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Håvard Nygård




Location: Norway
Joined: 27 Oct 2019

Posts: 32

PostPosted: Sat 06 Nov, 2021 10:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes, the Romans used hobnail shoes but as far as i know this was not used among the Vikings. The reasons for this are probably that the terrain is harder with rocks and mountains in Scandinavia, but did`t the Romans walk on layered stone roads? Or maybe they used different shoes for that, and hobnails shoes for when marching in nature/forest?
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Håvard Nygård




Location: Norway
Joined: 27 Oct 2019

Posts: 32

PostPosted: Sat 06 Nov, 2021 10:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew Amt wrote:
I've heard this question quite a few times, and all I can say is that in several decades of reenacting (Bronze Age through American Revolution), I rarely had much problem with traction. I suspect it's just something they were used to!


What was the thickness of your soles on your shoes? What kind of material was it?

Matthew Amt wrote:
I sometimes wonder if the soles of our reproduction medieval shoes might be too thick, preventing us from using our toes to "dig in" for better traction.


My shoes are made of veg tanned calf leather. The sole is made with 5 mm bull shoulder leather.
Is this to thick in your opinion?
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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Joined: 17 Sep 2003

Posts: 1,426

PostPosted: Sun 07 Nov, 2021 4:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Håvard Nygård wrote:
Yes, the Romans used hobnail shoes but as far as i know this was not used among the Vikings. The reasons for this are probably that the terrain is harder with rocks and mountains in Scandinavia, but did`t the Romans walk on layered stone roads? Or maybe they used different shoes for that, and hobnails shoes for when marching in nature/forest?


Nope, the Romans just loved their hobnails, no matter the surface. Though I suspect they went for plain leather or wood clogs in the bath house, with those wet smooth floors! Hobnails are notorious death traps on surfaces like that.

Quote:
What was the thickness of your soles on your shoes? What kind of material was it?

Matthew Amt wrote:
I sometimes wonder if the soles of our reproduction medieval shoes might be too thick, preventing us from using our toes to "dig in" for better traction.


My shoes are made of veg tanned calf leather. The sole is made with 5 mm bull shoulder leather.
Is this to thick in your opinion?


For medieval shoes I've generally used 8-9 ounce vegetable tanned leather, often sold as "tooling sides" here in the US. Not sure what that works out to, 4 or 5mm? It's honestly been way too long since I did all the research on medieval shoes, much of which predated the internet! The Museum of London book "Shoes and Pattens" was my best source. I don't know if that's too thick for a sole, but it suited my leatherworking skills, and our modern feet on modern surfaces. Probably it's *not* too thick, because it became common to make soles with 2 layers, so even if they were thinner they'd add up to more than that. Roman soles were certainly multiple heavy layers, they're like strapping boards to your feet when they're new!

Matthew
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Dan D'Silva





Joined: 28 Apr 2007

Posts: 270

PostPosted: Sun 07 Nov, 2021 10:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

According to Tandy, 8-9oz. is about 3.2-3.6mm. But they are talking about the kind of veg-tan they sell to home leatherworkers. The kind like you would find on high-end dress shoe soles is usually run through rollers to make it harder, stiffer, and denser (i.e. heavier for the same thickness). IIRC it can also just be beaten with mallets to achieve the same thing. It would be interesting to know whether ancient shoe soles were processed in a similar way.
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Håvard Nygård




Location: Norway
Joined: 27 Oct 2019

Posts: 32

PostPosted: Tue 09 Nov, 2021 8:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes, that would be interesting to know. In regards to hardness on the soles on my Viking shoes, 5 mm makes it impossible to dig into the soil with your toes. The sole is too thick and too hard to do that effectively. So i am dependent on adding grip by treating the soles with something. I have had some tips on this thread regarding that, which i will try and see how that works out.
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Håvard Nygård




Location: Norway
Joined: 27 Oct 2019

Posts: 32

PostPosted: Tue 09 Nov, 2021 9:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew Amt wrote:
Nope, the Romans just loved their hobnails, no matter the surface. Though I suspect they went for plain leather or wood clogs in the bath house, with those wet smooth floors! Hobnails are notorious death traps on surfaces like that.


Ok, thank you. Good to know.

