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Kesta Allen

Shoes are even the
source of inspiration
for stories and songs

Maybe a pair of shoes is not very interesting but think again! There are many customs and traditions associated with shoes. 

For centuries, shoes have showed a great deal about the wearer. In Ancient Rome, the type of sandals worn by the soldiers revealed their rank. During the reign of Louis XIV of France only red shoes could be used by the aristocracy at the King's court. In the Middle Ages in Europe sandals were presented to the Pope as a sign of support between the Church and the State.

High Heels

Today's fashionable high heels are not a modern invention. High heels were first made in the Middle Ages. Streets were narrow and very dirty since people would throw their rubbish out into the streets. To overcome the problem of walking through the rubbish, people wore high heels or platform shoes. These shoes became so common that the English Parliament declared that it would grant an annulment to any man who was lured into marriage by a woman wearing such frivolous footwear.

Small Feet

In China high-ranking ladies would have their feet bound to make them as small as possible. Small feet were considered to be a sign of great beauty. From a very early age, young girls would have their feet bound up tightly. As young ladies they could squeeze their feet into shoes that were only 3 or 4 inches long.

Folk Stories, Customs and Traditions

Shoes are mentioned in folk stories, old customs and traditions. Long ago throwing an old shoe at someone was considered to be an ancient way of bringing someone good luck. After weddings guests would throw shoes at the bride and groom as they left their wedding. Later this was considered rather unclean so the old shoes were tied to carriages and later to cars instead! In Anglo-Saxon marriages, the Bride’s Father delivered her shoe to the bridegroom who touched the bride's forehead with it to show he owned her.


Shoes are often referred to in English proverbs. For example, to say that a person is ‘too big for their boots’ is to suggest that they are bigheaded and arrogant. Another proverb is to be in another person's shoes (= to be in a similar position) which means that you can imagine that you are that other person. To be on a shoe-string budget (= to be with very little money at disposal) is a phrase we can all identify with!

Fairy Tales and Songs

Shoes also appear in many stories, fairytales and songs. For Cinderella a small glass slipper led her to her Prince Charming, with a little help from her fairy godmother! In The Wizard of Oz, shoes carried Dorothy and her dog home along the Yellow Brick Road. And more recently, Elvis Presley sang about his ‘Blue Suede Shoes’. So when you next buy a pair of shoes remember all the stories and customs before you decide what to buy!

Source: New English Digest


wearer: user (usuario)
: light shoes worn in the summer (sandalias)
rank: a person’s position in an army (rango)
Pope: the head of the Roman Catholic Church (Papa)
high heels: tall heels on a pair of shoes (tacones altos)
to overcome: to deal with (para vencer, solucionar)
rubbish: trash (basura, desperdicios)
platform shoes: shoes with very thick soles (zapatos de plataforma)
to grant: to concede (conceder)
lured: provoked, tempted (provocado, tentado)
bound: firmly tied (apretados, sujetados firmemente)
squeeze: grip and press firmly (ajustar, ceñir)
long ago: in the past (mucho tiempo atrás)
unclean: dirty, impure (sucio, impuro)

bridegroom: a man participant in his own marriage ceremony (novio)
bride's forehead
: the part of the face above the eyes of a woman participant in her own marriage ceremony (la frente de la novia)
he owned her
: that she belonged to him (que ella le pertenecía)

ed: someone who is conceited (arrogante, engreído)
to be in another person's shoes: estar en los zapatos del otro (en una posición o problema similar)
shoe-string: strings or laces used to fasten shoes (cordones de los zapatos)
to be on a shoe-string budget: andar, estar sin dinero
glass slipper: glass sandal shoe (zapato de cristal)
fairy godmother: a female character is some fairy stories who has magical powers (hada madrina)


> Have you got these in size 41?
> How much are these?
> Have you got a larger/smaller size?
> I'm not really keen on the colour. Have you got these in black?
> Sorry, these are too tight/too big.
> They're very nice but they're not what I wanted.
> Yes, these are fine. I'll take them.
Thanks for your help.