At the end of each historical adventure-season I try to clean, mend and grease all our shoes. Outdoors in the autumn sun is of course the most enjoyable, but as long as you get it done it is fine. (Ideally, one would do this after each event to keep the shoes in top condition. But I am lazy…)
After each adventure:
Treat your shoes with some grease after each event/market/adventure and also during longer trips. If the shoes get wet, dry them in room temperature or outdoors (never put them by the fire). You may fill them with paper to get them to dry quicker.
How to deep-clean your shoes before putting them away for the winter:
- Brush away loose bits and dust, and clean the space between leather and sole by separating these and brushing away small scraps in the crack. Use a soft brush.
- Wipe the shoes clean with luke warm water, and a bit of leather soap/regular soap if dirty. Scrub the soles clean with water and soap.
- Dry well, filled with paper to hold the shape better.
- Treat the leather parts with leather grease. I also grease the soles on turnshoes.
- Dry for a day or two, and then store the shoes in a dry space. I usually keep the historical shoes in the wardrobe.
Before the next adventure, take out your shoes and grease them again before use!
Mend your shoes as soon as you discover they are broken! A ripped seam or a loose strap needs to be sewn (you can use vaxed linen thread) and a loose rubber sole needs to be glued in place. If you are unsure how to mend the shoe, the shoemaker you bought them from should be able to help you or give you advise. A modern shoemaker/cobbler could also be of help.
Store your shoes:
Shoes should be kept in a dry space, and can be filled with paper to better hold their shape. Wardrobes, airy shelves or paper boxes are good. Shoes might get moldy if kept damp or squashed together.
How to use your shoes:
Leather turn shoes (with a leather sole) wears out quickly if you walk with them on gravel and asphalt. If you are walking a lot on those grounds, consider to bring a pair of pattens (wooden soles with straps) to protect your shoes. Or change to modern shoes if walking longer distances. I do that during Medieval week in Visby to spare both shoes and knees.
Mud is equally bad for your shoes; try to avoid it, wear pattens, or brush your shoes clean as fast as you can after a muddy experience.
When walking, remember to not drag you feet against the ground, but properly lift your feet to spare the sole. Avoiding glass and sharp stones is also good. If the shoes get a bit large, use an inner sole, a pair of extra socks or leather straps to keep the shoe firmly on your foot. A shoe that moves on your foot will get uncomfortable and wear out faster.
Buying or making historical shoes can be expensive, but with the right use and treatment they will last a long time. I use mine approximately 30 days a year, and they are several years old now!
(Want to make your own shoes? I have a weekend workshop in shoemaking planned for 13-14 November 2021 in Sundsvall, Sweden. Send me an email if you want to know more and join us!)