Silly, silly shoes

Photo by Meena who chased this lady into a tea shop

I’ve become a bit obsessed with shoes. We have been walking around famous ancient places like the forbidden city and the great wall of china, and I’m the one looking down, snapping pics of people’s feet.

It seems that orange is in fashion.










Often and wrongly matched with yellow.







Most shoes seem to be the sort short-people-who-want-to-look-taller would chose.


And short people who want to look taller but still want to jog around the lake.







Although there are plenty of plastic and rubber ones too.

Here is a fine selection of shoes with silly things stuck on the front.



There are bizarre shoes with both bits missing and extraneous bits


Check out the very high heels that these people thought appropriate to HIKE the great wall in!!






The blokes mostly get away with sneakers, as long as they are fluorescent.

Except the older men, who wear kung fu slippers with socks

Speaking of socks, I have seen countless women who clearly made a big effort to dress up, and then committed fashion sabotage age by adding sockettes.








Oh dear!

And there is widespread if not endemic inappropriate use of stockings.


And here are my finalists for most ugly.








I saw a lady begging. Her feet looked like this, probably the result of foot binding as a young girl.



There are still Chinese ladies in their 70s with feet deformed by breaking and binding. A hundred years ago, maybe half all Chinese women had bound feet, and all of those in the wealthy classes. Of course, under the communist regime, they suffered even worse, farm labour is even more difficult when you can hardly walk and are not allowed to rest.


I’m don’t equate the wearing of silly shoes with the barbarity of feet binding. However, as the mother of a nine year old daughter who cannot walk, I find the idea of intentionally disabling one’s own child pure evil, even more so when done for the pleasure of one’s future husband. Yet, a billion women were subjected to it, over 1000 years.

It makes me think how important it is to constantly challenge our idea of ‘normal’ and ‘ok’ and ‘acceptable’.

1000 years!

That’s 30 generations!

That is a lot of mothers and fathers who thought it was ok to break their children’s bones, repeatedly, and bind their feet so tight they cried all night in pain, on the off chance their pretty feet would enable them to marry ‘up’ . They took an enormous risk, which apparently rarely paid off. It usually resulted in having a daughter unable to walk or work in the fields. They were called ‘lily feet’. How’s that for a euphemism!  The bound feet were never unwrapped in front of their husbands. Apparently dainty little feet are not so alluring, when the pus and blood and rotting skin are visible.

And yet they thought it was ok. Commendable, even.

What do we do, in the name of ‘normal’, to ourselves and our daughters?  Ear piercing? Sexualised clothes, starvation diets? toddler beauty contests? leg waxing? ( and worse)  FGM? Cosmetic surgery?  Don’t get me started on cosmetic surgery.

Wearing silly shoes?

Some of these might be actually ok, and some might just ‘seem’ ok. Who knows? Actually I don’t think any of them are as bad as foot binding.   But it did occur to me that there is a ‘history repeating itselfness’ to the issue. Maybe some people just love heels and don’t find them uncomfortable. I wouldn’t know, I haven’t owned any since bridesmaid duty 13 years ago!


But I followed the lady wearing these ridiculous shoes for 5 minutes. She was clearly in pain, but hobbled on, arm in arm with her boyfriend. I wondered if he knew her smile was hiding a grimace.

Am I too critical?


By the way, I did see one pair of shoes I liked.

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13 Responses to Silly, silly shoes

  1. Maria October 21, 2012 at 12:27 am #

    If I remember correctly, the official color of 2012 is that exact orange. I think last year’s was mint or apple green. (Alright, end of random trivia information!)

    I do think it’s crazy what sort of shoes women decide to wear hiking.

    And that picture of the feet… *shudder* who comes up with this idiocy?

  2. sonja everson October 21, 2012 at 4:58 am #

    I’m reading this post while attending a conference and I burst out laughing while looking at all the silly shoe pictures (so inappropriate). I remember hiking the Great Wall and thinking the exact same thing about some of the shoe choices that woman chose for ‘hiking’. It’s definitely something that makes you wonder…

  3. Tracey Mansted October 21, 2012 at 5:22 am #

    I’m with you on the high heels idiocy…and yet even though I haven’t worn them for about 15 years, I still catch myself liking how they look in the store!

    I think this is just the pervasive nature of objects of desire – particularly marketed objects of desire like ridiculously expensive shoes. It does seem very gender based doesn’t it – can’t imagine men will ever wear 6 inch stilettos (other than cross dressing men who see that style of shoe as a very feminine attribute). I too have pondered the foot binding:high heels equation.

