Shoes of this period were made predominantly of leather that was either fine and soft, or rough, depending on the price. Special orders for velvet, satin, silk or brocades were elaborately cut.

Cork was a popular material for soles. The first form of the heel was a cork wedge placed between the leather sole and upper, elevating the heel of the foot. This fashion soon evolved into a real heel, though the shoe retained the sole of the clog. The new heels were made of either cork or wood, but could be covered with the same fabric as the upper. Later, the heels of men's shoes were often made of leather.

The front of the shoe gained height until it became a tongue. The tongue of the shoe was often coloured to match the clothes of the wealthy.

Embroidery had an important place in English shoe fashions. The artisans who had created ecclesiastical embroidery used their talents in both garments and shoes after the reformation. Brocades were also favoured for ladies shoes.

Every possible colour was used for the new heels. Russet, saffron, black, white, red, green, blue, yellow, and pink can all be seen in paintings or surviving examples.

It was during this period, in 1579, that the Guild of Cordwainers, or shoemakers, was granted a coat of arms by Queen Elizabeth.