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Prehistoric Times

40,000 years ago human beings already felt the need to protect their feet from the elements, as confirmed by studies conducted on recovered bones. No footwear has been found dating back to prehistoric times. The first shoes consisted of animal hides and furs wrapped around the foot.


Research conducted upon the legs of skeletons excavated from the Tianyuan Cave near Peking has led scientists to conclude that humans already wore shoes 40,000 years ago. The proof lies in the bones—wearing shoes creates a different kind of strain on the body than that caused by going barefoot. However, actual footwear dating back to prehistoric times is yet to be found.

The oldest images proving the existence of shoes are paintings found along the walls of the Altamira Cave in Spain. This roughly 13,000-15,000-year-old cave art depicts hunters wearing boots made of animal hides and furs.

"Ötzi" serves as proof of sophisticated shoe construction

The discovery of the glacier mummy „Ötzi“ in the Ötztal Alps was considered a sensational find for shoe history. Ötzi serves as proof that humans possessed knowledge of sophisticated shoe construction 5,000 years ago. The mummy's shoes were lined and sealed with a type of shoe lace, and even featured a separate corrugated sole. The shaft and outsole had been made using different types of leather.

The simplest basic shoe form, the sandal, offered protection from the heat of the sand and was created by the Ancient Egyptians. Ancient Egyptian sandals have been discovered dating back to roughly 3,000 B.C.

We can conclude that during prehistoric times, early humankind already felt the need to protect their feet from the elements. Depending on climate and geographical location, this protection took on very different forms, which went on in turn to influence various kinds of footwear fashions.

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Important Eras of shoe history

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