For centuries, the Pope was known to wear red shoes to symbolize the passion, faith and martyrdom of Jesus Christ and other persecuted Catholic figures. Papal shoes are the red leather outdoor shoes worn by the Pope. They should not be confused with papal indoor slippers or episcopal sandals, which are the liturgical footwear typical of all ordained Catholic bishops of the Latin Church. Beyond this, it is said that red papal shoes also symbolize God's ardent love for humanity, as exhibited during Pentecost, when red garments are worn to commemorate the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles while tongues of fire rest on their heads.
The red papal shoes are also related to Christ's bloody feet when he was punctured, whipped and pushed along the Via Dolorosa on the way to his crucifixion, which culminated in the perforation of his hands and feet on the cross. After 1958, Pope John XXIII added gold buckles to papal shoes for outdoor use, making them similar to the red shoes worn by cardinals outside Rome. At the beginning of his pontificate, Pope John Paul II wore red shoes; however, he later adopted the use of burgundy shoes. If clothes make the man, then shoes make the Pope, and more specifically, his ruby-red shoes.
Pope John Paul I, who was pope for just 33 days, continued to wear the plain red leather shoes that Paul VI wore. Red papal shoes are not a matter of personal style, any more than are the pope's white cassock, the cardinals' red cassock, the bishops' purple cassock or the priests' black cassock. In the case of red papal shoes, the popes have been wearing red shoes for centuries; it was not an invention of Benedict XVI, but rather he humbly adhered to the tradition established before him.