Military Sandals and Boots

Recommended Shoes

Mainz Caligae - Based on a find from Mainz and dating to the 1st century AD, offered by Rigorevali. Check stock and sizing first.

Castleford Caligae - Based on a find from Castleford and dating to the 1st century AD, offered by Soul of the Warrior. Check stock and sizing first.

Mainz Calcei - Based on a find from Mainz and dating to the 1st century AD, offered by Rigorevali. Check stock and sizing first.

Vindolanda "Fell" Calcei - Based on a find from Vindolanda and dating to the 1st century AD, offered by Rigorevali. Check stock and sizing first.

 

Rigorevali - An English company that makes boots custom sized to fit your foot. These include the Vindolanda "Fell" boots, civilian Carbatinae, and a set of Caligae found there too.

Custom Options:

 

Fabrica Cacti - Can make custom-fitted caligae and calcei. Based in Poland, good prices.

History

Caligae

The classic Roman military boot!  Numerous examples and styles have been found in archeological sites throughout the Empire. There are the "Fell" calcei from Vindolanda, England, the caligae found in Qasr Ibrim, Egypt, a pair of caligae found at Castleford, England, and a pair of caligae and calcei from Mainz, Germany. These examples are by no means the only samples out there, but are some of the ones available to reenactors.

 

While the caliga is a unique open work sandal, the calceus is a completely enclosed boot.  There is little to no evidence as to what type of shoe the soldiers of the Republic wore.  It is widely accepted among scholars that the reason for all sculpture evidence showing soldiers bare foot is that the footwear was painted on.  There is evidence, however, that show officers from centurio to legate wearing enclosed boots. 

 

The exact origins of caligae remain uncertain, but we do know they were in use by the time of Augustus in the campaigns of Germania, and by his successor Tiberius.  In fact Germanicus, the adopted son of Tiberius, often wore a miniature pair of caligae when he was on campaign so much that he was nicknamed Caligula. 

 

Original Caliga photo, German Leather Museum, click here.

 

Making authentic Caligae "how-to" page, click here.

 

Making authentic Mainz Calcei "how-to" page, click here.

 

Making authentic Calcei page, by Florentius, click here.

 

Legio XX caligae patterns, click here.

 

Here is what “Roman Military Equipment: From the Punic Wars to the Fall of Rome” by M.C. Bishop & J.C.N. Coulston has to say about Caligae.

 

"Roman military footwear of this period was very distinctive and is well-known from the literary, represetational and archaeological evidence.  Usually known as a caliga, each boot was made from three main pieces of vegetable-tanned ox or cow leather - the upper, the sole, and an insole.  All three layers were clenched with hobnails, frequently arranged in patterns, at least some of which were designed to facilitate comfortable walking and anticipated 20th-century research into the optimum design of training-shoe soles.  The uppers were pierced with openwork designs, so that the boots looked more like the modern idea of a sandal, but it was, as van Driel-Murray has pointed out, an exremely functional piece of footwear.  The openwork upper gave good ventilation, the many straps allowed adjustment to fit the peculiarities of an individual's foot, whilst ports of the boot that might rub (toe joints, ankle, big toe nail) were cut away.  Caligae found on Roman military sites seldom show signs of repair, usually being thrown away once the nails started to wear through the insole and thus become uncomfortable.  Complete boots have been found at Mainz and Valkenburg, but their remains are known from several 1st-century sites where waterlogged conditions have preserved leather. 

 

Hob-nailed boots were not merely worn by Roman soldiers, but they became synonymous with the military.  Juvenal commented on the brutal use of boots on civilians and the imprint of studs on a victim's face.  Josephus recounted the anecdote of a Roman centurion who was killed by a mob after his hobnails caused him to skid on stone paving and fall over, and it seems that soldiers form the frontiers, visiting Rome and unused to paved streets, were the butt of metropolitan humour.  Hob-nailed boots were forbidden to Jews by Jewish law for reasons of identification, because both their tracks and their noise revealed the presence of Roman soldiers."

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