Footwear of Nomads and Barbarians

As with their clothing, the foot-wear of nomads and barbarians was made out of the skins of the animals that they hunted and, in some cases, herded. Though we have very little physical evidence about the footwear worn by such peoples as the Gauls, Celts, Huns, and Goths, we do know that their animal hide footwear came in two basic styles. The first style, which was similar to primitive footwear worn by prehistoric humans, consisted of a single piece of animal hide wrapped up over the top of the foot and secured by some form of hide strap or tie. More common was a multipart hide shoe, in which hide uppers were stitched to a sole of thicker leather.

Huns and Goths, who had migrated to central and southern Europe from colder regions to the north and east, likely used animal skins with the fur still attached for extra warmth. They also appear to have worn high boots that reached to just below the knee. It is believed that the Roman cothurnus, a high boot, was modeled after a boot worn by Celts and Gauls from present-day Britain and France.

A Viking in traditional barbarian dress, including a fur cape, helmet with horns, and footwear made out of animal hide. Reproduced by permission of the .


Laver, James. Costume and Fashion: A Concise History. 4th ed. London, England: Thames and Hudson, 2002.

Payne, Blanche, Geitel Winakor, and Jane Farrell-Beck. The History of Costume. 2nd ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.

[ See also Volume 1, Ancient Rome: Cothurnus ]

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