"Be kind, please rewind." You probably haven't heard that phrase since the 90's. Since we no longer use VHS tapes or cassettes, the phrase has become irrelevant in our everyday lives. Or has it?
Here at SOM we are giving "be kind, rewind" a whole new meaning. I'm talking about being kind to your body and "rewinding" back to natural footwear. No cushioning, no raised heel, no arch support, just a simple shoe that lets your foot function the way nature intended.
Humans have been living barefoot throughout most of our existence. A 2008 analysis in the Journal of Archaeological Science reveals that humans didn't wear shoes until just 40,000 years ago. It is thought that it wasn't until we began moving north into colder climates that we started covering our feet (for insulation). Artifacts show that other than these instances in the North, footwear was worn only by the elite as a status symbol.
During the Renaissance we began to see the emergence of the elevated heel. Unlike previous high heeled shoes (which raised the entire foot off of the ground, like a platform shoe) the new fashion raised only the heel of the foot, leaving the forefoot on the ground. This put the foot into a very unnatural position and over time would shorten the calf muscles.
Around the same time period, pointed toe shoes became the latest fashion trend (although only the wealthy could afford such shoes). Barefooted peasants working out in the field typically had large natural feet, so the wealthy began wrapping their children's feet to keep them small and "proper". This fashion trend trickled down to the growing wealthy middle class over time. Those who could afford hand made shoes had their children's feet molded to resemble the delicate little feet of the aristocrats.
During the 19th century more and more people could afford shoes. For working class families, such as farmers, shoes were still a luxury so when they had shoes made for their children, they had the shoe maker leave extra room in the toes so that the shoes would last longer as the child's foot grew. Second only to those to remained barefoot, these children had the healthiest and most natural feet.
In 1858, Lyman R. Blake invented machinery that would allow the shoe's upper to be attached to it's sole (the McKay process). This was the first time in history that humans could manufacture, and eventually mass produce shoes. Within just 5 years of producing shoes using this new technique, virtually anyone could afford a pair of shoes similar to that of an aristocrat. Here in America, the aristocratic tiny, delicate feet were still sought after by women and men alike. Women would even cram their feet into tiny Cinderella slippers at night to be able to don the petite little shoes of the wealthy. Unshod.org put it best when they said "Never in the history of mankind had a population so willfully and so innocently disfigured a vital part of their body."
By the 1940's, "flats" became the new fashion. While this was a step in the right direction, the majority of conventional shoes on the market today are still classified as restrictive, unnatural, and unhealthy. In ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian times, when people were mainly barefoot or wearing only simple sandals, modern foot issues were nonexistent. Over the last 80 years, as more people have access to affordable shoes, foot issues began to plague shoe wearing peoples. Presently, as many as 80% of our population have reported having at least one major foot issue.
At SOM Footwear, we think it's about time to "rewind" the fashion trends and rediscover our original sense of motion. Let's bring beautiful natural feet and wide toes back in style! We'd love to see healthy, natural feet as THE new status symbol. A symbol of someone who values their health, well being and overall physical performance over mimicking the tiny deformed feet of history's powerful and wealthy.