Were you aware that people have been sporting footwear of some form or another for as many as 40,000 years now? And that it’s just been in the past 200 years that shoes are designed with distinction for left and right feet?
You needn’t always be a fashionista to appreciate the astonishing variations in footwear over the ages. You need only to bring your interest to one of these two dozen-ish museums around the world specializing in design of the shoe.
Bata Shoe Museum
Bata is the world’s largest — and greatest — shoe museum. At any one time around 12,000 men’s and women’s shoes and shoe-related items are on display here, from Japanese sandals made from human hair to bud socks worn by Alaska’s Aleut people to a pair of 4,500 year old boots. What’s especially cool is that only about 25 percent of the museum’s 39,000 sq. ft is devoted to semi-permanent exhibition installations. In another 75 percent of the exhibition, the museum changes their shoes with Carrie Bradshaw-esque frequency; you can go to these museums every few weeks and see something new.
If you’re thinking about, the Bata Shoe Museum was founded by the same family that started the Bata Shoe Company. In an attempt to keep commercialism and museum integrity separate, not even 1 set of Bata shoes are on display at the museum.
If you’re visiting other attractions in the greater Toronto area you’ll save money with a Go Toronto Card that will grant you entrance to the Bata Museum, the Textile Museum of Canada, the Skylon Tower and 16 additional attractions.
Shoes or no shoes? That is the question from the well known as SONS museum located 74 km (46 miles) east of Brussels. This stark black area has shelves of brightly coloured shoes that look like though they were conjured into existence a la that scene in The Matrix. SONS specialises in ethnographic shoes, or shoes with special cultural significance. The footwear on the display showcases here is much more like art than fashion. As a result of this, SONS is the shoe museum on this list that is probably appeal to individuals that are not always interested in shoes.
Marikina Shoe Museum
Recent history’s famous collector of shoes is almost certainly Imelda Marcos, widower of the former Philippine dictator. Ever wonder what happened to her shoes after her husband was deposed and the couple fled into exile? Presumably Marcos managed to bring at least one pair of women’s pumps with her. But over 1,500 other pairs of Marcos’ shoes ended up in a being housed in a museum that was once a 19th century rice mill. The memorial in Marikina, a smart portion of the Philippine capital, is focused on shoes but is really more of a nod to dictatorial excess. Thankfully, you ought not to plunder the resources of your home state to get to the museum — entry is only P50, or about US$1.
TUSPM Shoe Museum
Philadelphia, PA USA
On the sixth floor of the Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine is an intriguing, compact (and relatively unknown) exhibit of shoes. The displays focus on the question of why people wear women’s sneakers. (The answer isn’t clear and straightforward as you may imagine). But what’s cool about the TUSPM Shoe Museum is the fact that it’s completely free and by appointment only. Guests are shown around by a TUSPM student, or by the exhibit curator herself, and questions are encouraged. Plan on spending at least an hour; see the museum’s web page for more details.
Giant Shoe Museum
Seattle, Washington USA
If spending a dollar on the Marikina Shoe Museum (above) is outside your budget take a look at this display at the bottom floor of Seattle’s famed Pike Place Market. It’s not so much a museum in the traditional sense as it is a coin-operated machine of the sort that was once the stable of fairs and carnivals. Drop a quarter into one of these 3 slots here and you will see a photographic “peep shoe.” Each slot reveals another slide show; the one that shows the men’s boots worn by the world’s tallest man is now the most popular of these.