and callous world that they were born into.
Though these sandals were hardly more than feet wraps, the fact that they could stop someone from falling victim to sharp bristles or sticks, weather, or could even provide coverage against poisonous flora like poison ivy was without question a major selling point at the time.
Considering how many ancient people lived a nomadic lifestyle that was heavily dependent on walking by foot, it should come as no surprise that people were looking for just about anything to protect their poor tootsies from the elements, particularly in a time period where infection often meant death.
Shoes as a concept were a groundbreaking idea that has since changed the entire way that humanity operates, inspiring advancements in both science and art.
Though we do have several records of ancient footwear, it is likely impossible that we will ever know who created the first pair of shoes that ever existed.
The decision to make shoes was likely a concept that came to light across several cultures for the exact same purpose: comfort and safety.
When we think about the cross-cultural impact of shoes and their design, it is easy to see that they were a tool that humanity was always destined to create.
It can be fun to imagine some ancient human stepping on something particularly unpleasant and deciding that it was time to do something about it, but the true beauty lies in what we have done with it since.
Footwear, originally designed to protect the life of the wearer, has been changed into an industry that is just as much science as it is art.
If the person responsible for creating the first pair of shoes knew that in the future people would be reading about shoes on a site that is entirely about shoes, we like to think that they would be proud.