The first shoe style in ancient Egyptian times seems to have been sandals. During that time, the style of the sandal actually represented where you were in society. The kings, princes, and priests would wear a sandal with a long curved toe. Everyone else (commoners) would wear an open-toed style with a middle and ankle strap. I wonder how these shoes would perform during hiking conditions. It is possible that the first shoes were developed because of frequent walking, so perhaps many of them would do well.
Many other cultures, besides the Egyptians, also designed their footwear around rank in society. At one point in time in the Roman culture, the higher the top of the shoe was above the ankle, the higher the rank of the officers wearing them. This could be somewhat considered one of the first hiking boot styles, though it was not referred to by that name then. Roman women had a different type of shoe than the men that could be classified as a sandal.
I was interested to learn that in Babouche, India, during the 16th century, only those who were nobles or well-off were allowed to even wear shoes. In China, shoes have been historically used as a way to keep the feet of the female tiny and delicate.
Maybe one of the most interesting styles of shoe, well actually boot, that I have heard of is the Alpine Boot, a very sturdy boot invented in 1910. In addition to a sturdy sole, bent nails were used in the design to ensure that a hiker or climber wearing these boots would have a strong foothold. Nowadays, you are more likely to see rubber soles with carved in traction than a bent nail design.
Leather looks to be a common material used in most of the shoes and boots. It's kind of neat when you think about that part. Even though each culture has likely come up with the idea for shoes or footwear on its own, most all of them used the same exact material.
It seems that now shoes are leaning closer to being designed more around purpose of use than around ranking. When looking at shoes and how they began across cultures, they are the same in that the main purpose is to protect the soles of the feet, as well as the fact that many are made of leather, which also rings true today. Although, today we now have faux leather, vinyl, rubber, canvas, and many more materials to work with.
*I originally published this via Yahoo Contributor Network