I’m looking at ways the nobility of my world could go about displaying their wealth and it occurred to me that they might intentionally adopt a way of walking that would wear out the soles of their shoes quickly.


What would be some ways of walking or moving that could wear down shoes rapidly in order for the royals and nobility to demonstrate their wealth and superiority? Ways of walking or moving that could also be ornamental and/or ritualistic in nature.

Shoe construction

Feel free to assume that shoes are constructed in similar ways to the shoes of European middle ages with wooden heels and leather bodies. But if you have ideas to other ways of constructing shoes I would be interested in that as well.

World setting

The world setting is earth like and technology is on level with ancient Greece. Magic is rare outside of religious institutions and not used by the nobility. Climate of the area of question is temperate. Wealthy parts of cities are built in marble and sandstone and paved with slabs of the same material. Leather, wood and fabric from native nettles (stronger than our nettles) are the common materials used to make shoes. Down and feathers are also used, but mostly as decoration.

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    $\begingroup$ Realistically wealth would be proved by wearing expensive shoes that obviously will wear down very fast and never wearing a worn pair. Thus proving that you can afford to keep replacing them at a fast rate. Or at least a small army of servants that protects and maintains your shoes. Warden of the shoes might be a high prestige position with lots of personnel and money involved. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 3, 2016 at 1:37
  • $\begingroup$ I am spesifically asking for ways of walking or moving that would speed up this process. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 3, 2016 at 1:46
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    $\begingroup$ I know. That is why I made a comment about how it might not be what you actually want to look for. Your story, your call, but people sometimes do simply forget to consider alternatives, so reminders have value. And no harm, right? $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 3, 2016 at 2:01
  • $\begingroup$ I appreciate your attempt to be helpful, but I am aware of those other alternatives and I am not interested in them. I am interested in ways of walking and moving that could wear shoes down and possibly be ornamental as well. I am interested in the ritualistic aspects I suppose, perhaps I shall include that in my question. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 3, 2016 at 2:09
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    $\begingroup$ I'm sorry but I can't not think of the ministry of silly walks. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 13:16

5 Answers 5


People don't actually walk.

They shuffle. Every step is... not really a step. It's a sliding of one foot along the rough-hewn but attractive stone surface of walkways and roads.

The soles of shoes wear out from constant grinding. The body of shoes wears out from the stretching and pushing needed to apply the grinding force.

The methods by which one slides their feet would serve further to differentiate, who can truly afford to leave half the shoe on the path and who is only trying to look like it.

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    $\begingroup$ Note that besides wearing the shoes, that way of walking is in itself very inefficient (you can't walk fast that way), so it could also by itself be seen as a sign of "you can afford it": You can afford to shuffle all the time, since anything that needs faster movement is either done for you by others, or when it is essential that you are going faster yourself, you've got other options (riding, carriages, palaquin) that do not involve yourself walking. $\endgroup$
    – celtschk
    Commented Jul 3, 2016 at 6:16
  • $\begingroup$ My young children use this method to show their friends that we can afford new shoes every few months. Shuffle, shuffle, drag on purpose... because it's fun, apparently. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Commented Jul 5, 2016 at 14:09

I'd suggest silk slippers, like ballet shoes. In light colours they'd be quickly ruined and need to be replaced if ever worn outdoors. They wouldn't take much wearing even at the best of times and of course they'd be intricately embroidered to increase the cost as much as for fashion.

It should be noted that due to the way fashion works, anyone wanting to spend time at court would also have to have these shoes and change them as often as the royals did themselves.

Shoes of this type would apply more to the early modern period, but I'm sure the principle could be adapted to an earlier role.


Practicing Sports with your fancy shoes :

One way to demonstrate that you are wealthy is to practice sports while wearing your fancy shoes instead of regular sports shoes. In that case you will prove that you are too rich to not care about your fancy shoes getting worn by playing sports.

Avoid walking on pedestrian passages and walk on rough unattended roads :

Yes you are rich enough to torture yourself by walking on rocky roads just to prove that you are much superior than the others. That doesn't make sens but it will definitely get your shoes worn.


Change the shoes, not the people.

The common, regular, everyday gait we have is a result of evolution. It is the most energy efficient way for us to walk. If you try to walk differently, it will be uncomfortable. Just try it out yourself... Go to a park or town square, do a few laps around it in any other gait other than your own natural one.

If they really want to showcase their expensive shoes, they can either encrust a jewel there, or if they don't want to, just make the soles thinner, or made of more fragile materials in such a way that it's readily visible.


Ribbons - embellish the shoes with decorative ribbons. These drag along the ground all the time and wear away. The downside is that unless you have some practice, you will trip yourself up by standing on the ribbons.

The change in gait would be minimal. When walking in a straight line a normal gait is practical, but on the first step one keeps one's weight on the back foot until one is sure the moving foot is free, and the first step would be very short in case the back foot is trapped somehow. One might also adopt little foot flicks to flick the ribbons in a certain direction. When one stops to talk to someone, one would flick the ribbons away from them to prevent the accidentally standing on them and tripping you when you walk off.


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