Each season, there are always a few fashion trends that stand out. The word de jour is sneakers (or as my generation called them, running shoes).

The largest shoe museum in North America and at this point, the only one in the world, is in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

bata shoes museum
Bata Shoes Museum

Bata Shoes-does that ring a bell? On my first trip to India I discovered, Bata is another word for shoes. There are hundreds of Bata Shoe shops that I spotted during my various trips to the sub-continent and other countries, also.

Opened in 1995, Bata Shoe Museum is located in mid Toronto, within walking distance of two other interesting museums,- Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and the Gardiner Museum, filled with the most significant collection of fine antique china. All are in the Yorkville area, the 5th Avenue of Toronto.

The late Mrs Sonja Bata had been collecting shoes for years. On one trip she found antique Egyptian sandals (pieces of leather) dating back 4,500 years. Others from China when the wealthy bound the feet of female babies. The size stayed the same throughout their life, hence they had to be carried by servants for the rest of their years. Removal of the bandages were excruciatingly painful.

But there wasn’t a site for the public to see these unique footwear. The thousands pairs were neatly and carefully housed within special drawers in several rooms of The Bata Shoe Company’s headquarters.

bata shoes museum

A short history of the start of this once small company that now manufactures 150+ million pairs annually.

In 1874 in an Austrian town, the Batas started to manufacture shoes. Moving right along, years later, the late Tomas, sister, Anne and brother, Antonin, moved to Switzerland where they started a factory and were very early in giving their employees many benefits. It wasn’t difficult for them to attract employees as the company expanded.

Bata Shoes, were soon selling in 70 countries and decades later produced 150 million pairs each year. Inexpensive, well designed, easily maintained and hardy, were some of the reasons for the success that now stretches over the globe.

Soon after Tomas and Sonja married, they moved their manufacturing company to Toronto. This was at that time that Mrs Bata started her collecting of rare shoes.

With changing styles, new technology, shoes became more accessible and known for their inexpensive price point.

Mrs Bata, a woman with a dream of having a museum open to the public. She hired the famed architect, Raymond Moriyami. This building turned out to be an iconic prize winning edifice. From the outside, the 5-storey edifice looks like a shoe box. The interior has four sizeable exhibit galleries, one for the permanent collection and another ample space for entertaining or meetings.

Perhaps the Pandemic of 2019 had something to do with more people working from home wearing casual clothing and sneakers. Stilettos seem to be out.

Some of the museum’s 15,000 pairs are often mixed with borrowed shoes as seen with these flat, comfortable sneakers, lent from Adidas and Puma, plus others from noted athletes, and celebrities, on show.

Eighty Pairs Are on Display

The footwear is remarkable but obviously not for tossing a basket ball into a net or running the marathon.
Some exquisitely decorated with rhinestones and sequins, others hand painted and most interesting, a few others are totally unwearable, but fun and great for display.

I enjoyed my few hours, and even went to see the permanent collection again for another glimpse of the glory of shoes.

bata shoes museum