The World's Oldest Leather Shoe

The World's Oldest Leather Shoe

I recently came across an article about an intriguing historical discovery. In 2008, a team of archaeologists in Armenia discovered what they say is the world's oldest know leather shoe.

The World's Oldest Leather Shoe
By Pinhasi R, Gasparian B, Areshian G, Zardaryan D, Smith A, et al. (authors of source article) [CC BY 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

The shoe is believed to be up to 5,500 years old, which places it as early as 3600 BC, near the end of the Copper Age. Measuring 24.5 cm long (US women's size 7), it was found in a cave at the base of a shallow plastered pit, along with goat horns, fish vertebrae and several broken ceramic pieces. The shoe was made from a single piece of leather that wrapped around the foot and was fastened by a long leather throng threaded through several eyelets. Made to fit a right foot, it still showed signs of wear and the imprint of a big toe.

Sound rugged? Archeologists believe this shoe was a luxury model at the time, made from high-quality cowhide and likely belonging to a family of high status and power. It wasn't tossed haphazardly in the pit, but carefully placed and stuffed with grass, apparently to maintain its shape and/or for storage. It would have fit a small man or teenager, but most likely was worn by a woman.

There are many similarities in the cut and lacing system of this shoe and other one-piece leather hide shoes found across Europe. Experts now believe this simple leather style may have been worn for thousands of years across the vast and very diverse terrain of prehistoric Europe and Southeast Asia.

For us at Soft Star, this discovery is exciting because it gives an idea of how prominent soft leather shoes have been in the course of our ancestral development. Our natural leather moccasins have often been compared to the moccasins of many indigenous tribes (most recently in the book Tread Lightly) and we take pride in our simple yet functional designs. Although shoe styles have taken many twists and turns since the advent of civilization, basic footwear needs really haven't changed—and they don't need to. Technology has given us new sewing methods and brighter colors, but all it really comes down to is a natural, soft layer of leather wrapped around your foot.



  1. David
    I'd bet it was probably larger than a size 7 when it was new. Would the leather have shrunk up a bit over all that time as it dried out?
    1. Elf Martin
      Good question! I don't think the archaeologists addressed that possibility in what we read.
  2. Aveitos
    This post is worth everyone’s attention. Good work.
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