The 10 Most Essential Women's Shoes in the 1970s

Are you a true child of the 1970s? See how many of these essential shoes you owned to find out!

10. Earth Shoes


Going from worst to first, I’m almost reluctant to name Earth Shoes to a list of “essential” anything because they were so completely unfortunate looking. The “negative heel technology” shoes represented one of those terrible moments when fashion tried to merge with health benefits. Anne Kalsø, a native of Denmark, invented the shoes in the 1950s. According to the Earth Shoes website:

Kalsø ‘s passion for yoga led her to study in Switzerland and eventually in Santos, Brazil. It was there, in 1957, that she observed the excellent posture of indigenous Brazilians, and the impressions left by their bare footprints as they walked through beach sand. She observed that the footprints laid were deeper in the heels than in the toes. This natural body position resonated with the thoughtful Kalsø. It echoed a formative yoga pose she knew well – Tadasana (the ‘Mountain’ pose). posture improved, and how her breathing passages opened. She was inspired.As she herself emulated the pose of the native Brazilians, she noticed how her own posture improved, and how her breathing passages opened. She was inspired.

Ten years later, Earth Shoes were born in Copenhagen. The company claimed that many people reported that the shoes eased chronic foot and body problems. It wasn’t until April 1, 1970 — coinciding with the first Earth Day — that the first “Kalsø Earth Shoes” store opened in the United States. The shoes became wildly popular, even appearing on the Tonight Show and in TIME magazine. They’re still available, by the way, in case you’re feeling nostalgic or feel the need to have your breathing passages opened.

9. Dr. Scholl’s Exercise Sandals

How could you not love wooden shoes that could be purchased at the drug store and promised to tone your calves? Dr. Scholl’s Exercise Sandals had a raised toe crest and contoured sole that encouraged “natural gripping and flexing when walking.” This was supposed to work those calf muscles, but in reality, they caused the wearer to constantly struggle to keep the shoes attached to the feet. You alway knew when someone wearing the shoes was near by the clunk…drag…clunk…drag sounds that came with them.

8. Candie’s

Almost everyone had a pair of these Candie’s Italian leather mules, but no one admitted (at least back then) that the only reason we bought them was because of the racy ads in Seventeen. They were terribly uncomfortable —  too narrow for most feet and the wood-look molded plastic was so slippery that your feet constantly slid to the bottom of the shoe. We wore them with our skin-tight Jordache jeans and wobbled around high school football games like newborn foals.

7. Moccasins

These were really hard to find unless you made a trip out West, to one of those cheesy souvenir shops. I bought mine on a trip to the Canadian Rockies from a “real” Indian shop (back before we knew they were Native Americans). All things “Indian” were in vogue then — beads, turquoise, silver, leather. Moccasins were available in multiple heights, from ankle height all the way up to the knee and they were super comfortable. The soles were durable, but anytime you stepped on a rock it became painfully obvious that you weren’t wearing “real” shoes.

6. Famalores

Italian designer Joseph Famalore created these wavy-sole platform shoes, dubbed the Get There. They were a staple of the 1970s, usually worn with hip-hugging bell-bottom jeans that skimmed the tops of them. Famolare received a Coty award in 1973 for shoes that were “ergonomically designed and quite ahead of their time.” When he died at age 82, his daughter, Bibiana Famolare Heymann, said, “With a wife and two daughters, he never accepted the idea that a woman’s feet should hurt because she was wearing a high heel.” They might have made a better showing on this list just because of additional comfort points, but honestly, they’re hideous, aren’t they?

5. Wood Cutout Heels

Were they platform shoes or wedges? Who knows, but they were pure shoe design genius and could double as a boredom buster during school or church.

4. Wedge Loafers

Were they wedges? Loafers? Platforms?  All of the above! These were the platform shoes you could wear in a professional setting without screaming “Boho hippie!”

3. Go-go Boots

Go-go boots actually got their start in the 1960s, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that the low cost of mass-producing vinyl boots made them accessible to nearly everyone.  Shiny, skin-tight, and often with platform heels, go-go boots complimented the higher hemlines of the era and were often worn with mini skirts or with hot pants (that’s my mom rocking the white hot pants and black vinyl go-go boots in the picture above!). Black and white were most popular, but they were available in a rainbow of colors.

2. Clogs

Instead of health benefits, clogs offered comfort. Slipping your sock-clad feet into a roomy leather and wooden clog was like wearing a pair of comfortable slippers. Except with wood. They could also be worn with pantyhose and a prairie skirt if you wanted to dress up a little. This would be the perfect shoe except for the problem of wet heels on rainy days. And if you lived in the Midwest, where it snows 3/4 of the year, they were both wet and chilly. But oh, so comfortable!

1. Platform Shoes

If you didn’t own at least one pair of platform shoes, you probably didn’t live through the ’70s, which is why this quintessential symbol of the era came in at #1. Platform shoes came in all shapes and styles. Almost no shoes in the 1970s escaped being turned into height-enhancing platforms (for both men and women). I could hardly wait until the day I turned thirteen and my mom finally decided I was old enough to wear platform shoes (just like the ones above — they were good “starter” platforms).

How did you do? How many of these 10 essential shoes did you own in the 1970s?

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