In Fashion, what are Pumps?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 22 December 2019
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Pumps are a very common type of shoes that are typically close-toed, often have a heel, and can be made from a variety of materials. The shoe uppers on the sides of a pump extend around the back of the foot to cover the sides and heel of the foot. Though pumps are most often worn by women in modern times, this was not always the case.

The earliest pumps were made in the 15th century for men and were called pompes. Pompes were often flat shoes, but later, some men incorporated a wide higher heel into the shoe. Soon women also began to wear varying pump styles, but the modern version of this shoe dates to the early 20th century. Early women’s pumps were often worn by servants, who did not have time to spend on buckles or laces. Elaborately buckled and laced shoes were considered dressier for women for a number of centuries.


Now this style of shoe can range from very dressy to casual, and incorporate a wide range of styles. They can be either heeled or flat, and heel height varies considerably. Heel height often depends upon the current style, as does the shape of the uppers covering the toe. In the past century, fashion has introduced pointy toed, rounded toe, and peep-toe shoes, which feature a cut out of the upper over the middle tip of the shoe, allowing a peek at the toes. No matter what the style of the toe covering area, stiletto heels remain one of the traditionally fashionable ways to wear these shoes.

These shoes are suitable for most occasions where women would need to wear a dress, skirt, or formal office clothing like a pants suit or skirt suit, and a pair of black pumps is often considered a fashion essential. Beyond that, wearers choose pairs for their style, comfort, or to coordinate with varying outfits. Although many think of the traditional pump as leather, fabric pumps have been a staple since the 1940s. Many people choose to dye satin pumps to match their attire at a wedding or prom.

As with many types of women's shoes, the pump is not always particularly comfortable, since the width of the upper enclosing the toes may lead to blisters, and when worn all the time, numerous foot problems. The worst designs for the foot are those with exceptionally high heels that have ill-fitting pointing toes. The toes don’t like to be squished into a point and will respond by forming blisters, corns, bunions and a variety of other conditions.

Wearers can address these conditions by ensuring that they choose flat or nearly flat pumps, which put less pressure exists on the toes, and by making sure to only buy shoes that fit them properly. Some choose to save the high heels for special occasions only instead of wearing them every day, choosing to wear dressy loafers or open toed shoes as an alternative.


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Post 3

I always wondered why they were called "pumps" -- it seemed like such an odd name. Interesting!

Post 2

Sunny27- I agree, I love Jimmy Choo, but the shoes are so expensive. I only own one pair for now, but I love them.

Most of the pumps have a high, thin heel, but there are usually a few styles with a lower heel, but the thinness of the heel remains.

Once you wear a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes, you will never want to wear anything else. The shoes are beautiful and I feel like they were made for my feet. I am waiting for a sale to get my next pair.

Post 1

Great article, I agree that wearing pumps that are too high on a regular basis creates significant damage to the foot.

I actually feel that purchasing a lower, thicker heel is more comfortable and something you could wear long term without damage. Also there are many alternatives to the pump. Many designers offer stylish shoes with a lower heel that provide comfort and high fashion at the same time.

Jimmy Choo, while very expensive shoes, offers a variety of styles that are fashion forward. Even the shorter pumps provide style and extreme comfort. Those are the only pumps I will wear.

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