Sole Searching

A new book celebrates the history of footwear

Strappy sandals, 1949

“To put it in fashion terms, we’re having a major shoe moment,” reads a glowing yellow spread in The Shoe Book, a footwear history tome penned by author—and W contributor—Nancy MacDonell. Beginning with the oldest known leather shoe from 3400 BC, the book guides readers through the most notable footwear in history, from the extreme (17th-century Chopines which required assistants for walking) to the iconic (Biba platforms, Chanel cap-toe pumps, and Nancy Sinatra’s made-for-walking boots) and beyond. Along the way, shoe gurus provide insight: Manolo Blahnik discusses his hatred of platforms, Bruno Frisoni reveals his love of his own feet (“I am not a supermodel, but I know my feet look good”), and Christian Louboutin divulges the worst footwear faux pas one can make. Not only is the book informative, it’s stunning, to boot.

The Shoe Book, $50,

Photos: Sole Searching

Strappy sandals, 1949. ©Nina Leen / Time Life.

Daphne Guinness at the Met Gala, 2011. ©Neilson Bernard / Getty Images.

Chaussures Chanel, 1958. ©All rights reserved.

Mary Quant with models, 1972. ©Getty Images.

Ancient Egyptian Sandals. ©Corbis.

Lady Gaga in Noritaka Tatehana shoes. Photo by Film Magic.

Beth Levine shoes. ©Robert Morris.

The Shoe Book. Courtesy of Assouline.