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Oldest Leather Shoes found in Armenia: Minimalist Running has Deep Roots, or Does It???

Archaeologists recently found a pair of 5,500 year old leather shoes in Armenia, making this the oldest leather shoe ever found (you can see a picture of the shoes to the left – picture taken from via AP Photo/Department of Archaeology University College Cork). The shoe is made from a single piece of leather laced up the heel and down the midline of the midfoot and forefoot.

The shoe was stuffed with grass, though it is unknown if this was for insulation, to be used as a lining, or simply to maintain the shape of the shoe. My hypothesis? The grass was there to beef up the heel to make sure the ancient Armenian wearing it wouldn’t suffer injury due to heel striking while running. Alternative hypothesis? The grass was an ancient pronation control device. No word yet on what the heel-toe drop is on this shoe, but I’d be willing to bet that it’s zero – if they let me borrow it, I’d be happy to measure it with my bar clamp technique!

In all seriousness, this is a pretty cool story, and what I find most interesting about it is that it shows that humans have been wearing shoes for an awful long time, and it would be really interesting to know just how far back shoes like this existed. You can read the story in its entirety here:

About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.


  1. And why didn’t you give any credit to your sister for pointing this story out to you? :) …or did you find it on your own before me? With your crazy shoe addiction, these types of links catch my eye!

  2. That’s a cool post. I don’t think (could be wrong) that heel padding came into the scene until the ’70’s. At least as far as runners go. It was about the time Nike made their intital rise.

    • Pete Larson says:


      Yep, I think you’re right about Nike. I was being sarcastic in my
      post :)


      Sent from my iPod

  3. Runningcool says:

    Great story Pete, this kind of blows away the myth that everone use to run barefoot, even the tribe made famous by ‘born to run’ wear sandels made out of car tyres!
    i found this great interview with a super masters runner who was switched to flexible racing flats and also trains bare foot on grass.
    this is kind of back to the future because Percy Cerutty use to train his boys barefoot on grass and sand and Arthur Lydiard recommended switching away from running ‘BOOTS’ to racing flats years ago, see interview [about 1996]
    PS just got a pair of the retro Nike Elite shoes and will be road testing them soon.
    the shoes are about the same weight as my nike free’s.

  4. Next thing you know, Nike is going to be offering a lace-up one piece leather trainer complete with grass lining….

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