Laws Of Tish'ah B'av
11. It is forbidden to wear leather shoes [on Tish'ah B'av] (1). Shoes
made from cloth or other similar materials, may be worn, provided their
soles are not covered with leather (2). It is customary for people who
walk [through areas populated] by Gentiles to wear leather shoes [on
Tish'ah B'av], due to the fear of being ridiculed ("la'ag"); they should,
however, place sand in their shoes; a "ba'al nefesh" (3) should be
stringent with himself [and not accept this leniency] (4). Those who sit in
stores are definitely forbidden [to wear leather shoes] (5).
The Sages did not prohibit a person who undertakes a long journey on foot,
from wearing leather shoes, for this would constitute a great difficulty
for him (6). When [such a person] reaches a city, however, he should remove
[his shoes]. If he journeys in a wagon, he is forbidden to wear shoes
(1) There are 5 forms of physical deprivation ("Inuyim") that we are
obligated to undergo on Tish'ah B'av: not eating or drinking, not bathing,
not anointing, not wearing leather shoes and not engaging in marital
relations. The same five activities are Biblically prohibited on Yom Kippur.
(2) Even if the upper part of the shoe is covered with leather, it is
prohibited (Mishna Berura 554:31). The word the Rabbis used for "shoe" when
phrasing the prohibition is "min'al," and only leather shoes were called
"min'al" (Ibid. 30).
(3) It is difficult to explain the term "Ba'al nefesh"; in general, it is
referring to someone who feels that he is on the level where it would be
appropriate for him to go beyond the letter of the law.
(4) The Mishna Berura (Ibid.35) cites the "Chayei Odom" who questions the
basis of this leniency because "the Gentiles ridicule us no matter what we
do." Nowadays, since there are many different types of respectable-looking,
non-leather shoes available, one who works with Gentiles should try to
avoid wearing leather shoes ("Halachos of the Three Weeks" by Rav Shimon
Eider). However, if one feels that there is a danger of being subject to
ridicule, and there are no non-leather shoes available, then one may wear
leather shoes; as soon as one leaves the area in which one might be subject
to ridicule, one must remove the leather shoes (Ibid.).
(5) Because Gentiles won't know what they are wearing on their feet (Ibid.)
(6) Any time a person must walk a long distance or over stones or through
mud, and walking without shoes would be painful, wearing leather shoes
would be permissible, if other types of shoes are unavailable. Here too,
one should preferably place sand in the shoes, and remove them as soon as
he reaches a place in which they are no longer needed (Shulchan Aruch
554:17 and Mishna Berura there). Wearing leather shoes for medical reasons
is permissible, if no other non-leather shoes would provide adequate support.