The summer Olympics in Beijing inspired me to learn about shoes in the Chinese culture. I wanted to find more information behind the ancient practice of footbinding and to see examples of traditional Chinese shoes.
The shoes made for women with bound feet were called Lotus shoes. These shoes were handmade with lavish embroidery.
Soles of these shoes were made of cotton and cloth layers. These were glued to a wooden board. The uppers were silk and were embroidered.
The process of footbinding was painful. Between ages 4-7, a young girls feet were wrapped with tight bandages to prevent them from growing. Wikipedia goes into a decent about of detail about the process. Basically, the badgaes were soaked in herbs and animal blood, as were the girl's feet. The bandages would tighten as they dried. The girl's toes were broken in order to be wrapped tightly. Bandages were changed every two days. Occasionally, the process would result in infection, toes falling off, or even death.
The goal of this was to achieve the Lotus foot. The ideal length was 3 inches but they often ran as long as 6 inches.