Strangest Shoes in History

For some, shoes are just something to protect our socks from getting wet but for others, shoes offer a chance to make a fashion statement. The need to cover our feet came very early on in human history. No doubt even cavemen found a stubbed toe annoying! There have been many changes in shoe fashion throughout history, some more successful than others. Here are some of the strangest:

High Heels for Men

Most men would rather forget that their ancestors in the 18th century liked to wear high heels. Fancy heeled shoes became all the rage during the 1700s and the more flamboyant, the better. The fashion of the time was all about accentuating the shape of the leg, so tights and heels became the order of the day in high society. The fashion originated from the desire of French king Louis XIV to gain a bit of extra height and everyone copied the look. The man heels were also decorated with fancy embroidery, ruffles, ribbons or buckles!

The Poulaine

This was a very distinctive style of shoe from the Medieval period. First seen around the mid-14th century in Eastern Europe, the style featured an incredibly long and pointed toe. They were flat-soled slip-ons, often with a side toggle and the higher up you were in the social standing, the longer and pointier your toes were! Other nations thought the shoes were ridiculous and some even officially banned them. For great quality, less pointy shoes, try a Gloucester Shoe Shop at

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The Cromwell

This style originated in France during the late 19th century but took Oliver Cromwell’s name due to the buckle design on the front. It was believed that Cromwell’s men wore buckles on their shoes in the period before the English Civil War and this is how the shoes got their name. The shoes had heels of over six inches and were almost impossible to walk in so the style wasn’t popular for long and were worn mainly by ‘ladies who entertain in the bedroom’.


It seems that platform shoes were around a long time before the 1970s! During the 1500s in Italy, ladies of society went crazy for the wooden platform shoes which were covered in leather, velvet or delicate embroidery. The higher the shoe, the greater your social standing. As you can imagine, they weren’t easy to walk on and the wearer often required assistance. Their original purpose was a more practical one as they were designed to keep skirt hems from dragging in the dirty, muddy streets of Renaissance Italy.

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If you thought that these were solely for street entertainers and the circus then think again! During the 1800s in rural areas of France, these ‘big legs’ were worn by shepherds to help them cross the swampy land more easily. The wooden stilts were about 5 feet high with a shoulder piece and foot strap. The base was often made larger and sometimes reinforced with sheep’s bone. It caught on in the local villages, with both women and children becoming skilled at crossing the land speedily on their ’big legs’.

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