As I write a novel inspired by shoes, I feel the need to create a glossary of all shoe names I will mention in the story. A type of a lexicon for the story. Here is a list of all shoes names that I could come up with. Each is illustrated with a picture. Since I can’t possible own every type of shoe in the world, I mixed photographs of my shoes with stock photography.
A strappy sandal in leather that laces up the leg. A strap runs along the top of the foot and connects to a series of straps that branches off the sides, creating a webbing on the front of the foot. The gladiators were inspired by the fierce warriors who were forced to fight in the great amphitheaters of the roman empire.
The ballet flat is a hard soled shoe derived from the slippers worn for classical ballet. Ballerinas need the a shoe with the finest of soles in order to be able to feel the floor and arch the foot. Unlike most other types of footwear, there is no difference between the right shoe and the left shoe. The are designed to mold the shape of the wearers feet.
The oxford is a classic shoe that laces up the front through three or four pairs of eyelets with a tongue to protect the foot from the pressure of the fastening. It has curved side seams and a low stacked heel making it an ideal and practical walking shoe. A key feature of the oxford is in its method of lacing where the shoelaces are looped through the eyelet tabs that are stitched underneath the tabs. Originally worn by students of Oxford University as a comfortable alternative to the heavy boot.
A Moccasin is a lightweight tanned dear skin or soft leather shoe with the sole and sides made of one piece of leather stitched in at the top with sinew. The shoe is essentially a slip on bag for the foot and is derived from the traditional footwear of the first nations of North America. The most popular version has a U shaped apron or plug that gathers in the top edges of the upper part of the shoe with the stitching positioned higher up the foot to prevent waterlogging. First nations moccasins were designed to be sturdy enough to protect the feet yet supple enough to allow the wearer to feel the earth through the soles. It became the closest thing to being barefoot. It illustrates the respectful relationship first nations of North America have with nature. The idea that one should glide silently through ones surrounding , leaving no trace behind.
A loafer is a slip on, low-cut, laceless shoe, often featuring a tassel on the front or a horse bit.
May Jane’s Shoes
The Mary Jane is a broad , closed toe shoe with a flat, single buttoned strap that fastens across the instep. The practicality of the shoe made it the perfect shoe for children. The compelling resonance of this rite of passage imbued the shoe with a powerful association with childhood. The shoe derived it’s distinctive moniker in the United States in 1902 with the appearance of the Buster Brown cartoon strip in the New York Herald newspaper. It featured a boy named Buster and his sister called Mary Jane. The cartoon was so popular that the shoe was named after the cartoon character.
A mule is a backless, heeled shoe. The mule dates back to the Roman calceus mulleus, a ceremonial shoe in red leather worn by Roman aristocrats. The open back of the mule declared that the owner lived a life of leisure rather than physical labour.
The slingback shoe has no solid back but takes the form of a strap that crosses behind the heel. The slingback strap makes the shoe fit securely on the foot with either a buckle or an elastic band.
The Kitten heels or petit stilettos was originally a teenager’s starter heel invented in the 1950s for the budding stiletto wearer. Think of them as training wheels. The sexually provocative connotation of the full blown stiletto heel were considered inappropriate for an adolescent. The heel must be less that two inches high to qualify as kitten heel, with a nuanced curve setting the heel from the edge of the back of the shoe. Audrey Hepburn made the kitten heel famous when she wore it in both Sabrina and Funny Face, movies in which she appeared as an innocent young woman in a romantic affair with a much older man. The choice of shoe was a styling device to emphasize the age gap.
Named after a Sicilian knife, a stiletto heel is high and impossibly thin.
The elevated sole of the platform is derived from medieval Europe. Originally designed to keep the foot from dirt in the street. In modern days the elevated sole of the platform shoe breaks all the rules of women’s footwear design. Most other shoe designs attempt to make the female foot look light and delicate; these shoes make them look clumpy.
A wedge is a shoe where the space between the sole and heel has been filled in, results in a more stable and comfortable shoe to walk in.
