Elda is not far from Valencia, and has long been in the business of shoemaking. The quality is high, the designs advanced, and the Footwear Museum (Museo del Calzado) celebrates the rich history of shoe production in this part of Spain.
The museum is in a downtown purpose-built building, with collections of both cobbler hand tools and vintage machinery that combine to give visitors a look at the technological developments of shoemaking. There is an extensive range of mass-produced and prototype models, as well as many award-winning designs.
There are shoes of famous people—including Rafael Nadal and the late, great Spanish golfer Severiano Ballesteros—some fascinating miniatures, and what they claim to be the world’s largest shoe (the jury may be out on that one). There is also an ethnological collection, including a unique 19th century spiked shoe for de-husking chestnuts.
Leather work and cobblery began in Elda in the middle of the 18th century, and a hundred years later the craft consolidated from small manufacturers into a full-fledged industry. By the end of the 19th century Elda had several large shoe factories, some employing over 400 workers. Through the 20th century manufacturing continued apace, eventually expanding to markets outside of Spain.
All this is traced at the Museo del Calzado, where you can also find material for the more research-oriented shoe-lover. With an archive of documents relating to shoe making history and an extensive collection of shoe-related advertising, you might come away with an idea for your own line of shoes.
Know Before You Go
The Museum is in the center of Elda in southern Spain, about 140 km (85 miles) from Valencia. They are open Monday to Friday from 10am to 2pm and again from 3pm to 8pm, Saturdays from 10am to 2pm.
Besides the Museum and some (unsurprising) shoe outlets, Elda is home to some local wine production and an impressive castle with a historically important 12th century tower. Be sure to check them out after you check out the shoes.