Unlike Humans, the great Apes have feet with an abdicated big toe. This allows them to grasp tree branches and manipulate objects like we do with our hands.

My question is this: If an intelligent, bipedal humanoid retained this feature, what would their shoes look like? Would they even be able to wear them at all?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Presumably we either had, or had the ability to have, such a feature. I suspect that the necessity for prolonged bipedalism would make it disadvantageous, as would the necessity for shoes. If retained, it would not be retained for long and would soon be lost. Of course, hobbits do not wear shoes - why do you think shoes are a necessity? $\endgroup$
    – Lee Leon
    Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 7:03
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to World building Lot-Of-Malarkey. I imagine they would need very flexible supple shoes $\endgroup$
    – Slarty
    Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 7:04
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    $\begingroup$ do you mean gloves? $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 7:10
  • $\begingroup$ @user6760, in certain languages glove are called "hand shoes" $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 7:27
  • $\begingroup$ If a creature is fully bipedal, it either needs feet similar to ours or a long tail for balance purposes, otherwise it just falls over a lot. Chimpanzees and many apes are capable of bipedal motion, but only in short bursts. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 13:51

3 Answers 3


We already have some kind of shoes (o socks) which have room for individual fingers.

enter image description here

I imagine for your imaginary feet they would look like these, with the obvious adaptation of moving the toe on the side.

However, considering how cumbersome is to do precision work with hand wearing gloves, I doubt that ape feet (which are meant to do precision grabbing) and shoes can coexist.


Thicker padding on the walking surfaces and fingertips.

enter image description here

When an ape walks (on all fours) these are the surfaces of the back feet in contact with the ground. Your shoes should be a pair of fabric gloves with hard plates on the walking surfaces.

The shoes still do their job, and the fingers/toes can still be used for climbing if necessary.


So as to get a permanent upright twofeeted walking whilst keeping the handly setting, from a speculative evolution perspective, I recommend to lengthen and strengthen the metatarsal bones and become the apes or any other unmannish primate lineage into metatarsigrade walkers, right like the birds and other theropod dinosaurs, but only when they themselves are on the ground; otherwise, when they're on a bough or hanging from a bough, they'll be plantigrade walkers. That's how my sophont lemurs's feet are. I also happened to design Romanly sandals for my lemurs's feet, which have individual slots for the toes, and are full of adjustable straps: 3 straps for each toe, 2 straps for the feet's rest, and 2 more wrappings for the ankles. These sandals's paddings are thin yet sturdy and bendsome, akin to the mannish “barefoot shoes”, since they must still enable delicate toe movements for handling little objects.


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