Peep toe shoes
The peep toe shoes are named after the peep-show machine. Of all the shoe names in the world, this seems to be the most fun. A shoe with a section in the front cutaway to reveal just the tips of the toe. Ideal for those who want to showcase a pedicure.
The Chelsea boot is a fitted ankle boot with elastic inserts up the sides. It is a functional boot since you can easily pull it on and off.
The cowboy boot has a slim toe to slip easily into stirrups, a low undercut heel to keep it there, plus an arch with a steel shank to rest on the stirrups bar. The heavy leather is meant to protect the cowboy’s from rattle snake’s bites. The wide boot top made it easy for the cowboy to pull his foot out of the boot if he was thrown from the horse.
Knee high boots
As the name indicates, a shoe whose shaft extends to just below the knee.
Thigh high boots
In the 60s as skirts got shorter, boots got longer to cover the expanse of leg on display. Hence a boot whose shaft reaches the thigh.
A half boot. A boot with the shaft reaching to the ankle.
You can read the story of how I acquired the specific ankle boots here.
The sandal was the very first form of footwear to grace human feet, and from this all other shoe styles have evolved. The first use of the shoe name ‘sandal’ described a fully fashioned sole held onto the foot by means of simple leather, rush stalks or woven papyrus straps, but by the 1930s, a sandal was any type of heeled or flat shoe that exposed the upper part of the foot. Sandals date back to the Ice Age and many civilizations have their own versions of this shoe, such as braided zori in Japan and the paduka sandal in India, but the style originates mainly from civilizations based in hot climates, such as Ancient Egypt and the Mediterranean.
I featured the sandal in the below picture in my “The Life Changing Magic of Two Inch Heels” blog post.
When curating a list of shoe names, it is mandatory that we mention the espadrilles.
A traditional unisex peasant shoe from Catalonia, Spain. It takes the form of a jute rope-soled sandal, with the sole covered in pitch for protection. A canvas upper is seamed to the sole at the sides. Some versions have cotton ties to hold the shoe more securely on the foot. The name espadrille is derived from esparto, the robust Mediterranean grass used in the production of rope.
Off all the shoe names, this one is probably my favorite.
A simple cheap rubber sandal with a y shaped toe strap. Flip-flops are named after the sound they make when worn.
A unisex durable work shoe derived from medieval Dutch culture. It’s a closed wooden shoe that kept the foot dry.
The term “slipper” was originally applied to any shoe that slipped on the foot. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the term was used for indoor informal slip-on shoes with no fastening or closure. Today we associate the slipper with informal evenings at home when we change to pajamas.
The wellington or gumboot or rubber boots is a pull on boot designed by Arthur Wellesley, the first duke of Wellington ( 1769-1852) to sharped up the appearance of his troops on the battleground when facing Napoleon. Today they are made out of rubber or PVC and are worn to protect the feet from rain and mud.
Shoe names named after a person … gotta love it.
Although the Ugg boot seems contemporary, it is over 200 years old. With its genesis as a generic sheepskin boot or “footie” worn by farmers in Australia and New Zealand. The Ugg is twin-faced in that it is constructed of one piece of sheepskin with the inside made from the fleece side of the same skin. Some say the name is derived from the word “Ugly”. Others say its derived from the word “Hug” since these shoes are so comfortable they feel as if they are giving your feet a hug.
The pump is a practical, formal, smart shoe without any fastenings. It features a low cut front. It can be slipped on and off with ease. Its name is derived from the French pompe or “pump” because the first French shoemakers made the leather buckets for Paris’ fire departments. The plain shape means that the pump can take any kind of decoration or heel. Which is why the style never goes out of fashion.
Of all the shoe names, this one strikes me as the oddest.
The sneaker began its global domination in the seventies when the fitness boom took off. By the eighties, it was being marketed as a life style choice. Sneakers are sport specific with innovations such as cantilever soles, gel systems, air cushions and built in pumps. They are considered by many to be the most comfortable shoe to walk in.
All historical facts are from Shoe Innovations, A visual Celebration of 60 styles by Caroline Cox.
Do you have something that should be added to this list of shoe names? If yes let me know in the comment section below.