Longtoed shoes for a Burgundy lady

For competing at the A & S championship at the Kingdom University in Lübeck 10-12 November 2006.
Category: Sciences

Description: With black and green upper leather decorated with white clovers.

Material: Leather, linen thread and some beevax.

Place: Western Europe, my shoe model are inspired from Schnabelshuhe,

Time: approx 1550

Material: Leather from goat or cow, sole leather from ox, 3 thread spun, linen thread, waxed with beeswax to go smoother.

Tools: A sharp awl and two leather needles and a sharp knife and scissors.


The pattern was inspired from these find of medieval shoes and paintings from the period.
Se pictures.

never see it on common people, who are forced to dress more practical.

The long toe had different decorations and length, this promiscuous focus on shoes provoked the church to dislike the new shoe fashion, and called it extravagance, and implied that the occasionally upturned long stuffed toe was a symbol of declining morality. 

Anyway the long toed shoe last to another fashion comes through, the Cow mouth/ Kuhmaul in the 15th century.

Alte Pinakothek, Munich The birth of Mary

The making of shoes

First I made a paper pattern on my right foot, cut out the pattern in cotton cloth and made a “dummy”. Here I draw and cut out, where the seams should be, and created the design of the upper leather. The cloth pattern was after some adjustments transferred to the leather pieces.

The shoes was sewn inside out, with a folded leather ribbon or welt, between the upper leather and the sole, this technique was to prevent tear of the seam and the vulnerable upper leather, but it was hard to make it on long toed shoes, because of a change of sewing technique in the toe area.

I used two, not sharp, leather needles in each end of an 3 thread spun, linen thread, waxed with beeswax to go smoother. A sharp awl penetrated the leather and first I picked one needle through, and from the opposite, I picked the other needle through and pulled the thread hard. This is called the shoemakers sewing. It gives a strong seam that looks similar at both sides.

After sewing the upper leather pieces together into two whole pieces, I sew the upper leather together with the soles, inside out, with the welt in between and a support triangle leather at the heels.

The triangle extra piece in the heel.

I waited to sew the last 5 cm in the toe after the turning of the shoe.

After a half hour in hand warm water the shoes still was hard to turn, because they were so long and I only had left 5 cm, not sewn.

The shoes dried out with some newspaper stuffed inside it to form the shoes right.

Sewing the toes together was not as hard as I thought. I used the awl carefully, to make hole through the sole and through the upper leather. The old finds are sewn right horizontal through the sole, but I didn’t need to do so. I worked from the both sides and out to the toe end and made an invisible knot ore two, to end the seam.

I decorated the edges with clovers on a string and a “flip” on top of the shoes. This is only an “extravagant” idea I got but it felt very period, because the limit was the church and the practical use of the shoes.


The openings got a support edge and a leather string to closing.


The medieval shoes were either one soled, or divided in front foot and heel, I choosed to make my in one sole.

A leather sole are very slippery so I also glued on a rubber sole, just so the shoes will last longer. The medieval owner would have used corksole, woodensole, patinas or layers of hard leather.

Sources: Footwear of the middle Ages – Long toed shoes, pictures of finds. Paintings and illustrations: Les Riches Heures, 

Romance of the rose – Dancers in a garden, The birth of Mary by the elder Pinakothek, Munich, among other pictures from my favourite book: Medieval Panorama edited by Robert Bartlett. Also available on my favourite web: www.wga.hu.


    The Jurys comments:

The leather was wrong. It should be vegetabile worked leather, it is harder and stiffer.
The seams on medieval shoes are not visible but hidden
The heel reinforcement can be smaler and of a stiffer peace of leather.
The owl should be a bit curved, to make the sewing of a hidden seam, easier.
The colours did´nt suit one of the judges ;-) It is my heraldic colours!

The shoes had a nice form and the details was accepted.
Possitive was that the shoes was wery ecual and the long toe solution was nice.

The paper contended too mutch about the history, only these particular shoes, period is interesting. The sourches of the pictures and some picturetext is recomended.