In the late 1960s and early 1970s, young people began dressing less formally. Even footwear became more casual, as girls and women shunned high heels and boys and men avoided dress shoes even for formal occasions. Out of this desire for attire that was more comfortable came the advent of the earth shoe: footwear, often made of soft tanned leather, which featured a heel that was positioned lower than the toes. This design was said to align the body so that the pelvis and shoulders naturally swayed back, enhancing posture and permitting deeper, improved breathing.
Earth shoes were created for men and women, often hand-sewn, and came in various styles. They were designed as a traditional shoe but with as few as two or as many as eight pairs of holes for laces. They sometimes were backless and were fastened by buckles or straps instead of laces. They came as boots, high-tops, and even sandals. Whatever their style, they stretched and bended with the shape and movement of the foot. They were touted as ideal walking shoes.
The first earth shoes were designed in the 1950s and 1960s by Anne Kalso, a Danish yoga instructor. (Yoga is a type of exercise that enhances both the mind and the body.) Supposedly earth shoes were first commercially sold in the United States on April 22, 1970, the very first Earth Day, a yearly observance that spotlights the importance of environmental conservation. This explains how they came to be called earth shoes, which even became one of the popular brand names for this style of footwear.
Lawlor, Laurie. Where Will This Shoe Take You?: A Walk Through the History of Footwear. New York: Walker and Co., 1996.
Yue, Charlotte, and David Yue. Shoes: Their History in Words and Pictures. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.