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Although not absolutely necessary, a pair of authentic shoes completes the basic costume. The pattern below is from Hedeby in Denmark and represents a simple one-piece shoe that you cut from a single piece of leather. With your sole and upper patterns, check that they will do for both feet. Mark out one for each foot from a suitable piece of leather, and cut out the various pieces. Pair the uppers and soles together, remembering to put the "shiny" side of the leather outwards and downwards. If chromed leather is being used, hide the chromed side inwards and downwards. Start the sewing at the heel triangle, and use saddle stitching. Sew up the short side first, and then sew round the long edge. You may have to pull the leather tight to ensure that they meet together at the side of the foot. A little extra material on these edges will ensure a good seam. When the sewing is completed and any excess leather is trimmed off, the shoe can be turned the right way round. Stiff seams can be rubbed with bees wax and hammered flat to prevent chafing. Toggles and laces can be added, but remember that they did not lace up boots and shoes as we do today. We tend to lace up a vertical arrangement of holes, whilst they thonged up a horizontal arrangement of holes or slits. Mould, Carlisle and Cameron (2003)



Shoes and boots can be fastened by toggles, whilst shoes can be fastened by laces – though laces only seem to have come into use in the later period (c.1050+).

Boots were never laced up to the top – they were either left open at the front or fastened by two or more toggles up the side.

How to make toggles

Toggles can be made from a tapered strip of leather, rolled up and threaded back through a slit in itself. Leather toggles can be sewn on as described above.

Drawing of a leather toggle

The other half of the fastening mechanism is made by attaching a loop of leather to the footwear. This loop is attached by punching two holes in the side of the footwear and feeding the pointed loop ends through the holes.

The loop can be secured with triangular wedges, by inserting two leather "pegs", or by knotting.

A loop secured with wedgesA loop secured with two leather pegsA loop secured by knotting

Or you can just (carefully!) cut a small slit in the shoe through which the toggle fastens.

How to lace your shoes

Early medieval shoes tended to be laced up horizontally rather than vertically, as in modern footwear.

Shoes had one or two holes either side of the opening, or (more commonly) the lace went through holes or pairs of slits around the top edge of the shoe. Drawing of a method of lacing a shoe Drawing of two methods of lacing a shoe


There are examples of two-toggled ankle high shoes, and three-toggled boots. Ankle high shoes with two toggles can be used by all cultures. The taller boots are suitable for Viking characters only, and restricted to higher status. Boots may never be higher than the length of the boot’s sole, and do not have more than three toggles.