Tag Archives: callous

A Brief History of the Shoe

Footwear has had a complex and rich development throughout history. I imagine it came about first to protect from searing sands in the desert and frozen snows in the tundra. As people moved from the state of primitive humans who lead nomadic existences tromping through bush and forest, to homo erectus and started building societies and homes, they started to differentiate and specialize themselves.

Feet probably got a little softer, and hard packed ground or stones started to be felt more, now that the homo habilis callouses were gone. Cold, rain, heat, rocks, mud: all these became reasons to start sheathing the feet. And what’s supple enough to fit around the odd shape of a foot, or a human body for that matter? Skin. Leather.

So shoes began and continue to this day. In some cases cloth was used for shoes but almost ghilliesexclusively for indoor or court occasions as the material couldn’t stand up to the rigors of hard travel. The simplest and earliest shoes were scraps of leather.  Then they were leather, which was cut, punched and tied around the feet. The Irish/Scottish gillies were a piece of leather cut in such a way that it drew up around your foot. A more styled version is used to this day in Highland dancing. In fact certain runners/tennis shoes also follow this style and shape.

These ghillies were not waterproof, having slits all the way around but they fit the foot. The Romano-Greco countries used sandals a lot because of the hot climate. The Romans also made a hobnailed shoe and boot that lasted longer for those centurions travelling to invade other lands. As both skill levels and techniques grew more complex, so did the style of the shoe. The Mongols and Huns were the first to use a shoe with a heel, developed to sit in the stirrup and stop the foot from sliding.

These shoes were all made for practical reasons. Intricate patterning and stitching came along, making better fitted shoes and boots. Cobblers learned to put thicker leather or wood on for soles, creating a longer lasting shoe that also repelled invasive elements. These methods, along with curing leather in different ways or oiling it, started the sophistication of the shoe.

And of course shoes were made for fashion. Fashion was dictated by different elements. A clubfooted king gave rise to a round toed shoe. A new dye color or pattern became popular because it was different. The pointy toed shoe of the 14th century reached such extremes of pointyness (up to two feet) that the point had to be gartered to the calf.

Pattens, a wooden clog that the shoe was slipped into, were widely used in the 15th century on muddy streets. However, nobles and those of richer means took them to ridiculous heights to show their status. The platform shoe of the 70s and later decades truly had nothing on these pattens of long ago. The most bizarre shoes were those tiny, distorted shapes of silk and wood used to bind women’s feet into diminutive monstrosities in China. A shoe for decoration only as these elite women could barely walk at all.

Mongols and other Asian races made shoes and boots of felted wool. These were very warm and very waterproof. Likewise the Inuit were using sealskin, still a leather but with the fur left on for added warmth. In most cases boots and shoes might have the fur on the inside for warmth (sheepskin) but could have it on the outside for water-repellent features or for decoration.

Shoes were slipped on, tied, buckled, buttoned and laced. There were as many ways to put them on as human minds could come up with. Though fashions of a long ago era ran narrower lines due to cost and production being done by hand, still there grew to be a great variety that continued to our cornucopia of the modern day.

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Fashion & Health: Footwear Fallout

I’ve heard it said that women wear high heels because men invented them. Or that it’s a man’s design for women. This could partly be true, that the high heel was designed by a man, but whether women wear it for a man or for themselves is open to debate. Face it, if a woman was the shoe’s inventor would she make only sensible shoes (probably designed by men too) or would she make flattering and sexy shoes? I think she would make the latter but there would be some women to make the former as well.

When we get down to it, people will often wear sexy, interesting and beautiful things. The Baroque period of the 18th century saw men in heels as much as women. Heels came about first for fitting the shoe/boot into a stirrup and holding it there. And there were pattens, wooden clogs to slip one’s shoe into, for protection from the wet and inclement elements. These went to ridiculous heights in Italy and there are drawings of women being supported by two assistants as they walk around in teetering towers of wood.

The 20th century certainly saw its share of high heels. There were heels right from the begining of the century and slowly they rose through the decades. The 30s and 40s saw high shoes with small platforms. Then along came the true platform shoes, reminiscent of the pattens of the Renaissance. And we also had the stiletto heel, very thin with a very pointy toe. These heels could put holes in floors with the pounds per square inch of pressure. And they were pretty unstable for supporting a person’s weight. But they were considered sexy.

