The world’s oldest known shoe is little more than a sandal, constructed of a single flap of rawhide and grass woven into crude twine, worn by an ancestor of the Incas some 4,000 years ago.
The dead man didn’t even have that.
He was otherwise fully-dressed when he died: shirt, jacket, pants, and even a baseball cap, all weather-worn and dirtied by life on the street but otherwise in decent shape. Next to him was found a duffel bag containing a few additional articles of clothing. But no identification, and no shoes, his feet bared to the entire world.
Perhaps some other vagrant took advantage of the opportunity to loot the dead and absconded with them, yet a wad of dollar bills and loose change in his pockets went undisturbed. Additionally, the coroner’s autopsy revealed a brain ravaged by the twin specters of alcohol and mental illness. His soles were bedecked with thick calluses, the nails cracked and broken. They were a chronicle of hard miles traveled over a difficult lifetime. It may have been long years since he’d even understood what shoes were, and why they were necessary.
Anthropologists claim that some traditional Australian Aborigine tribes eschew shoes because their bare feet keep them spiritually connected to the earth.
If so, perhaps the dead man, in his own way, managed to touch the fringes of that; to walk at the edges of some sort of dreamtime.
Perhaps there, he managed to find something better than what life beheld him.