The oldest surviving shoes are about 10,000 years old, but anthropologists believe that humans may have begun wearing shoes around 40,000 years ago. This belief is based on evidence from human skeletons that show that people's toe bones began getting smaller around 40,000 years ago even though their leg bones were still thick and strong.
To some extent, bone responds to the mechanical stresses placed on it during a person's lifetime. Strenuous exercise not only makes muscles become bigger, but it also makes bones become thicker. Human skeletons from before 40,000 years ago have thick toe bones, but from that point on, the human toe bone began to shrink. While not every archaeologist agrees that shoes were the cause of this shrinkage, most agree that shoe-wearing began between 30,000 and 40,000 years ago. This time was a period of many advances in human culture and technology. The types of tools used were becoming more sophisticated. Needles for making clothes and shoes began appearing around this time. As society advanced and the population boomed, a greater division of labor would have been possible, meaning that members of society could dedicate all of their time to a specialized job, such making better shoes or more ornate clothing.