Shoes & Boots - carbatinae

Move on historical footsteps

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Veni, Vidi, Vici - the popularity of the Roman shoe continues to this day

The Roman boots, also known as Caligae (singular: Caliga), were the boots of the Roman military, worn and loved by the legionaries. Thanks to their lightness and the supple leather, the soldiers were able to easily travel considerable distances in the imperial age and Roman republic. A legionnaire once reported of the "blessing for his foot during summer", because during this time heavy boots were put aside and exchanged for light Roman shoes and Roman sandals. But not only the legionaries took advantage of the Roman footwear, even the higher officers like Centurions were also using these shoes, while tribunes and legates carried traditional and high-heeled boots (also known as Calceus). The versatile use of the Roman shoes enabled the Auxiliary troops (the mounted cavalry) to use them as well, but fitted with spurs.

The Caligae proved back then and even today as a robust footwear, which allowed that dust, dirt and water could enter easily, but they could also be cleaned very quickly. It must have been an absolute blessing to walk in these shoes through a river after a long march with the legions. Ultimately, we all know the liberating feeling to take off a shoe that offers little ventilation. However, the Caligae were quite different, because a constant ventilation also prevented sweating and offered the shoe wearer a refreshing and smooth feeling. Although the Caligae could not protect the foot on hard ground, they are said to put the foot into an optimal running position. Proven in experimental archaeological trials, there is no doubt that Roman shoes provided the wearer with sufficient support and were incredibly sturdy, even though it often took around 4 - 5 minutes to put the shoes on.

The production of college - a traditional art of the Roman age

The production of the Caligae and the use of the materials have been handed down until today and involve a number of particularities. This traditional craftsmanship had a decisive advantage at that time: you could always repair, adjust or create a new pair very quickly. The upper leather (made from one piece of leather) in combination with a complex system of flaps, formed the sole of the Roman shoe.

Almost all archeologically found Caligae have the same manufacturing process and similar cut patterns, suggesting that the Romans had already gone into some sort of optimized mass production for these shoes to save money and time, since many of these shoes were needed for the legions. The sole of the shoes was further reinforced with 2 layers of leather and with approx. 70 - 90 iron nails, which gave the shoe a footprint and also protected the leather from excessive wear. It is also assumed that the firm sole of the shoes was very effective for kicking enemy soldiers and during battles.

The Caligae - the summer shoes of the Romans

It is believed that the Caligae was replaced with a closed shoe, because although they were very airy and light they did not provide any protection in cold climates. However, the Romans and legionaries knew how to help themselves and used in addition to the roman shoes so-called spats or even some sort of stocking to stuff the Caligae with warming materials (e.g. wool or hemp), if they had to keep watch or stayed in a particularly cold climate. The Roman cavalry also used these spats and protective leather, as the feet with the Caligae would quickly begin to freeze on horseback. During long marches in the summer the legionaries even received a gold bonus, which is called a clavarium, to replace lost nails in the soles. A set of nails would usually last about 500 - 1000 kilometers. Just as with the shoe models of modern times, this was also depended on the wear and running behavior of the respective Roman. Thus, a Roman legionary would need up to 3 - 4 pairs of Roman boots a year, if the boots had worn out and needed to be replaced.

The journey of the Caligae into modern times

The classic Caligae had to give way to closed shoes and in the fourth century it was no longer just a military shoe, it also became the Roman shoe for peasants, muleteers and was often used in Roman villages and agriculture. In the 20th century, the Roman shoe is not just a reminder, but also a remnant of a historical and glorious Roman era and is often used for historical films.

Enthusiasts of the Caligae still exist today, because this shoe is very close to a barefoot shoe and supports the optimal posture of the foot while walking. The Caligae of today are made of soft, natural leather, which can be supple but also resilient. The flexible application of the shoe allows an individual lacing and tightening of the Roman shoe even today while also grounding its wearer while running. The optimal running performance, which is genetically passed on, is trained again in a Caligae and promotes the optimal use of our foot and leg muscles.