    I also don’t understand heavy make-up, cosmetic surgery, or tattoos (though I do still wear a nose stud from the ’90s so obviously slipped up there : )

    Now, if those women were travelling the world, do you think they would still pack/carry those great clonkers? Comfort to weight ratio is all wrong…

    By the way – how are your Keens holding out? We love ours and they will go in the travel bag :)
    Tracey Mansted recently posted..Happy Birthday Baby!My Profile

  4. Julie Sparrow October 21, 2012 at 6:49 am #

    I have to comment on the “sock-ettes”. When we first visited China in 2001 we noticed that, like in Afghanistan, virtually every woman wore them or stockings. According to my mum Chinese women she knew found it bizarre that Westerners would go out with nothing on their feet but shoes.
    My feet dried out and cracked like nobody’s business in Kabul if I didn’t wear a protective layer, even sometimes to the point of bleeding. So maybe the women with the sock-ettes are making a compromise between fashion and foot care!

  5. Cas October 21, 2012 at 8:46 pm #

    Did you see these “scary beautiful” shoes?

    I actually think socks and high heels are coming into fashion…!!!

  6. Jenny October 24, 2012 at 6:56 am #

    I love how you turned this silly “look at how stupid they look” blog post into a cultural and somehow even understanding piece of travel writing. Oh, the pain of the little Chinese girls… Thank you very much!!
    Jenny recently posted..Top Ten Campingplatz Moke Lake: einfach unbeschreiblichMy Profile

  7. Lisa Wood October 25, 2012 at 12:07 pm #

    I LOVE shoes but I so cant image wearing any of those crazy highheels/flats/sneakers! They are not even nice shoes ~ all in the name of fashion?

    We nominated you for a Liebster blog award which is given to inspiring blogs because we love reading about your travels.

    More information about what to do over at my blog :)

    Looking forward to reading the answers to the questions and to seeing who you tag!

    Lisa Wood recently posted..New Life on the Road Tagged in Liebster Award!My Profile

  8. Josie October 26, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

    Hahaha some of those shoes are terrible and must be soooooo uncomfortable. Great post :)
    Josie recently posted..Eastland Women’s Sunrise Boat ShoeMy Profile

  9. Vanessa November 20, 2012 at 7:52 pm #

    I live in Korea, and while I haven’t taken pictures of shoes (maybe that’ll be next on the list?), I totally agree with the fact that women seem to wear the most inappropriate shoes at the strangest times… such as the time we were walking through some muddy flats while Koreans were collecting muscles from the rocks. Except so many 20-something women had high heels–in the mud! Maybe they just wanted their boyfriend to carry them? My Koreans students once said that their friend’s feet smelled like this really stinky tofu soup because she wasn’t wearing socks with her sports sandals. Ironically, I wasn’t wearing socks with my sandals that day (or ever), but they said my feet smelled like flowers.

    In any case, this is the first time I’ve seen anyone express what I’ve been saying for ages: high heels seem like modern society’s invention to make women think that the pain is ok because it’s “beautiful.” Sigh… Interesting to see how you compared it to foot binding.
    Vanessa recently posted..Halloween Market Day Craziness 2012My Profile

    • Jill November 25, 2012 at 11:41 am #

      Hi Vanessa. I thought the shoes were juat in China, but them I saw then in Malaysia and you now mention Korea!! its endemic!!

  10. Sam @ May 9, 2013 at 5:34 pm #

    Hhaha, it must be a woman thing – I have many many shoes still sitting in boxes!
    Love travelling and looking at different cultures shoes :)
    Sam @ recently posted..Photo of the Day 9th of MayMy Profile

  11. Yin October 21, 2013 at 6:14 pm #

    I recently started following your blog and am terribly inspired by your family and your choices and your courage to go for them. Just read this post today and laughed at the silliness of those shoes!
    However would like to share on the lily feet. I am Chinese living in Singapore and my late paternal grandmother had bound lily feet. She was born in China at the turn of the last century. I have heard stories of how heartbroken mothers cry along with their babies when their feet was bound. It was definitely not ok. And I think our thoughts should go to the unimaginable oppression women were under then, the fears and love for their daughters that drove them to continue the practice for centuries.


  1. Early morning at West Lake, Hangzhou | Going Anyway - October 25, 2012

    […] day, the walkways around Westlake are the domain of the young and beautiful, in their silly shoes, and with their groups of friends. And those selling things to […]

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