Hundred-year-old Tips for Buying Shoes that Fit

19-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Friday, May 29, 1914:  Just like some other days.

Picture Source: Red Cross Shoe Ad in Ladies Home Journal (November, 1913)

Picture Source: Red Cross Shoe Ad in Ladies Home Journal (November, 1913)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Since Grandma didn’t write much a hundred years ago today, I’m going to go off on a tangent.

My feet hurt! A few days ago I wore some new shoes—and ended up with terrible blisters. This hundred-old-information about how to select shoes resonated with me—and gave me clues about what was wrong with my shoes. (I think they are too wide and my foot is slipping forward.)

The Shoe

The style of the shoe is very closely related to the corset in the amount of harm it is capable of doing. The compression of the foot interferes with the circulation, compresses the nerves, weakens muscles and ligaments which should support the arch, and is the prolific source of corns, bunions, weak ankles, and “flat” foot.

The front part of the sole must be so designed that the great toe will retain its normal position. In many shoes the great toe is forced out of its natural position toward the middle of the sole instead of pointing straight forward. This leads to a malformation of the foot and ingrowing toe-nails.

The front part of the upper leather must be broad enough for the free movement of all the toes in walking; when it does not give room enough for the toes to spread outward and forward in walking they are bent on themselves. This makes the descent of hills and all active exercise and games very painful. Tight leather uppers are also productive of corns.

The shoe should be slightly longer than the foot, and sufficiently broad for the foot to spread in walking; but, at the same time, the shoe must fit snugly about the heal and instep, or else the foot will slip forward in walking, and all the evil effects of too short a shoe will result.

1913-11-47.d

The heel must be broad and low. High heels force the foot to keep perpetually and unnaturally on the stretch; if they are worn in early youth, they may bring about permanent deformity of the skeleton and the foot.

Moreover, the high heel interferes with the natural walk, in which the pressure of the foot on the ground passes from the heel to the toes. The high heel requires that the front of the foot should be set down first instead of the heel. The result is an awkward tripping gait and a short step, which is very fatiguing,

Personal Hygiene and Physical Training for Women (1911) by Anna M. Galbraith

21 Responses

  1. Sound advice. And probably should be compulsory reading for all shoe designers. It also explains why the best shoes I have ever had were made specifically for me!

  2. An awkward gait and short step isn’t all that is fatiguing about high heels!

  3. I always dread buying new shoes. It’s a treat when they don’t have to be “broken in”.
    Grandma must really have been depressed about the death of her newborn niece; she hasn’t written anything in a long while….

    • At least she wrote a few words specifically for this date. The previous five days were all summarized in one entry: “Nothing much happening.” Today she wrote: “Just like some other days.”

      It might be my imagination, but I think that things were slowly getting better.

  4. How many of us wore ill-fitting shoes years ago and now can prove !!!

  5. I’ve never enjoyed buying shoes. I sometimes wish I could afford to have them special made. There’s alot that goes on to make shoes feel right. Thanks for sharing this interesting and helpful info from history. :)

  6. I like ‘the evil effects of too short a toe’. I wonder what Ms. Galbraith would think of some womens’ shoes today.

  7. And the boots are good looking too!

    Speaking of going off on a tangent, does anyone else remember the days when shoe stores had x-ray machines to evaluate what size one should be buying?

  8. I actually have some newer editions of the 310’s. Very hip even today 100years later.

  9. I have a sterling silver shoe button hook that was my grand mother’s.

    • What a wonderful memento! It’s hard to imagine how complicated (and time-consuming) it must have been to put on and take off shoes back then.

  10. What a fun post! Shoes are forever the greatest invention…or the greatest pain!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,092 other followers

%d bloggers like this: