Of sandals and shoes the Romans had a great variety, adopted from Greece and from the Far East. Roman shoes had various names, and were distinct badges of the position held in society by the wearer.
In the house a Roman might wear an informal kind of sandal called the solea — a slipper consisting of a sole fastened on by a strap across the instep. Slaves were allowed no other footwear. The solea and crepidae resembled modern slippers and could be cast off at pleasure, as they did not fit closely and was not secured by thong or tie.
Away from home citizens wore shoes of different types, the most important being the calcaeus, a kind of leather slipper with crossed leather laces. This footwear was forbidden to slaves. The ordinary color of the calcaeus was leather-brown, but in the late Republican and early Imperial times there were color distinctions, especially that of black for senators and red for patricians.
Footwear was an important -- in fact, an indispensable-part of Roman attire. There were numerous styles, exhibiting all the gradations from the simple sandal to the complete boot reaching up to the calf. Equally numerous were the colours and the materials employed. For certain ranks and classes the kind of footwear was definitely laid down, and not only soldiers, but members of the Senate, consuls, and others had to wear, and were limited to wearing, the footgear prescribed for them.
The baxea, solea, crepida, soccus, a kind of low-heeled, light shoe especially worn by comic actors, and corthurnus were the names of the leading types. Baxeae were vegetable sandals, similar to Egyptian palm-leaf sandals. These were worn by peasants, comic actors and by philosophers and priests, indicating their humility.
The corthurnus (buskin) was anciently worn by the Phrygians, and was later introduced to the stage by Sophocles in his tragedies. Hence the term applied to the theatrical performers: "brethren of the sock and buskin." This particular kind of covering was a very high boot, reaching above the calf of the leg and sometimes to the knee. It was laced very closely down the front. Sometimes they were dyed purple and other bright colors; very frequently the head and paws of wild animals ornamented the top of the boot. If height of figure were desired, the ordinary thickness of the sole was increased by the insertion of pieces of cork. The shoes of the wealthy were made of fine leather, and were handsomely decorated.
They were often painted with various colors, and ornamented with gold, silver, and precious stones.
The Emperor Heliogabalus had his shoes set with diamonds and other stones, but forbade the use of such ornaments to the women of the empire. Sometimes the shoes had turned up toes, a fashion undoubtedly of eastern origin, and which was carried to such extravagant lengths during the Middle Ages. Roman senators wore black shoes or buskins reaching to the calf of the leg, usually ornamented on the top of the foot with a gold or silver crescent.