This is a reconstruction of a pair of tall riding boots from the 5-7th century found in the ruins of the Byzantine city of Antinopolis in modern day Egypt. Because of the favorable climate there, the city is a treasure trove of historical artifacts most of which have survived in great condition. This allows us to better understand how shoes and garments were made, and what they looked like. This pair of Byzantine riding boots were made in the classical “turnshoe” construction method, which means that they were sewn inside out, and then flipped. This is a very popular way of making shoes, that remained in use for centuries. Because of the inherent flaws in this method, however, the reconstruction we’re presenting here is much different when it comes to soles and sole attachment.
As you can see, this is not a “turnshoe” construction. The method used here is called “clump-shoe” which is a fancy way of saying that the sole is outside. The shoe is sewn inside-out with a thin leather sole, and a narrow strip of leather protruding between the upper and the inside sole. This thin leather strip is where the sole is attached to. This construction method became popular in 14-15th century Europe, and is very good for our modern reconstruction needs. It allows the reenactor to replace the sole of his riding boots when they get worn out, without having to compromise the structural integrity of the boot.
In this case, the customer wanted them reinforced with additional layers of leather and hobnails for better traction during combat. We don’t usually deal with hobnails, and don’t have the practice of nailing the sole, but we did our best, and are pretty happy with the results.
The upper leather is 2mm calf leather, the sole is 7mm cow hide, with additional nailed strips of another 7mm. As far as Byzantine riding boots go, these won’t be very comfortable to wear on horseback, because the sole reinforcement will make the use of the stirrups very difficult. However, if you are a swordsman who plans on doing a lot of fencing and fighting on foot, these boots are the best thing you can get.