A Brief History of Uncomfortable Shoes | Blog | Martel+Ram

It is understood that shoes were invented around the Middle Palaeolithic period, approximately 40,000 years ago.

The earliest known shoes were made from crudely tanned animal skins and wrapped around the foot much like our modern sandals or moccasins. The general belief is that they were soft, flexible and moulded to the body – much like a good Armani jacket.

Things went downhill from there.

Up until around 1850, shoes were made on straight lasts, meaning that there was no difference between a left and right shoe. That sounds pleasant.

Modern laces was first invented in England in 1790. Before this, shoes were commonly fastened with buckles.

The industrial revolution brought many new processes to shoe manufacturing including the sewing machine which greatly reduced the time and cost involved in shoemaking, therefore creating a more affordable product for the general public. This new machinery allowed for easy stitching through multiple layers of thick outsole leather to create a hard-wearing, reliable product.

The first rubber soled shoes called plimsolls were developed and manufactured in the United States in the late 1800s. The Goodyear Metallic Rubber Shoe Company, founded in the 1840s, was the first licensee of a new manufacturing process called vulcanisation patented by Charles Goodyear. Vulcanisation uses heat to meld rubber to textiles or other rubber components for a sturdier, more permanent bond.

The Goodyear Welt process (invented by Charles Goodyear Jr. and much loved here in England) is a machine-based alternative to the previously used hand-welted method for the manufacture of leather shoes, allowing them to be re-soled repeatedly.

Despite the invention of vulcanisation and rubber soled shoes in the late 19th century, it is baffling to think that these welted processes have remained virtually unchanged still today despite their rigid structure and weight. 

Enter Adidas, Phil Knight and his Nike brand and the rise of popular sneaker culture in the 1970’s and 80’s. The tide has now turned towards a surge in athletic footwear design and innovation that we are experiencing today. Current athletic lifestyle footwear is game changing in its level of comfort, but 'dress' shoes are still basically instruments of torture.

In creating Martel+Ram, we set out to bridge these two ideas: comfort and tradition. We want to solve this problem of our love of traditional tailoring and our bodies need for comfort.

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