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Just How Big were Earth Shoes in the 70s?

Fads | April 24, 2018

Hippie woman sleeping One woman, hippie sleeping on a blanket, enjoying alone in nature.

The Earth Shoe was developed and surfaced as a particularly peculiar style of shoe in the 1970’s. They were the creation of a Danish yoga instructor and shoe designer named, Anna Kalso. Their unique “negative heel technology” design featured a sole that was thinner at the heel than at the front of the foot, so that when wearing them, you walked heel-downward at -3.7º. The design actually simulated the act of walking in sand.

Both negative heels and high heels were big in this time period.

The 1970’s was well known for the changing times and the counterculture. Non-conformity was huge with the younger crowd and soon caught on with the general population. Fashion was one of the many things that went through an evolution during that era. Shoes used to be a functional wardrobe item but soon became so much more. Shoes had taken on a life of their own and were know for being expressive and tying the entire outfit together.

People were wearing Go Go Boots and Earth Shoes in the 70’s.

The Earth Shoe was introduced in the United States in New York City on April 1, 1970. This coincided with the first ever Earth Day, which happened to be just three weeks later. Earth Day is an annual event that is celebrated, worldwide, on April 22nd each year. Various events are sponsored to demonstrate support for environmental protection. Earth Day was celebrated for the first time in 1970. Earth Day events in more than 193 countries are now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network.

In 1969 at a UNESCO Conference in San Francisco, peace activist, John McConnell, proposed the celebration as a day to honor the Earth and the concept of peace. It was to have first been celebrated on March 21, 1970, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. A month later a separate Earth Day was founded by United States Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in, first held on April 22, 1970. Earth Day was a day devoted to the recurring theme of environmental protection and world peace which were two hot topics of the day.

So, why were Kalso’s such a big deal?

That is an excellent question. Back in the 1970’s, the Earth shoe made the list of some of the most essential and popular shoe. These shoes were not only very sought after, but they were some of the ugliest shoes to date, at that time. The fact that they were hideous didn’t keep men and women from wanting a pair. They were just one of the trendy fashion items that have come and gone over the years.

Earth Shoes, also known as the Kalso Earth Shoe, claimed to have various health benefits.

The Earth Shoe boasted a "negative heel technology." It was all the rage at the time. They supposedly had health benefits that were billed to change the lives of the wearer. Additionally, these shoes are arguably among one of the most horrible moments when fashion tried to merge with health benefits.

Anne Kalso, a native of Denmark, invented the weird looking shoes in the 1950s. According to the Earth Shoes website: “Kalso 's passion for yoga led her to study in Switzerland and eventually in Santos, Brazil. It was there, in 1957, that she observed the excellent posture of indigenous Brazilians, and the impressions left by their bare footprints as they walked through beach sand. She observed that the footprints laid were deeper in the heels than in the toes. This natural body position resonated with the thoughtful Kalso. It echoed a formative yoga pose she knew well – Tadasana (the 'Mountain' pose). As she herself emulated the pose of the native Brazilians, she noticed how her own posture improved, and how her breathing passages opened. She was inspired.”

“Returning to Denmark, Kalso enlisted the help of a Portuguese shoe maker to begin what would become a 10-year process to design the original Kalso Shoe. Although not a shoemaker by trade, Kalso was deeply immersed in the process of shoe development -- even testing prototype models on long hikes that covered hundreds of miles. According to Kalso, "it took numerous years of hard work before I reached the final form of my shoe that takes into consideration all the natural demands of the foot and body. It is only now that I know I have created something. It is no longer an idea in my mind but is something that is thoroughly tested and proven."

“Kalso began selling her shoes from a modest storefront in Copenhagen. Those who discovered her shoes became passionate about their benefits. Many reported that the shoes helped ease chronic foot and body problems. Many people from around the world inquired about the shoes. But Kalso insisted that they be experienced in-person prior to being worn.”

“Even with such interest and fervor, it was not until the mid-to-late 1960's that Kalso entertained the idea of expansion – ultimately exploring retail beyond Denmark, And specifically in the United States.”

“April 1st, 1970 would mark the much-heralded opening of the first United States distribution point for Kalso's shoes. Coinciding with the first Earth Day, the name of the shoes - on the spot – was changed to "Kalso Earth Shoes" and capitalized on the youthful movement and energy that defined the day. The trajectory of a wellness enterprise was underway. With much thanks and credit going to a Danish yoga instructor, a belief that wellness could be part of everyone's daily existence, and a simple shoe.”

Earth Shoes became wildly popular, even making appearances on the “Tonight Show” and in TIME magazine.

The Earth Shoe became so popular, the company couldn't keep up with demand and subsequently discontinued the shoe in the late 70’s.

In 2001, Kalso Earth Shoes re-emerged after the rights to the name, technology and branded properties were purchased by Meynard Designs, Inc. Subsequent reorganization of Meynard Designs led to the creation of Earth, Inc., as the manufacturing and marketing entity for Kalso Earth Shoes. Only women's shoes are being manufactured at this time. They are not to be confused with the Earth shoe brand sold by Walmart currently sells the Earth shoe brand but don’t mistake if for the real deal.

Earth Shoes are widely regarded as a now retro-modern shoe style. An entirely new generation of health-conscious people have emerged in our current society. Yoga has become increasing popular with health enthusiasts these days and it stands to reason that wellness is at the center of the trend. The negative heel technology of the Earth Shoe comes in a variety of styles including sandals, boots and Maryjane’s.

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Rebeka Knott

Writer

Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.