Sunday, February 28, 2010

Does biology explain why humans love shoes?

According to a recent Cosmopolitan article, “We’ve always been wired for shoe lust, even when the going gets tough” (Azodi, 2010). The article gives three supposedly biological reasons why humans, specifically women, like shoes. These anatomical reasons are similar to the previously mentioned fact that human toes became slender and narrower after humans began wearing shoes (Hirst, n.d.). Azodi’s reason include the release of positive feeling inducing neurotransmitters, chemicals that affect mood, after buying shoes, the exploitation of an innate association between height and power that occurs when wearing high-heels, and the feelings of pleasure gained from wearing high-heels because the area of the brain that controls genitals is located next to the area that controls feet. However, although these reasons seem to paint a picture of why humans love shoes, one must be careful when using biology as a justification.

There are issues with some of Azodi’s claims. She seems to be over generalizing, going from some general feeling humans have for shoes, such as that they are a collectable, and justifying that this is why humans love shoes. Although humans like collecting items, there is no reason that they would like collecting shoes more than a less common collectable, such as mops. Another problem is that Azodi is focusing on women. If women get feelings of power and pleasure from wearing heels, men should get the same feelings and wish to wear heels as well. There seems to be no biological different between men and women that would make them wish for different shoes. Surprisingly, the first high heels were worn by a man, and from the 1500s to the French Revolution, heels were popular for men (Borchet, 2009). Many men today have decided to forgo the pleasure of heels, as few men in the United States wear heels. Biology and history seem divergent; thus, there may be more than biology that explains why women wear high heeled shoes. Finally, causation is an issue. There is no research on the brains of early humans to determine what gave them pleasure. Therefore, humans could have evolved, as a result of shoes or even special shoes, such as high heels, to associate positive feeling and shoes. Like the classic who came first the chicken or the egg, one cannot tell if shoes changed human biology or if human biological helped to create a love of shoes.

Ultimately, Azodi tries to use the lens of biology to explain why people like shoes. Because there is no definitive research on the topic, one must be careful when using biology to justify a love of shoes because problems with overgeneralization, history, and causation. Therefore, Azodi presents nothing more than to-be-tested hypotheses on why humans love shoes.

Azodi, M. (2010). Women and shoes: A love story. Cosmopolitan, March, 175.

Borchet, K. (2009). High heels originally designed for men. associatedcontent. Retrieve February 27, 2010 from

Hirst, K.K. (n.d.) History of shoe. Archeology. Retrieved February 14, 2010 from

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Does History Explain Why Humans Love Shoes?

The oldest shoes discovered are from 8,000 to 2000 years BC. Archeologists believe that humans have been covering their feet for protection for 40,000 years. Amazingly, archeologists know how long humans have been wearing shoes because they have created anatomic changes in feet. Scientists believe that toes have gotten more graceful and narrow, compared to legs, because toes in shoes have less impact with the ground. As a result, toes do not need to be strong. (Hirst, n.d.).

Yet, why do humans wear shoes? Why did they begin to do something that weakened part of their body? The classic response is to protect their feet from the cold and sharp objects; however, no other species, even those closely related to humans, protects their feet. Furthermore, shoes may not actually be good for feet. Harvard evolutionary biologist Dr. Daniel Lieberman studied barefoot runners and compared their movements to runners wearing shoes. He found that when barefoot runners land on the part of their foot that can most handle the impact (Fantz, 2010). Thus, although humans have been wearing shoes for thousands of years they may be causing injuries because when wearing shoes, one has less ability to judge the proper point of impact with the ground. No specific research has been done to understand why humans began wearing shoes. Instead, people accept that shoes were invented for protection from the elements. Nevertheless, Lieberman’s recent research suggests shoes may not be as necessary for protection and safety as humans think. Thus, history does not present a clear explanation for why humans began to wear shoes.

Interestingly, shoe history begins to explain the wide array of shoes available today—flip-flops, sneakers, stilettos, and lace-up booties. According to Jenna Tedrick Kuttruff, a textile expert at Louisiana State University, among 8,000 year old shoes found in a Missouri Cave, no two were alike. She said, “They didn't need to make each pair different. But it's human nature to make things visually appealing, to make one pair a little more complex than others to set it apart from someone else's" (Newman, 2006). Thus, the earliest shoe wearers seem to have taken pride in their shoes akin to the pride a woman today feels putting on her new platform wedges or a man today feels in his brightly colored new sneakers.

Although ancient humans may not have needed to wear shoes, they felt the need to cover their feet and began to use shoes to represent their individuality.

Hirst, K.K. (n.d.) History of Shoe. Archeology. Retrieved February 14, 2010 from
Newman, C. (2006). The Joy of Shoes. National Geographic. Retrieved February 14, 2010 from

Monday, February 8, 2010

An Introduction to Through the Sole

For some people shoes are just something to protect their feet from the elements. For others, shoes drive irrational behavior. 

For example, a 46 year-old man was recently arrested in Newark, Delaware after stealing shoes for 20 years, according to the article “Police nab suspected shoe thief,” from The Charleston Daily Mail ( Police confiscated 150 boxes of stolen goods, many containing shoes.

Women are usually believed to have the larger shoe obsession, but, as the above example shows, men also enjoy shoes. 

The fundamental question is: why do human beings like shoes so much? 

Researchers are beginning to analyze why people like and buys shoes, which gets to the essence of the question. Moreover, one needs to look at the history of shoes and human beings to unearth whether there a reason people desire shoes. If not, are human beings irrational for wanting shoes? Finally, researchers are beginning to examine the effects of wearing certain type of shoes, such as high heels. Despite ill effects to feet and legs, women persist on wearing high heels. This suggests that at some level, the love for shoes become irrational. Overall, shoes reflect both a necessity, protection from the natural elements, and an irrational want, the desire to have numerous pairs, despite the possibility of negative effects.

“The American public, it would seem, cannot carry on without new shoes. Boots, booties, sneakers, pumps — for the last few months they have all been selling well as the broader economy struggles toward recovery” Stephanie Rosenbloom, “A Not-So-Guilty Pleasure,” The NY Times,

Understanding shoes is part of understanding human nature. Although wanting shoes may seem frivolous, it gives comfort. Although the song has been overplayed, “The Christmas Shoes,” (lyrics can be found here:, hints at the importance of shoes.

“Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my Mama, please
It's Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there's not much time
You see she's been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes would make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight”

To understand why humans like and desire shoes helps one to understand oneself and society. In the shoes that carry one’s feet through one’s daily life, there is a reflection of the wearer.