As of 2014, the reigning Pope Francis wears black leather shoes. Traditionally, popes have worn red leather shoes. Throughout Catholic history, the color red symbolized the blood of Christian martyrs and the tongues of fire that descended upon the Apostles on Pentecost.
Popes dressed in red, similarly to Cardinals, until the election of Pope St. Pius V in 1566. Pius was a Dominican friar and chose to continue wearing his white religious habit as pope, setting a standard that has continued ever since. Pope St. John Paul II wore red shoes early in his papacy, but he eventually switched to sturdy brown shoes.