Abstract: The article investigates the current condition of the Polish footwear industry and its relationships with the European counterpart. Through the prism of context rooted in history, legal framework, post-socialist transformation, reorientation to export, European integration and other factors, it delivers a justification for the current state of the industry and firm strategies. The analysis encompasses main macroeconomic indicators of the industry and the sector, changes in the structure of production, external relations (primarily export) and basic data on employment. Conclusions from the analysis of data are backed by information acquired from in depth interviews conducted in 2013 and 2014 in two traditional footwear industry regions. This sector of industry was characterized by dynamic growth of production in the post war socialist period, decline following 1989, small scale inflow of foreign investment and reorientation of external relations.