The Steinheim Museum on the Alfred University campus began as a natural history museum but eventually grew to house a very eclectic collection. Closed in the early 1950s, the museum's contents were dispersed with a few specimens remaining in the University Archives. One of the most interesting is the "Foreign Shoe Collection."

In the Spring Semester of 2009, student Amy DeNisco interned in the Archives and investigated this collection. She aimed to identify the time period, country of origin, intended consumer, and any other available information about the shoes. Where available, she researched the donors in an attempt to learn where they procured the shoes that they donated to the museum. Amy compiled the information and the most relevant is found here

boat_shoe
Named for its distinctive boat-shaped sole, the boat shoe is an Asian innovation. The white sole and distinct scrolling patterns on the upper suggest construction of these shoes by “Babas from the Straits Settlements” in the 1880s.
boudoir_slipper
The petite-footed wearer of this slipper would have used this slipper in the mornings. It was worn with an un-corseted dress intended to be a comfortable outfit for lounging with family, and sometimes friends, before getting properly dressed to attend a formal event. The shoe does not appear to be right or left footed, suggesting creation before 1870, and the embroidered velvet became popular on boudoir slippers in 1850.
chinese_shoes
These shoes best matches the shoes worn by Kirghiz men at the end of the nineteenth century. They were donated to the collection between 1907 and 1921.
clogs
Wooden Clogs were popular in Holland, but are now used by a much smaller part of the population for farming in the mud and construction sites. Traditional clogs, or Klomen, were painted with red and yellow designs, but now can be found in all colors and patterns for the amusement of tourists. Look closely to see if the insteps of these two pairs have a traditional hollow arch, or an obsolete rounded arch. The rounded arch was used in conjunction with a crow bar to form a lever making it much easier to lift heavy stones to build dykes. The paint on the clogs preserves the wood for longer than the wood could preserve itself.

The stilted slipper thong is called Geta. Popular in Japan, Geta stilts allow for great mobility despite mud, as well as keeping beautiful garments from trailing through the muck. All different styles of Geta exist, from the very low to the ground to those around a foot high. This example shows an average Geta just a few inches off the ground with two stilts, some only have one. Note the location of the thong separating the toes: it is centered rather than off to one side because this shoe predates the invention of separation between left and right shoes, and it compliments the cultural ideal of balance.

golden_lily
The Golden Lily is the name for shoes made for foot binding in China. It refers to the perfect 3-inch, lotus shape for the female foot. Feet longer than three inches received names like silver or steel lily. Foot binding was a horrifyingly painful process that involved breaking the foot to force it into the unnatural lotus shape. Mothers and grandmothers who sought to see their daughters well married perpetuated foot binding even more than men because mothers chose who their sons would marry. The size of a woman's feet, and the quality of her embroidery determined her value on the marriage market. As foot binding became popular across multiple classes, artificial bindings, like shoes that made the foot look smaller without breaking it, also grew in popularity. These superficial bindings remained popular with some men, particularly actors and whores. In 1911, with the fall of the Qing Dynasty, foot binding was finally outlawed.
huaraches
The huarache is a traditional leather sandal handmade from leather. The weave patterns were all different. These were traditionally shoes for the poor peasants of Mexico made only in shoe sizes common to native Mexicans – short and stocky. The huarache on display here is wide, but also not long. This suggests that it would have been sold to a non-native; it was probably sold to fit the foot of a tourist. Huaraches can also refer to a traditional Mexican meal, which has noodles reminiscent of the leather weaves on the sandal.
moccasin
This buckskin moccasin features intricate red and white beadwork. The single center seam at the front indicates that it came from the Northeast or Great Lakes region of the United States. The connection of the flaps at the rear of the shoe; as well as the lack of a heel tab, front puckering, and ties suggests manufacture of the shoe by the Lenape tribe. In addition, the use of geometric designs rather than floral or other nature-based designs lends support to these moccasins as coming from the Lenape tribe. The Lenape people originally occupied Delaware and New Jersey, as well as parts of New York and Pennsylvania.
mojari
Mojari refers to a traditional Indian shoe from the Punjab area. Mojaries consist of a hard leather sole glued and sewn to a soft upper of fabric or leather and a pointed toe. The wealthier the wearer, and the greater their status the more ornately the shoe is decorated. Men and women of all ages wore these shoes. The Muslim invaders brought the mojaries with them when they conquered India in the sixteenth century. It is believed that many have the flattened back pressed down by the heel to make the shoes easy to remove for the five daily calls to prayer in the Islamic tradition. This is particularly evident in the shoe labeled the "Bridegrooms Shoe", the back of the shoe appears to be intentionally pressed down, especially the way that the decoration dissipates near the back of the shoe, creating a much smoother surface for the foot within the shoe.

The oldest shoes discovered are sandals designed to protect the sole from the elements. Simple woven sandals became popular across the globe. Here are three different examples of woven sandals. The matched pair with the red and white cotton crosspieces stuffed with straw have Asian characters stamped on the top of the sole near the heel. They also have a braided tread on the bottom. The sandal with the blue silk lining is wearing away. This allows view of how the shoe was constructed. First the sandal was finely woven with intricate patterns, then a white cushioned layer was added for the foot, and finally the shoe was lined with silk to keep the batting in place. To the bottom of this shoe is sewn a leather sole.

The woven sandal with the point is also made of many parts. It is lined with highly decorated cotton and has some sort of batting between the lining and the shoe. This sandal is unique because the bottom of the shoe is a continuation of the weave pattern used throughout the rest of the exterior of the shoe.

These shoes are supposedly the same as those worn by Jewish Syrian wives, and that single women wore red shoes. Corroborating evidence of this red shoe significance is lacking. The shoes were donated to the collection between 1921 and 1924.

tabiboot
Shofu Shunichi donated this pair of Tabi Boots to the Steinheim in the 1916-17 academic year as part of a collection of “Japanese Curiosities”. Tabi Boots were designed as a way of protecting the foot while wearing Geta. The unique separation of the big toe from the smaller ones makes the boot work very well with the tab in the shoe that separates the big toe from its smaller mates. Their cotton upper, vinyl sole, and clasps at the back of the upper make the Tabi Boot easily recognizable. Because Tabi Boots are extremely difficult to maintain, the Tabi Sock has replaced most for everyday wear. A Tabi Sock functions like most Western socks, but also has the toe split for easy wear with Geta.
wooden_clog
The wooden clog with the hinge at the sole kept the wearer’s good shoes dry. The clog was strapped over a silken slipper and protected it from the elements. The hinge on the sole where the foot bends when walking is characteristic of the clog. An earlier version with the same overshoe purpose, called a Patten, consisted of a flat piece of wood kept off the ground by a metal hoop on its side. The Patten was also strapped over the foot to protect the delicate slipper between the food and the Patten.