Women's Shoes

Women’s shoes were similar to men’s in most respects. The shape was very comparable to men’s, with slightly higher heels.

Men's Shoes

By 1620, the rounded shape of the previous period had given way to a square toe. This shape dominated the entire period. The shoes became more thick and sensible, particularly during the war years.

The large open sides seen on earlier shoes also became less popular during the war. Military shoes were, of course, completely closed.

A few pointed toes were seen in the 1620’s and 30’s and were favoured, rather unexpectedly, by the Puritans.

Materials and Manufacture

Men and women wore very similar shoes during this period. Footwear during this time could often be an aid in determining one’s religious beliefs. The Puritans, for example, tended to wear more pointed toes than the rest of society.


In contrast to the previous period, which was marked with rigidity, the clothing of the Early Baroque era used relaxed fabrics that flowed and expanded outward from the body. The tortured, excessive decoration in fabric was replaced by an interest in the qualities of the fabric itself. Ruffs became soft-laced collars and boning and padding relaxed into an easy expansion of the clothing away from the contours of the body. The costumes expanded, to create a sense of size and grandeur.

Early Baroque

The Thirty Years’ War, a struggle that lasted from 1618 to 1648, involved all of Europe, and finally absolved the tensions between the Protestants and Catholics. A new cultural style, Baroque, had begun to develop in Italy around 1600 as a result of the attempt to renew the Catholic faith by using the arts as propaganda.


Shoes are the subject of much superstition and myth. Almost every culture since the beginning of time has had some superstition surrounding their footwear. This continues today with the bronzing of baby shoes and the tying of shoes to the back of a newlywed couple's car. Even Hollywood's walk of fame continues this custom.

In China, a child's shoe may be adorned with a fierce animal such as a tiger. The animal is meant to protect him from evil spirits.

Anatomy of a Shoe

Breast: the front of the heel under the arch

Cap: the toecap

The Construction of a Shoe

Over one hundred operations go into the construction of a shoe. The first and most important of these is the creation of the last. The last is a hand-carved wood or moulded plastic replica of the human foot. The last determines the contour of the arch and how evenly the wearer's weight will be distributed throughout the foot. A different last is required for each shoe style and size to be produced.


Boots were still worn primarily for hunting, fighting and riding. In the 1590's, boots were tied with a latchet. The


Shoes of this period were made predominantly of leather that was either fine and soft, or rough, depending on the price. Special orders for velvet, satin, silk or brocades were elaborately cut.