A shoe is an item of footwear intended to protect and comfort the human foot while doing various activities. Shoes are also used as an item of decoration. The design of shoes has varied enormously through time and from culture to culture, with appearance originally being tied to function. Additionally fashion has often dictated many design elements, such as whether shoes have very high heels or flat ones. Contemporary footwear varies widely in style, complexity and cost. Basic sandals may consist of only a thin sole and simple strap. High fashion shoes may be made of very expensive materials in complex construction and sell for thousands of dollars a pair. Other shoes are for very specific purposes, such as boots specially designed for mountaineering or skiing.
Shoes have traditionally been made from leather, wood or canvas, but are increasingly made from rubber, plastics, and other petrochemical-derived materials.
Until recent years, shoes were not worn by most of the world’s population—largely because they could not afford them. Only with the advent of mass production, making shoes available very cheaply, has shoe-wearing become predominant.
The foot contains more bones than any other single part of the body. Though it has evolved over hundreds of thousands of years in relation to vastly varied terrain and climate conditions, the foot is still vulnerable to environmental hazards such as sharp rocks and hot ground, which shoes can protect against.