Built for comfort and protection and unisex in style: these are the characteristics of the sensible shoe. The sensible shoe has also been persistent, remaining in use with little change to design even as new designs have developed and fashions have come and gone.
The moccasin, the brogue, the Scottish gillie, and wooden shoes are examples of the original sensible shoe. Best represented in the Peabody collections is the moccasin. Most Native American footwear is commonly referred to as moccasins, from the Algonkian mahksun or makizin. They are of two types: soft-soled and hard-soled. Soft-soled moccasins foundwere and are found mainly but not exclusively in the East. Their upper and lower pieces are made of the same or similar materials; often they were constructed from a single piece of hide. They were also straights; that is, right and left were interchangeable.
Hard-soled moccasins are always constructed of at least two pieces, and the lower piece (the sole) is of a stronger, stiffer, or thicker material than the upper. Each shoe is fitted for the left or right foot. It is not known when hard-soled moccasins developed in North America, but they were rare before 1875. A type of soft-soled moccasin-style shoe was common in many societies at least as early as the Middle Ages. The two-piece hard-soled shoe developed in Europe around 1500. Left- and right-foot-specific shoes had appeared sporadically throughout history in various cultures, but remained rare until the mid-1800s.
Wooden shoes, clogs, klompen, or sabots-associated mainly with the Dutch today-were commonly worn among the peasant classes of northern Europe from the fourteenth century onward; when they first came into use is unknown. Carved from a single block of wood, they were durable, inexpensive, and warm-warmer when stuffed with hay-and offered protection from mud, rain and animal hooves.