History of Women’s Footwear - Complete Guide -

OMG shoes! Whether your closet is devoted to them or they’re a fun afterthought, we love our shoes. It doesn’t hurt that there are  so many different footwear options, from  summertime sandals to a fierce pair of boots for the colder temperatures.

Shoes are there for us to dress for events too. A comfy pair of  slides can make your fit pop by the pool, while a pair of power heels can help you stand tall at the office. We love wearing them, sharing them, and making sure the right people are aware of them.

If you’re shoe-obsessed like we are, you might also want to know a bit about the history of the shoes we wear. Get ready to learn some shoe facts to flex your toes and new knowledge at the next trivia event featuring our beloved footwear.


Here’s a fun fact for you:The first high heel shoes were actually created for men!

The history of  heels can be traced back to ancient times—Persian soldiers in the 10th century wore the first high heels. They were especially helpful for mounted soldiers.

It wasn’t until the 1400s that women started wearing high heels. The first high-heeled shoes designed for women were called chopines—they were worn to protect their dresses from mud and water in the streets. However, chopines quickly became a fashion statement—particularly in Venice, Italy. 

Fast forward to the 1700s, and heels fell out of fashion. Since they were often associated with royalty, the negative outlook on royalty meant that the public didn’t want to be seen wearing heels. You could lose your head if you were caught wearing heels without permission from royalty! 

By the 1800s (and after some royalty  did lose their heads), women of  allsocial classes began to wear heels. This was also when heels for men fell out of fashion, and the high heel shoe became widely associated only with women. 

The 20th century brought further evolution—for example, the invention of the stiletto heel in the 1950s. Stiletto heels are tall and thin, emphasizing the shape of the foot. They became a symbol of femininity and sex appeal, often worn by the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn, further increasing their popularity.

In the 1970s, platform shoes became popular, and they featured thick soles that added height without putting too much pressure on the feet. The 1980s introduced the wedge heel, a thick sole that runs from the heel to the toe.

Today, women's heels come in a variety of styles and heights. From kitten heels to block heels, there’s a type of heel for every occasion. While some women wear heels for fashion purposes, others prefer comfort over style—many shoe designers have recognized this and have created heels that offer both fashion and comfort. 

 Lizette Pump

The Lizette Pump shows how far heels have come—it provides maximum style and comfort with a block heel. 

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Boots  have been a popular footwear style for centuries, and women have been wearing them just as long as men. 

However, the history of women's boots has been shaped by various cultural, societal, and fashion trends over the years.

Starting out in the 19th century, women's boots were primarily utilitarian and designed for practical purposes—for example, protection from the elements and outdoor activities. These boots were often made of leather and featured low or no heels. 

Fast forward to the early 20th century, and women's fashion began to change—boot styles were no exception. The popular ankle boot, also known as the "bootie," became a staple of women's fashion in the 1920s and 1930s. These boots were often made of suede or leather and featured decorative details like tassels.

After the Second World War, women's fashion shifted once again with the introduction of high-heeled boots in the 1950s and 1960s. Pop culture icons like Nancy Sinatra popularized these stylish boots, and they were seen as a symbol of liberation and female empowerment. C’mon boots, start walkin’!

Throughout the following decades, boots continued to be a popular fashion choice, with styles ranging from ankle-length Chelsea boots to knee-high platform boots. The 1980s and 1990s brought the punk and grunge movements—and with them, a resurgence of practical, combat-style boots.

Today, women's boots come in various styles, from rugged hiking boots to sleek, high-heeled ankle boots. They continue to be a popular and versatile choice for women's footwear, with new trends and styles emerging yearly.

Alexi Bootie

The Alexi Bootie is a versatile option that will work with any of your outfits.

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Sandals have been around for thousands of years—they’re considered to be one of the oldest types of shoes in the world and have been a staple in almost every culture worldwide. They come in various shapes, sizes, and materials, but one thing that has remained constant is their use as a comfortable and practical footwear option—for both men  and women. 

The earliest known sandals were discovered in  Fort Rock Cave in Oregon—they date back to around 9,000 years ago!

Despite this discovery, the ancient Egyptians are often credited with inventing the first  true sandals. They wore sandals made from woven reeds or palm leaves, and the sandals were held in place with straps that wrapped around the ankle.

In ancient Greece, women wore sandals made of leather, papyrus, or cork. These sandals often had intricate designs and were adorned with colorful stones and gems. The famous Greek sandals, also known as "gladiator sandals," were worn by both men and women and were designed to protect the feet while allowing maximum movement.

During the Middle Ages, women's sandals became more elaborate and decorative. In Europe, women's sandals were often made of expensive materials such as silk or velvet and were adorned with pearls, gold, and silver. These sandals were worn by the wealthy as a type of status symbol.

Women's sandals became more practical and comfortable during the Renaissance and Enlightenment periods. The design of the sandals shifted from purely decorative to more functional. The sandals were made from materials such as leather or canvas and were designed to be more durable and long-lasting.

The 20th century gave women's sandals a new look and feel. For example, the first rubber sandals were introduced in the 1920s and quickly became popular due to their comfort and affordability. Women's sandals became more versatile and were designed for both casual and formal occasions. 

Today, women's sandals come in various styles, from flip flops to high heels, and are made from different materials, including leather, suede, rubber, and synthetic fabrics. From the beach to running errands, you can’t go wrong with a comfortable and stylish pair of sandals.

Gaia Sandal

The beautiful Gaia Sandal from Anne Klein—they add height without sacrificing comfort.

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Flats are a type of shoe that is low-heeled or flat and typically covers the toes and the top of the foot. Like our other shoe types, they’ve also been around for centuries and have undergone many changes.

Starting in the 1600s, both men and women wore a type of flat shoe with a pointed toe—the longer the shoe, the more noble the aristocrat. However, the shoe quickly fell out of fashion in favor of a heeled version.

The 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries went on with flats being worn predominantly by dancers—they preferred a flat shoe over the heeled version. 

The first casual flats were introduced in the 1940s through a collaboration between renowned fashion designer Claire McCardell and shoemaker Salvatore Capezio. McCardell loved the look of the ballet flat and wished to take them off the stage, where they quickly became popular for their comfort and simplicity. 

Women's flats became more versatile and were designed for casual and formal occasions. In the 1960s, the Mary Jane flat became popular, with a strap across the top of the foot and a low heel. The 1980s brought the popularity of the loafer: A comfortable and practical flat shoe that could be worn with many different outfits.

Today, women's flats come in various styles, materials, and designs. From classic ballet flats to trendy espadrilles, there is a flat shoe for every occasion. Popular materials for flats include leather, suede, canvas, or synthetic materials. They can make bold fashion statements with studs, sequins, or bows or be plain and simple, adding a touch of subtle style.

Ember Flat

Brown flats are a classic style staple that every woman should have in their wardrobe—like this Ember Flat in a beautiful Cognac color. 

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Find All Types of Stylish Women’s Shoes from Anne Klein

Each of these women’s shoe styles has a rich history—and we have them all in stock on the Anne Klein website.

Our collection has boots, heels, sandals, flats, and more. Create iconic outfits with all of our stylish shoes!

Shop the Anne Klein women’s shoe collection today.

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