Women and men have been wearing the affectations of fashion for a very long time. And I was no exception. I started wearing high heels when I was in art college. I wore them to dress up and to work in. I worked at Sears and often had to wear dresses, so therefore I wore the heels to go with them. That would often encompass four-eight hours of standing on hard floors in heels. I remember going home at night and taking off my shoes, and rubbing my feet on the carpet because they itched and burned so much from the pressure.

I continued to wear high heels, developing a callous thick enough to resist all but the sharpest implements. And then one year, in the stupidity of my youth, I walked downtown in high heels because the buses were on strike. I walked home barefoot but developed blood blisters under the callouses, which made them slough off.

I grew a little wiser over the years, no longer standing for hours or walking miles in high heels. But the damage had been done. I’m not a podiatrist but pretty much what the high heels did was cause the bones to drop or shift in the ball of my foot and crush the nerves, which resulted in pain, cramps and numbness. I believe it is plantar fascitis and the cramping can be supremely painful. Lucky for me, I didn’t develop bunions, another side effect to wearing tight or pointy shoes, but it can also come from other causes.

Along the way, wearing flat shoes, I managed to experience pain as if someone was hammering on my heels. My ankles swelled up like balloons and took a week to come down. That was the beginning of heel spurs, which I don’t believe had any genesis in high heels or not.

So these days, yes, I wear orthotics but I’ve been having problems with the new ones (now a year or two old) not quite working for my right foot. My podiatrist moves the pad around and we keep trying. I still wear shoes with high heels. Not as high as they once were and I plan. If I’m going out for dinner or some other function where I will be sitting mostly, I’ll wear them but not if I have to stand as my feet can’t take them. So, if you’re planning on wearing shoes with mega heels, consider now when and where, and protect your feet for the future.

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Brutal Indifference to Child’s Plight

I’m sure if I talked about sex or the Moonlite Bunny Ranch, then more people would read this as it seems to be what titillates humanity most. But unfortunately this is more important, sadder and tragic than some woman selling her virginity. Oh, I know. I should just title this Virgin Sells Body for Charity. Now that would be something to talk about.

I have a friend who works ECOMM, emergency 911 calls. On January 10, the following occurred here in Vancouver, leaving me appalled and horror-stricken.

At 10:30 pm a woman and her child were walking home in the pouring rain and slush when  a barefoot, 12-year-old Asian boy (I mention the race because maybe it’s important, maybe it’s not) in pajamas came running out, pleading for help. His parents were fighting. The woman refused to help and didn’t even guide the boy to some phone or another place but just pointed to the care home nearby. Fifteen minutes later when she got home, perhaps guilt gnawed at her because she called 911.

When the police came, they checked at the care home where no one had answered the phone. The duty nurse, someone who is supposed to care for people, had said yes, the boy, soaking wet, crying and begging had come to the door. But they didn’t help or let him in because it was against their policy. They told the police that yes, they had called 911 but in fact the dispatchers confirmed that they had not. They left the boy, late at night, soaking and cold, to fend for himself.

The police then sent units up and down all the streets, including canine units but there were too many people who had come and gone by then. My friend, along with the call taker, checked houses within a radius to see if any had past histories of disturbances/abuse. Nothing showed up.

When the duty officer arrived on the scene, he sent the police door to door from the care home. In fifteen minutes they found six witnesses who had seen this boy trying to stop traffic in the street pleading for help. All the cars swerved around him. No one stopped. Not one of those six witnesses helped or called 911.

The police searched for three hours that night. They never found the boy.

Who knows what happened. Did the boy go home to a resolved fight? Or did he go home and get beaten for trying to involve others? Did he get frostbite, hypothermia, pneumonia? Is he dead somewhere? Worst of all, this boy, should he survive this will have lost all faith in humanity and will probably grow up to prey on others as he has seen nothing but a cold and uncaring world. It makes me cry just thinking of this. All these coldhearted people should consider the child abuse that they perpetrated.

We like to think the big cities in the US have this problem but it’s right here, on your doorstep and it will get worse if no one cares. The police should commended for trying their all. The rest of us should wonder if we live in a civilized society.

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