Roman Footwear of the People

Welcome back to Rome Across Europe! Not too long ago we began to take a look into Roman fashion.

We started with Caligae – Footwear of Rome’s Fighting Men. The follow-up was learning that the iconic Toga was not for everybody.

It seems that the fashion train has many stops, so we’ll climb aboard. Today we check out Roman footwear of the people!From York, England

Considering how prized modern Italian leather goods are today, it is perhaps not too surprising that there was a good deal of variety in the types of ancient Roman sandals and shoes. The sutor (shoe-maker) was a valued craftsman among his peers.

The Romans were the originators of the entire-foot-encasing shoe to the Mediterranean world. Various other types of leather footwear were worn within the Roman Empire.

There was a wide variety of shoes and sandals for men and women. Most were constructed like military caligae, with a one-piece upper nailed between layers of the sole.

Many had large open-work areas made by cutting or punching circles, triangles, squares, ovals, etc. in rows or grid-like with openwork leather upper and nailed soles Germany

Others were more enclosed, having only holes for the laces. Some very dainty women’s and children’s shoes still had thick nailed soles.

Some early shoes had pointed calcei repandi (upward curving toes), and were both laced and strapped into place. Later shoes had rounded toes.

Some shoes had a 1- or 2-piece upper of soft leather which enclosed the foot like a modern shoe. The edges were nailed between the sole layers.

Traditionally, footwear worn by PatriciiSenators, and Magistrates were called calcei, while common people wore perones. But there is much confusion in terminology and most shoes which have nailed soles, and are neither caligae nor sandals, are referred to as calcei.

Calcei senatorii had soft leather uppers and were secured by wide straps which passed under the foot and crisscrossed up the lower leg. They were red with small ivory crescents attached. The Ordo Equester  are shown wearing an identical style, but apparently black in color.Calcei senatorii -patricii

One-piece shoes called carbatinae were shaped like caligae, but had no outer or inner soles added. Besides open-work on the leather, shoes and sandals could be dyed, tooled, embossed, or even have gilded designs.carbatinae

Issandalia or solea were generic sandals with a thong between the toes and a hobnailed or stitched sole. Solea were worn when dressed in just the tunica and stola, but inappropriate for wear with the toga or palla.

The carbatinae was a sandal made from a single piece of leather with a soft sole and openwork upper fastened by a lace. In addition, there were socci (slippers) and theatrical footwear, like the cothurnus. A soccus was a separate leather upper and a sole without hobnails.

The generic calceus was made of soft leather, completely covered the foot and was fastened in front with thongs. The calceus had a hobnailed sole as well.From the Antonine Wall

It’s possible that heavy nailed shoes were for outdoor wear, while lighter sandals and carbatinae were worn around the house.

Sandals were removed before reclining for a feast. At the conclusion of the feast, the diners requested their sandals.

Shoes and shoe-boots were calcei, from the word calx (heel), which were distinctly for wearing with the toga and thus forbidden to slaves.

The black leather senator’s shoe or calceus senatorius had 4 straps (corrigiae). A senator had a crescent shape on the top of his shoes. Except for color and price, the senator’s shoe was similar to the patrician’s costlier red high-soled calceus mulleus fastened with hooks and straps around the ankle.

Winter shoes were usually cork-soled. Wet weather called for a boot called the pero, which was made of rawhide.Sandals with Skins

Calcamen was the name of a shoe that reached midcalf. Sometimes the soles were thickened to provide the imitation of height.

Women wore sandals similar to those of men, but they were of softer, finer leather. Caligae muliebres were unstudded boots for women. Another variation was the calceoli, which was a little shoe or half boot for women.

Udones (socks) were sewn of woven cloth, and could be worn for warmth or as decorative items. In the latter case they would be brightly colored so as to show through the ornate open-work of the shoes, and might leave the toes and heel exposed.Socks

Socks were worn strictly for warmth and not necessarily so colorful. Fancy shoes could also have a colorful cloth lining, eliminating the need for socks.

Just like people of today, the Ancient Romans were keen on footwear. It feels as if they were the trend setters of fashion trend setters.

No matter what, like most things, the Romans were dialed in to form and function. Footwear would have come along no matter what, but we just love how the Romans were the ones to make it happen.

Thanks for stopping by Rome Across Europe. Come back soon to see what we have in store for you.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Making Authentic Caligae

Gill, N.S. Ancient Roman Shoes. Roman Sandals and Other Footwear.


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