What Are Shoes and How Do They Work?

Shoes are footwear designed to protect the feet from the environment and from the ground that you walk on. The right shoes can prevent a range of foot problems, from blisters to postural issues. Shoes that don’t fit properly can cause foot pain and can also lead to more serious problems such as bunions, corns and Morton’s neuroma.

Shoemaking was a traditional handicraft until the 19th century when it became increasingly mechanised. Today shoes are mostly made in factories, but high-end designer shoes may still be handmade. The outer layer of most shoes is leather, although fabric uppers and linings are becoming more common. Many modern shoes have a synthetic sole, which is more lightweight and durable than leather, but not as soft or flexible. The heel, or heel counter, can be either natural or plastic, and it can be raised for fashion, to improve the shoe’s balance, or for other reasons.

A shoe’s laced opening is usually closed with laces, but other closing systems are sometimes used, such as straps with buckles, elastic bands, velcro straps or buttons. Most shoes have a tongue that helps seal the laced area and prevent the lace from abrasively rubbing against the foot. Some shoes have an additional insole to add cushioning, and some have a raised back called a heel (often called a gentleman’s corner) which can be chiselled to stop the pointed tip of the shoe from catching on trousers.

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