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High Heels in Ancient History: Egyptian butchers wore them to walk above the blood from dead animals

Alex A

Today, it’s  a $40 billion dollars industry; it serves as a marker of style, taste, and class. Some call them the ” jewelry of feet”, others, ” feet’s worst nightmare”.

High heeled shoes have reserved their place in the modern world as an inevitable part of every woman’s wardrobe – according to the Spine Health Institute, 72% of women will wear high heels at some point.

While today they are exclusively worn by women, going back 2000 years both male and female wore high heels for different purposes.


In ancient Egypt people, from the lower class usually walked and worked barefoot, while there are murals from 3500 B.C depicting the higher class wearing early versions of high heeled shoes.

The shoes, made from flexible leather pieces held together with lacing, were designed to resemble the symbol “Ankh” – the ancient Egyptian hieroglyph which represents the concept of life.

Both females and males from the upper class wore high heeled shoes only for ceremonial purposes. However, history records show that butchers in ancient Egypt wore high heels as well, but not as a class statement or for ceremonial purposes, but for a practical reason.

Egyptian butchers  wore high-heeled shoes in order to walk above the blood of the slaughtered death animals.

In the Middle East, high heels were also perceived as an object of functionality. Persian horse riders wore high heels because they helped hold the foot in stirrups and keep  them still when they needed to stand up and shoot arrows. This kind of footwear is shown on a 9th-cenutry ceramic bowl from Persia.

museum-display-of-shoes Photo Credit
Museum display of shoes Photo Credit

Ancient Roman and Greeks, both men and women, wore platform sandals called Kothorni or buskins, but unlike Persian horse riders or Egyptian butchers, high heels were worn to separate the social classes.

In ancient Rome, where prostitution was legal, high heels were used to identify those within the trade to clients.