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Zori, Geta, Setta...

Updated: May 21

So what to wear? Which ones to wear and when? And didn't the heel have to stick out at the back somehow?

These were just some of the questions a friend bombarded me with the other day. She had bought a yukata and matching shoes. But now she was faced with questions that weren't answered in the product comments. So she turned to me. "Because you know all about it!" were her words. So I rummaged through my brain and a few websites until I found the answers. So here is a summary of the topic:

Traditional Japanese Shoes

Let's start with a list of the shoes that have existed throughout Japanese history and still exist today:

  1. Geta: A traditional wooden sandal with a raised sole, often worn by men and women.

  2. Zori: A flat sandal with a sole made of rice straw, leather, or rubber, often worn by women, especially for formal occasions such as weddings.

  3. Setta: A type of zori with a stiffer sole, often worn by men.

  4. Okobo: A raised sandal often worn by maiko (apprentices in the geisha tradition).

  5. Ashida: A type of wooden sandal worn by miners and hikers.

  6. Waraji: A sandal made of woven straw or hemp worn by farmers and artisans.

  7. Jika-tabi: A type of tabi with a rubber sole, often worn by workers and artisans.

  8. Nagagutsu: Long boots, often made of rubber, worn by rice farmers and fishermen.

  9. Uwagutsu: Traditional Japanese boots, often made of leather, worn by samurai and other historical figures.

  10. Jikatabi: A lightweight boot, often with a split-toe cap, usually worn by farm workers and gardeners.

  11. Kanagutsu: High boots worn by samurai and other warrior classes during the rain.

In this article, however, we will focus on three shoes most commonly worn in Japan. Geta, Zori and Setta.

  1. Geta: Geta are traditional Japanese wooden sandals with raised soles raised by two pieces of wood placed under the heel and ball of the foot. The soles are often connected with a strap of fabric or leather that runs across the top of the foot. Geta are usually worn in summer to keep the feet off the hot ground; both men and women wear them. They are available in different styles and heights, depending on the shape and size of the wooden soles.

  2. Zori: Zori are flat sandals with soles made of rice straw, leather, or rubber. Women wear them, which are trendy for formal occasions such as weddings or traditional festivals. Zori usually has a strap that wraps around the back of the foot and is often decorated with elegant fabrics or embellishments. They are comfortable and offer a certain elegance and tradition.

  3. Setta: Setta are similar to zori but are more robust and often have a stiffer sole. Men usually wear them, and they are less suitable for formal occasions than zori. Setta also has straps that encircle the back of the foot, and they can be made from various materials, including leather or hemp. They are durable and well-suited for everyday outdoor use.

Now that you have a rough overview of the topic let's move on to wearing the shoes themselves. In contrast to European shoes, Geta and Zori are bought a few sizes smaller than the foot is extended. My foot is 25.5cm long; when I buy shoes, they are usually 25cm or 24.5cm long. The shoes are designed so that the heel protrudes a few centimeters at the back. This is not just for visual reasons but mainly for practical reasons.

  1. Sole protection: By protruding beyond the shoe, the heel prevents the sole from hitting the ground directly, helping to protect the sole from wear and damage.

  2. Increased stability: The overhanging heel helps to improve stability when walking, especially on uneven or slippery terrain. It acts as an additional lever that makes it easier to keep your balance.

Unlike with flip-flops, the toes are also not pushed all the way forward.

The maetsubo, the middle part of the toe bridge connected to the platform, should not be wedged into the gap between the big and index toes. It is placed to have some space at the base of the foot so that the toe bridge rests lightly between the toes. Here is a picture to illustrate the somewhat complicated explanation.

This applies to Geta, Zori, Setta, and all other traditional Japanese shoe types.


To summarize, you can say:

  • Always buy shoes 1-2 cm smaller than the foot, which is long.

  • The heel protrudes 1-2 cm at the back.

  • Do not push the toe bridge back to the base of the foot, but leave some space.

  • Tighten/clasp your toes when walking so that you don't shuffle.

I hope this clarifies everything and you know how to buy and wear Japanese shoes. If you have further questions, please write them in the comments below. I'll try to answer them as best I can.

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