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Early Shoe trees/ shoe lasts?

Posted by BillBird on 11 Jun 2010 at 18:00 GMT

This is a fascinating piece of research. I am currently working on research on the history and development of the footwear last at De Montfort University in close consultation with June Swann, the octogenarian former curator of the Northampton Shoe Museum, England. I’m not exaggerating to say that she’ll be enraptured by this.

The last is the solid form that is used to give leather footwear shape. Nowadays they are made of wood or plastic. The history of the last is equally the study of shape in footwear. Most of my study has been into the 12th to 19th centuries but we have been having a little glance at the past before that period. I had no idea that we would find possible evidence of shoe shaping so far back. June has found possible evidence of brick like foot shapes from the Alpine Lake dwellers that could have possibly been used to shape leather footwear.

To make a shoe like this, the leather would have to be wet and although the patterns might have been worked out on the foot, I think lacing the wet leather up and stuffing it with grass would be very preferable to wearing slimy damp leather for two days whilst it dried out.
It seems that the shoe as already been worn and I find the theory that the grass was inserted to maintain the shape is very plausible indeed, especially if the shoe had got wet.

This is exciting work and the care and detail you have put into it is laudable. Thank you. Bill Bird

No competing interests declared.