ATM-bootsWhen were boots made specifically for right and left feet?

Michael C. Westlund
Clarkdale, Arizona

History does not make the origin year clear. Some point to 1817, crediting cobbler William Young in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with differentiating the left foot from the right foot in shoes. Others report that shoes have made the distinction for thousands of years, but that straight shoes, which fit either foot, went into fashion from the 1500s until the late 1700s.

Originally, custom-made shoes and boots were available only to those who could afford them. Those of simpler means shaped shoes or boots to his or her feet by wearing them. This shaping process was hastened by soaking the footwear in water.

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian, board president of the Arizona Historical Society and vice president of the Wild West History Association. His latest book is Arizona’s Outlaws and Lawmen; History Press, 2015.

If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at

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