Icons 1423863189 12 Shoe Design

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If the shoe fits wear it! People have worn protective foot coverings ever since they have walked long distances. Shoes cover our feet and protect them from rough ground, sharp objects and harsh weather conditions. Sandals have been the most basic type of shoe in addition to wrap around soft-soled moccasins. Shoes protect and reveal character. Shoes tell about the person who wears them and the historical time and conditions in which they were worn. The shape helps tell how the wearer stands and walks, their economic and social status, values and styles of the owner. Shoes show our personality! Until 1850 most left and right shoes were made identically. Now shoes are made with four basic parts: upper, insert, midsole and outsole. How long does your shoe last and where do your old shoes go?

Your shoes were made for walking!

Activity 1 – If the Shoe Fits!

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How many pairs of shoes do you have? Get them out, line them up and count them. Make a chart of your shoes. Make small drawings on the left side of your paper. Label your columns: Use, Type, Materials, Maintenance, End of Life. Chart each shoe as to its use: Dress, Casual, Sports, Water, etc. Chart each shoe as to its type: Slip on, Tie, Buckle, Snap, Velcro, Zipper, etc. List the key materials of each shoe: Leather, Rubber, Plastic, Cloth, etc. Tell what you do to keep the shoe in good condition: Wipe, Polish, Wash, Replace, etc. Finally tell why you stopped wearing your shoes and where will your shoes go when you have finished with them. How many shoes do you really need?

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Activity 2 – Walk a Mile in My Shoes

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Tread on the earth lightly. What makes a good tread? Take note of different tread prints. Make six different dirt prints on paper. Compare your tread prints with friends. Next draw the sole pattern of each tread beside the tread print on the sheets of paper. Compare the different tread patterns. What can you learn about the function of the shoe and the tread? Pick one of the tread prints and redesign the tread. Be sure to design an upper with your tread pattern in activity 3.

Walk a mile in my shoes!

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Activity 3 – History of Shoes

DId people always wear shoes? What were they made of? How long did they last? Take some time to research back in time the history of shoes. Check out this infographic of shoes or this infographic of shoes and then make your own infographic of shoes from different periods. What can we learn about shoes from centuries of wearing shoes?**
Become a shoe buff!

Activity 4 – Be a Shoe Designer

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Think about a new look or a new type of shoe. What kind of shoes would you like to see that do not exist? Illustrate or draw shoes on people’s feet. Sketch out different ideas using different materials, different systems of closure. Be sure to draw the shoes from multiple views- top, side, sole or bottom. Share your shoe design with someone to get some feedback. What questions or concerns does your reviewer have? How will you adjust your design? Take notes, make sketches, envision new versions of comfort and style!

If the shoe fits, wear it!

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Activity 5 – Shoes in Stories

Shoes walk thousands of miles in their soles. They see and experience all kinds of adventures. Shoes are a wonderful starting point for a story. For inspiration, read these shoe stories. Shoes form to the feet and often the personality of the people that wear them. Think of shoes that are in stories that you know. How about Cinderella’s glass slipper? How about Dorothy’s red shoes? How about the story, The Red Shoes, about ballet? Look around and find a pair of shoes. Let them be the starting point of a short story. Used clothing stores are great places to look if you cannot find any. Shoe collections are also good places. How about those shoes you see walking home slung over and hanging from a power line in the alley? Or that baby’s slipper left behind on the sidewalk? Where have they been? Who did they belong to? Grab your journal. Make some notes. Start writing. Submit your story in text form or make a graphic novel or record a video reading.

Shoes! Shoes! Shoes!

Activity 6 – CUSTOMIZE a Shoe

“Sneakers” became popularized throughout the 20th century for the characteristically quiet rubber soles that allowed the wearer to “sneak” around in them. People eventually realized that these rubber soles were perfect for athletic purposes and sports began to develop their own specialized shoes. Athletes everywhere utilized the technology in the form of tennis, basketball, wrestling, and running shoes. As technology became better, track and field spikes, football/soccer cleats, golf shoes, and even skateboarding shoes became possible. Along with the added safety and comfort of specialized footwear, athletes also began signing shoe deals to have their own signature shoes. You or a family member likely own a pair of signature footwear! Create your own signature shoe using this online tool by Nike. First, choose a shoe design and size, then click customize and get creative! Upload your new shoe brand to the gallery!


  • The tennis shoe was an early form of footwear.
  • The sole of the shoe protects our feet from wear.
  • Some shoes are more comfortable than others.
  • Shoe design responds to climate.
  • Shoes should be biodegradable.
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