Matthew Amt wrote:
For medieval shoes I've generally used 8-9 ounce vegetable tanned leather, often sold as "tooling sides" here in the US. Not sure what that works out to, 4 or 5mm? It's honestly been way too long since I did all the research on medieval shoes, much of which predated the internet! The Museum of London book "Shoes and Pattens" was my best source. I don't know if that's too thick for a sole, but it suited my leatherworking skills, and our modern feet on modern surfaces. Probably it's *not* too thick, because it became common to make soles with 2 layers, so even if they were thinner they'd add up to more than that. Roman soles were certainly multiple heavy layers, they're like strapping boards to your feet when they're new!


I will take a look at "Shoes and pattens". Would be good to own some books on shoes.

The thickness,could be just right for all i know. If 2 layers were normal it then depends on how the leather is treated to make it softer or harder. In my case it is pretty hard, but i don`t know which prosess has been used to make it so. I am trying to find out.

Interesting to hear about the thickness of Roman shoes, and that the soles were hard as a result. No digging in with toes in those i suspect. Maybe thats why they had to use hobnails for grip?
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Gregg Sobocinski




Location: Michigan
Joined: 21 Sep 2007
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PostPosted: Tue 09 Nov, 2021 2:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

“A few extra random observations. It was probably extremely common for poor people to walk barefoot for most of their lives and they managed to live with it somehow. It is not much fun (except in our funny times when companies can make money selling 'barefoot' shoes or training to people with 20 pairs of shoes who want something different Wink but it can be done. I remember some examples from 19th century Polish and Russian novels that mention that. Was probably the same in England and now we have the hobbits.”

Bart M:
You have some good observations, but I want to caution you not to fall into the trap that poorer people had so little. Sure, people would probably be more comfortable going barefoot during the summer in benign environments, but there is no reason why people wouldn’t have some fashion of footwear available. People were not the dirty, unhygienic masses depicted in movies and 19the century sources.

Humans of the last few thousand years were just as smart as modern humans. They just had fewer and different academic resources. Their libraries were their communities, while ours are some kind of primary school, Facebook, and Twitter.

The industrial revolution did change that, though. That’s where the “dirty poor” began.
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Håvard Nygård




Location: Norway
Joined: 27 Oct 2019

Posts: 32

PostPosted: Thu 11 Nov, 2021 12:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gregg Sobocinski wrote:
You have some good observations, but I want to caution you not to fall into the trap that poorer people had so little. Sure, people would probably be more comfortable going barefoot during the summer in benign environments, but there is no reason why people wouldn’t have some fashion of footwear available. People were not the dirty, unhygienic masses depicted in movies and 19the century sources.

The industrial revolution did change that, though. That’s where the “dirty poor” began.


Absolutely, 100% agree on this. There is one scene in the series "Vikings". I think it was season one, where Ragnar went sailing to the west to England. His wife and children remained in the village somewhere in western Norway, and two dirty men went inside her house and went: "oy, now that Ragnar is gone and not there to protect you, lets do some rapin`". Haha, what a ridiculous scene, as if the local people of the village would have any interest of treating their woman in such a manner. These people are family. They all know each other. They had values, honor and courage. Not only that but rape was such a tabu thing to do that certain death was what was waiting if you did such a cowardly horrible act. That or you where thrown in a bog alive.
I do wonder what Michael Hirst wanted to achieve with this show. The way he depicted the scandinavian people, their beliefs, and what they valued was from a very christian viewpoint and does not capture the heathen spirit at all.

With regards to who could afford wearing shoes, i think in the viking age in a cold climate everybody had shoes. The cost of making shoes in these times were not big and poeple went trough many pairs a year.
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Graham Shearlaw





Joined: 24 Oct 2011
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Posts: 114

PostPosted: Thu 11 Nov, 2021 2:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Håvard Nygård wrote:
Yes, the Romans used hobnail shoes but as far as i know this was not used among the Vikings. The reasons for this are probably that the terrain is harder with rocks and mountains in Scandinavia, but did`t the Romans walk on layered stone roads? Or maybe they used different shoes for that, and hobnails shoes for when marching in nature/forest?

The Roman army was also paid Calciarium basically a mileage payment for marching.
How much this was really to pay for foot wear vs a bribe/extortion we don't know.

