Early Roman military boots (caligae) are characterised by the almost symmetrical shape of their one piece leather upper component which was stitched to an inner sole. (The outer sole having hobnails).

Remains of this style of boot have been found throughout the areas occupied by the Roman army of the first and second centuries AD and reveal a fairly standardised pattern that did not vary much from region to region.

This style of boot seems to have gradually disappeared sometime in the late 2nd Century AD. After this time it is difficult to make distinctions between military and civilian footwear (Van Driel Murray suggests that military shoemaking may have passed on to civilians perhaps working on contract and as a result only a proportional imbalace of boot sizes (all adult) may indicate a military community.

A significant number of 3rd and 4th Century AD shoe finds from the Danish and North German bogs (Mainz boot)The Mainz Boot reveal interesting trends in the footwear of this period and strong parallels in elements such as hobnails and stamping of patterns onto the uppers may indicate strong Roman cultural influence on these regions or direct trade links.

An interesting development in later Roman footwear is the distinct asymmetrical pattern of boot uppers such as the Low Ham boot & examples from Saalburg, this shows a significant break in the method of design and production from the early military boots and is a key stage in the evolution of footwear towards medieval patterns and methods of footwear production.5th Century women's shoes found in Egypt
Eastern influences were beginning to manifest themselves in the footwear of the period, beautiful examples of gilded & embriodered leather women's shoes from 5th Century AD Roman Egypt survive intact. (Now in the V&A).




The Low Ham BootThe Saalberg Boot


Driel-Murray, C. van: Footwear in the North-Western Provinces of the Roman Empire. in Goubitz/Van Driel-Murray/Groenman-van Wateringe: Stepping Through Time. Archeological Footwear from Prehistoric Times until 1800, Zwolle 2001.

Driel-Murray, C. van: The Leatherwork from the Fort. in Cool, H.E.M. and Philo, C.: Roman Castleford Excavations 1974-85. Volume I: The Small Finds, Yorkshire Archaeology 4, Wakefield 1998. 285-303