Medieval Footwear

I’m sorry if you’ve already answered this, but I’ve been scouring your blog and I haven’t seen my precise question asked yet, so: what kind of boots are most practical for a hunter-slash-fighter? I know you mentioned potentially breaking toes in steel-toe boots, and this is a medieval-ish world, where my character spends half her time living in forests or traveling on-foot, and the other half fighting magical creatures to protect nearby settlements.

So, as a quick caveat, this is not my area of expertise. I’m also going to be a little sloppy here, because depending on your definition, Medieval can cover roughly a thousand years.

You’re probably looking at soft, pliable, leather boots or shoes. Possibly with multiple layers stitched together to provide additional protection and stability, particularly on the soles. Earlier medieval footwear was a bit softer than what we’re used to.

During the middle ages, there was a common practice of wearing pattens while going outside. These were wooden platforms which would fit under the shoe, and protect it from damage when worn outside. These were then held in place with leather or fabric strips. Pattens still saw use, in women’s fashion, into the 19th Century.

Soldiers are a little different. The actual footwear would still be leather shoes or boots, but, depending on their means, if they had any additional armor, it would likely be greaves. Greaves are a shin guard (usually made out of metal), which date back to the bronze age. Ironically, they fell out of use for a few centuries around the end of the first millennium, before reappearing. So, if your setting is contemporary with the Viking conquests, greaves were becoming quite rare, while if you’re setting it a few centuries later, they would have started reemerging.

Protection for the foot itself would be the sabaton. These are articulated plates which fit over the foot. These start popping up in the 13th century. As with greaves, sabatons do not replace the boot your character would wear; instead they would fit over the boot. Sabatons would likely be part of a full suit of plate armor, and also probably indicate that the soldier in question was very well equipped, or wealthy in their own right.

Ironically, the modern steel toed boot is a 20th century invention. Now, the sabaton existed before that, and it’s entirely possible someone may have sewn metal plates into their footwear before that, but as far as I know, the steel toe cap only dates back to the 1940s. So, not something your medieval hunter/fighter would have been hauling around.

So, the short answer is, it’s likely she’d wear soft-heeled leather boots. Depending on the timeframe, her armor might include greaves, or not.


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