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Walking to work last week, I saw two young things in front of me wearing what can only be described as Roman, or gladiator, sandals. A short while later I passed a shoe store window full of them, and it made me laugh. What goes around comes around, made manifest. Not having paid much attention to the Spring collections, I missed that this was a hot item for 2015 (see the amusing “Visual History of the Gladiator Sandal” on Vogue.com: http://www.vogue.com/10023865/shop-spring-2015-trend-gladiator-sandals/)

Did the gladiators really wear – and fight in – these sandals, or was that image created by the Hollywood costume designers for sword and sandal epics? A quick look at classical sculpture reveals that certainly some sort of leather and thong sandal was commonly depicted, if not the ones that lace all the way up the leg. The Roman army, which knew something about marching long distances, was apparently shod with caligae, a lace up sandal-boot with a thick sole.

Any shoes that go on my feet have to feel good and be appropriate to the occasion, and I also hope that they will look good. As I live in a city I also must be able to walk in them, sometimes quite a ways, and these criteria alone eliminate many fashion-forward styles. Manolo Blahnik’s shoe drawings may be quite beautiful, but I suspect that Mr. Blahnik does not himself actually walk in his own creations, and the same goes for Jimmy Choo. Fashion trends notwithstanding, the big question for me when I’m considering a shoe purchase is: will it pass the Godzilla test? If a certain large amphibian should suddenly emerge from New York harbor, would I be able to escape his large lizardy feet and crumbling buildings in these shoes? No? Then no matter how gorgeous, failure of the Godzilla test means NO SALE!

Feminists have weighed in for decades about the misogyny of women’s shoe design, and nearly anyone who has walked several blocks in spike heels knows that they are right. But many women still want to present themselves with that elevated heel and raised rear end – as Louisa Mae Alcott says in Little Women, “Let us be elegant or die!” So bravo to the Romans for their practical footwear and all the designers who have reiterated them over the centuries – they are compelling, comfortable – and movie-monster safe.

Roman footwear

©Poets Sinews, 2015. Reuse with permission.