Håvard Nygård wrote:
With regards to who could afford wearing shoes, i think in the viking age in a cold climate everybody had shoes. The cost of making shoes in these times were not big and poeple went trough many pairs a year.


I don't think that people went thru multiple pair of shoes that quickly, resoleing is an easy way to get multiple uses from the one shoe.
And on the viking age

Some of the shoes from Jorvik Viking Centre, note the two piece construction and the way the soles are attached, replacing them would be easy for anyone to do.

Note how in england there a big split of the Cordwainers or shoe makers and the cobblers, the later are far more common every other village has one but they only do repairs and maintenance.
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Bart M





Joined: 05 Aug 2005

Posts: 31

PostPosted: Thu 11 Nov, 2021 2:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The assumption that people in the past, even poor, had close to nothing was never there on my side. Although my choice of words was not the best I admit. I probably should have said 'It was probably common for extremely poor people...' Wink You also made a good point about XIX century being very different because of industrial revolution. I'm afraid I have said all that I had to say here as my knowledge of Viking footwear specifically is non existent. But thanks for all the interesting info gents.
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Håvard Nygård




Location: Norway
Joined: 27 Oct 2019

Posts: 32

PostPosted: Fri 12 Nov, 2021 6:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Graham Shearlaw wrote:
I don't think that people went thru multiple pair of shoes that quickly, resoleing is an easy way to get multiple uses from the one shoe.

And on the viking age
Some of the shoes from Jorvik Viking Centre, note the two piece construction and the way the soles are attached, replacing them would be easy for anyone to do.


Yes, it looks like the sole is sewn to the leather of the shoe in a two piece construction. The same way my shoes are made. You are right, it would be fairly easy to replace the sole by cutting up the seam and attach a new sole by stiching.
Great picture, Graham.

Graham Shearlaw wrote:
Note how in england there a big split of the Cordwainers or shoe makers and the cobblers, the later are far more common every other village has one but they only do repairs and maintenance.


I thought a cobbler made and repaired shoes. Do you think this is specifically an English thing or would the same apply to other countries of europe as well? I would have to think that to have two separate professions in a similar industry, the demand has to be great in order to justify the need for it. I don`t know if that demand was so big in Norway at this time. It would all depend on how many people lived here at that time. I have to check the local history of this.

Do you know in English history, if this was more common in the medieval period or earlier?
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Anthony Clipsom




Location: YORKSHIRE, UK
Joined: 27 Jul 2009

Posts: 196

PostPosted: Fri 12 Nov, 2021 8:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Do you know in English history, if this was more common in the medieval period or earlier?


Well, the OED gives the first use in English as c. 1100, which is not surprising as it is an Anglo-Norman loan word. Whether the distinction existed prior to this in England, I couldn't say. In medieval towns and cities, Cordwainers Guilds were common so the distinction certainly would have held there (the guilds would have tackled any mere cobbler making shoes on their patch) but whether itinerant cobblers around the villages could make up simple turnshoes or the like is another thing.

York incidentally still has a Cordwainers Guild with a hall (Bedern Hall) - my daughter was married there.

Anthony Clipsom
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Graham Shearlaw





Joined: 24 Oct 2011
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PostPosted: Sat 13 Nov, 2021 9:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Håvard Nygård wrote:

I thought a cobbler made and repaired shoes. Do you think this is specifically an English thing or would the same apply to other countries of europe as well? I would have to think that to have two separate professions in a similar industry, the demand has to be great in order to justify the need for it. I don`t know if that demand was so big in Norway at this time. It would all depend on how many people lived here at that time. I have to check the local history of this.

Do you know in English history, if this was more common in the medieval period or earlier?


I'm not sure how much of a distinction there was else or where, but the patten makers also had the own guild too.

I think its more that the roles lend then self's to separation then the demand, you have a production can be centralised in towns and spread by trade, where as repairs are needed every where and promptly.
The example such a separation in modern times is cars, there made in huge factory's to stock models by the thousand but every village has some where that sells fuel and tires.
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Håvard Nygård




Location: Norway
Joined: 27 Oct 2019

Posts: 32

PostPosted: Sat 13 Nov, 2021 9:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

And workshops everywhere to repair the cars as well. Yes that comparison makes sense. I am sure it was the same in Norway as well.
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