Shoes of the World

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What kinds of shoes do people wear around the world? Colin Lowther and Liz Waid look at unusual and special shoes from around the world. How does culture influence clothing?

 Voice 1

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Colin Lowther.

Voice 2 

And I’m Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

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Voice 1 

How much money would you pay for a pair of shoes? Christopher Michael Shellis is a jewelry designer. He designs beautiful jewelry that people can wear around their fingers, necks, or wrists. In 2011, he designed a very interesting pair of shoes. The shoes were made of solid gold. They were covered with over 2,000 shiny diamonds. Shellis called the shoes “jewelry you can wear on your feet”. These shoes cost more money than any other shoes in the world — 140,000 Great British Pounds!

Voice 2 

Most people cannot buy expensive shoes like these. And many people do not even want them! But people everywhere do wear shoes. Today’s Spotlight is on shoes. A shoe seems like a simple thing – it just needs to protect a foot from the ground. But there are many different kinds of shoes from all around the world. And the history and culture of each place has influenced the design of its shoes. Today, we travel around the world looking at shoes!

Voice 1 

In the Middle East, religion has influenced shoe design. One popular kind of shoe here is the babouche. This design of shoe is a traditional shoe from Morocco. Traditional babouches are made from soft leather. They have a pointed toe. Some have bead decorations, or a design made from thin, colored, thread.

Babouche Slippers in Morocco;
Babouche Slippers in Morocco; “Babouche Slippers” (CC BY 2.0) by just_a_cheeseburger
Voice 2 

So how has religion influenced this shoe design? People worshipping at a mosque must remove their shoes. They may not wear shoes when they enter. So, they want a shoe they can remove easily. Babouches cover most of the foot. But they do not cover the heel, or back of the foot. This makes the shoe easy to put on and to remove. People also like babouches because they do not make a person’s foot too hot. And they are very comfortable.

Voice 1 

Religion and culture have also influenced the design of shoes in India. The paduka is a very old shoe design there. Experts believe this design is over 4,000 years old! It is a sandal – it does not cover the whole foot. But it goes on the foot easily and keeps it cool.

Paduka sandal from India;
Paduka sandal from India; Pebble101, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Voice 2 

Padukas have a simple design. A paduka maker cuts a piece of wood into the rough shape of the bottom of a foot. Then, he adds a small knob on the top. This knob is a small round piece of wood. It sits between a person’s first two toes. Under the base of the shoe, there are thin rounded pieces of wood in the back and front. These pieces of wood raise the shoe off the ground.

Voice 1 

The Hindu religion is common in India. Hindus believe they should not harm any living thing. The design of padukas follows this idea. The area of the shoe that touches the ground is very small. It is less likely to harm the ground under it or any insect around it. Also, padukas are never made from leather – animal skin. Instead, they are always made from wood, ivory or metal. Today, very religious people usually wear padukas. Or people may wear them to a special ceremony or event.

Voice 2 

Travel with us now to a much colder climate – the country of Finland, in northern Europe. The people here would not wear sandals at all! Instead, the Saami people of Finland wear very warm boots. The Saami people keep and raise reindeer. Reindeer are very large animals. They have antlers – long, hard, bones that grow from their heads. The Saami people keep the reindeer for food. But the reindeer also provide the Saami with the material for their boots!

Saami boots from Norway;
Saami boots from Norway; Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Voice 1 

Traditional Saami reindeer boots cover a person’s whole foot. And they may cover some of the leg too. The Saami make these traditional boots from reindeer skin leather. The hair on the skin helps make the boots very warm. Reindeer hair is shaped like a tube. It has air inside. This helps keep the reindeer warm. It also means that reindeer boots are very warm! Traditional reindeer boots have a point or a kind of hook at the end – the end of the boot points up.

Voice 2 

Many cultures have influenced the design of shoes. But shoes also become an important part of a culture. This is the case with klompen from the Netherlands. Each klompen shoe is made from a solid piece of wood. The inside of the shoe is cut out, so a foot can go in it. Many people think of klompen when they think of the Netherlands.

An old pair of Klompen from the Netherlands;
An old pair of Klompen from the Netherlands; Image by Aline Dassel from Pixabay
Voice 1 

The design of klompen shoes is over 800 years old. They were originally the shoe of factory workers. That is because klompen are excellent at protecting feet. They protect feet from sharp objects and harmful liquid acids. Today, few people wear klompen as a common shoe. But people may wear them for working outside. And they are a very popular thing people bring home when they visit the Netherlands!

Voice 2 

Finally, we travel to the island of Japan. Here, we see geta. Geta are a traditional shoe in Japan. A geta sandal is usually made from wood and cloth. When wearing a geta, a person’s foot sits on a long square of wood. In the middle of the geta there is a cloth that forms a shape like a letter “V”. This cloth comes up in the center of the sandal. It goes between a person’s first and second toes, and then to the middle of the sandal. When a person’s foot is in geta, it is not in the center of the geta. But this also means each geta – the one for the right foot, and the one for the left foot – looks the same.

Geta Sandals from Japan;
Geta Sandals from Japan; Image by Miguel Á. Padriñán from Pixabay
Voice 1 

Under the base of the shoe there are two straight wooden “ha”. This word means “teeth” in the Japanese language. There are ha in the front and in the back. Usually geta are about 3-5 centimetres tall. They are a popular shoe for men and women in Japan.

Voice 2 

It is easy to see how each place and each culture needs their own kind of shoe. Is there a special kind of shoe in your culture? Did we leave out a kind of shoe you want to hear about? Tell us what you think. You can email us at contact@spotlightenglish.com. You can also find us on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Voice 1 

The writer of this program was Liz Waid. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United Kingdom and the United States.  You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.spotlightenglish.com. This program is called, “Shoes of the World”.

Voice 2 

Visit our website to download our free official app for Android and Apple devices. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.


Is there a popular shoe in your culture? What is your favorite kind of shoe?



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  • With me, I really like sandal and sneaker because It makes me feel active and polite. Besides, sandals and sneakers are very easy to mix any clothes such as dress, shirts, trousers,… I can wear it to go to school or to work or hang out with my friends. It is convenient and comfortable. I always choose a good brand to buy the quality of a shoe. The aim protects my leg.

  • It is very interesting video it improves me how the traditional and even religious have influenced shoes all over the world

  • In Việt Nam has a traditional shoes is called “dép lào” it make by rubber. It has shaped like geta of Japan. Nowadays there are many models of it and they make it by different materials.

  • In my country, the prices of the home used shoes about $3-10. If I need the pair of shoes to work or school, I will save money and buy it.

  • Yes I think a zanoopa he popular fo my culture, my favorite shoes a sneaker i can wear it over a dress or jeans wherever, and very comfortable

  • Shoe design in India is very interesting. They have special shape. I wonder how to wear them on feet. I think you will have hard to move while wearing them.

  • In my country we have a traditional shoes and it is boots with high heels, with a longitudinal slit in the tops, embroidered with strips of green leather, boots with felt stockings, with soft soles, pointed toes, as well as quilted felt boots, ichigi, shokai (pistons).

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