17th Century Footwear of The Common Soldier

Article written by Will Spackman and re edited by Terry Richardson, Researched by John Bailey and Andy Webb

Footwear in the 17th century was as now very varied, but I will concentrate on the footwear of the common people. The shoes were made of oak bark tanned leather and thus had a natural dark fawn brown colour. Which would then be used so that the flesh side faced out, i.e. shiny side to the skin.

Lacing was generally simple with one thong tying together the tongue and securing straps. Shoes were made using the ‘welted’ method a welt being a narrow strip of leather sewn round and attached to the insole and the upper then sewn onto the sole. A shank reinforced the waist of the shoe between the sole and insole, this is necessary when the shoe has a heel. All shoes were made straight and had either square or rounded toes.

The heel, like the sole, was made from old scrap leather and consisted of 2 lifts each about 3/l6ths thick and 31/2” in length. The two lifts would be pegged together and the heel attached to the main shoe with stitching. Hob nails were used only to prolong the life of the heel and sole.

You can buy from various retailers on the web or TORM (The Original Reeneactors Market), costing between £48 to £75, but for the most of us who cannot afford this sort of price straight away, for you first year in the Sealed Knot, we recommend a conversion of desert boots allowing you to save up for an authentic pair throughout the year.

Desert boots are available in most shoe shops and markets, costing usually around £10 -£15. A light tanned pair is the best colour to buy.

Regimental standards

If you want authenticity you would be best to go for Latchets, Unless things change seriously the advice is liable to be…

NO! = 20th Century footwear

Minimum Regimental Requirement = Desert Boots. (for you 1st session only)

Preferred = open or closed latchet shoes – and is the minimum for Living History displays.

Option = Ankle boots (but we have doubts about their authenticity)

Be careful of = Start Ups – as there is no evidence they are authentic

NO! = Bucket Topped Boots – Unless you are an officer.