Introduction: Iron Age Shoes (previous 'viking Shoes')

Picture of Iron Age Shoes (previous 'viking Shoes')

Edited to add: Due to alle the comments regarding the title of this instruction, I've changed the name to 'iron age shoes' which might be more historycally correct.

I learned to make these by using my own foot as a template. Therefore, all the measures given here are highly approximate. If your foot diverges a lot from mine (European size 39, long and narrow/slender), some sewing experience might come in handy. That said, there's no reason to be too specific in making these. As you can see, the 'laces' can be loosened or tightened to fit, and the basic idea is really very simple.
The photo here shows my own, good old shoes, made in 1997. I always use them with these thick, felted socks inside; to me, they're part of the shoe. They are soft, comfy and I simply love them. Based on my original 11 year old, several times altered, water damaged drawing, I have made a kind of template as a sort of guideline. You'll find it at the end of this tutorial. I had to scan it in two operations as it was so big, then paste the parts together on my computer, so this adds to the imperfection. You should go for the thick, black lines and not pay too much attention to the rest :)
Important: Look through all the photos before you start drawing!

Step 1: Supplies

Picture of Supplies

A large piece of leather, about 2,5 - 3 millimeter thick.
X-acto knife or sharp scissors.
An awl or other tool to make holes in the leather.
Pen or pencil.
A cutting board (I use a wooden one).

Step 2: Before You Start

Picture of Before You Start

By following the description, you should end up with something that looks like this (never mind the red dots in the picture - they will be explained later). The uncut shoe is my left foot (wrong side out), but the cut, dark one is my right foot shoe (right side out).

Step 3: Draw Your Foot

Picture of Draw Your Foot

You start by purchasing some good leather about 2,5 - 3 millimeter thick. Thinner than this will be like wearing a thin but stiff plastic cover on your foot. Not good.
Start with drawing a line around your foot.

Step 4: Mark the Center Point

Picture of Mark the Center Point

Then mark the center point under your forefoot; the part that you use to kick off when you walk. (Wow. Pay attention. More bad English will follow). Using a ruler, draw a vertical line through this as shown.

Step 5: New Line

Picture of New Line

Draw another line under this one. Using my foot as a measure, this will be approximately 2,5 centimeters below the first line. Yours might be different, but take a look at where the line is placed on the foot; just below the big knuckle on the inside of your foot. The top line is just above it.

Step 6: 'toe Allowance'

Picture of 'toe Allowance'

Draw a line about 1 cm outside the foot line, around the toe area. Omit the bumps (your toes...)

Step 7: Mark the Fan

Picture of Mark the Fan

Mark several points about 5,5 cm outside of this again. Draw a line through the points (I forgot to do it at this point and did it later on, see below. It's hard making a tutorial; you have to think in logical steps instead of doing the messy thing you usually do!) .

Step 8: Draw Heel Cap

Picture of Draw Heel Cap

Draw the heel cap, about 2 cm wide and 4 cm long. Mark three lines (the dotted red lines) - these points mark the end of the heel part (the bottom line), and also between the 'ears' that comes next (the two upper lines). Again, there is little point in giving measures here, but look again at where the lines are placed on the foot. And remember it's all very approximately. The shoe can be made with both two or three 'ears'. These are made with three. If you're good at measuring with your eyes only, this step can be omitted completely.

Step 9: Draw the 'ears'

Picture of Draw the 'ears'

Here comes the free hand drawing. Sketch up the 'ears' using a soft pencil. I have given measures here; again, only guidelines. I have marked the outer most point of the ears with red dots. You can (barely!) see here where the three lines from the previous photo are; in between the three ears, and at the end of the heel ear.

Step 10: Draw Ears, Solid Line

Picture of Draw Ears, Solid Line

When you are happy with your drawing, make a more solid line.

Step 11: Draw the Fan

Picture of Draw the Fan

The next step can also be omitted, but is helpful as a visual guide: Using a ruler, draw a fan from the middle point of your forefoot to the line you made 5,5 cm outside your toes. In addition, you will draw lines in the 2,5 cm area below the toe area, as shown. This will be the 'fingers' that wraps around your toes. As you can see from step #2, there is some space between some of the 'fingers' in the top section of the fan. There's no rules to this; the point is just to make them fit nicely around your toes. The only thing I would make sure of, is not to cut the fingers slimmer than 1 cm. But differing somewhat from each other in size is not a problem.

Step 12: Cut

Picture of Cut

Start cutting.

Step 13: Cut the 'fingers'

Picture of Cut the 'fingers'

And here's why drawing the fan can be omitted (at least by me); you might just decide to ignore the lines while cutting. But they're good as a visual aid. Cut he 'fingers' up until the 1 cm line, as shown by the red dot at the tip of the knife.

Step 14: Punch Holes

Picture of Punch Holes

Cut the fingers so that they seem functional, with a little space between some of them. You might wish to round off the tip of the fingers just a little by cutting the corners, but this is optional.
In this picture, I have tanned the leather, rubbed it with beeswax, and punched holes in each finger, ear and along the heel cap(s). EDIT: I'm lying. There's no holes in the heel caps. Go back to picture #3, click to enlarge, and use the red dots as a guideline to making the holes.

Step 15: String the Heel Cap, 1

Picture of String the Heel Cap, 1

As you see, there are five holes in the side flaps, and four on each side of the middle piece.
Pull your leather string through the two bottom holes in the middle section, as shown, so that the string have equal lengths on both sides of the cap. I cut my own leather strings, but you can buy pre cut strings for this.

Step 16: String Heel Cap, 2

Picture of String Heel Cap, 2

Then, from the inside, pull the string through hole number one in one of the side flaps. Next, twist it to the inside and pull it back through hole nr two in the middle section, as shown in the next picture.

Step 17: String Heel Cap, 3

Picture of String Heel Cap, 3

Push the string through hole nr 3 in the middle section, and at the same time, through hole nr 2 in the side flap (see next).

Step 18: String Heel Cap, 4

Picture of String Heel Cap, 4

Then 'sew' back through side flap hole nr 3 and middle section hole nr 4; pull tight and it will look like the next picture.

Step 19: String Heel Cap, 5

Picture of String Heel Cap, 5

Repeat on the other side and cross the strings (see next).

Step 20: String Heel Cap, 6

Picture of String Heel Cap, 6

Cross again on the inside of the cap, and pull through the last two holes.

Step 21: Inside View

Picture of Inside View

Inside view.

Step 22: Tie a Knot

Picture of Tie a Knot

Tie a knot, and you're done.

Step 23: Stringing the Fan

Picture of Stringing the Fan

Draw a leather string through the holes as shown here and in picture #1, and try the shoes on (preferably on your own foot and not on your kid's :) )
The worst mistake you can make is cutting the length too short (too long is not a problem; just cut the heel to fit) or make the fan fingers too short so it won't wrap around your toes. If this is the case, give them to someone with a smaller foot and try again :)

Step 24: Template


T0BY (author)2016-12-06


gargamole (author)2015-11-04

This seems so cool, but I'm having a lot of trouble finding the leather.
Does anyone have any pointers? Maybe where to order it online?
I live in Vienna (Austria), so the comments on where to find leather in the US haven't helped me much, unfortunately .

DonBuckPCreacy (author)gargamole2016-11-13

I love

They have all kinds of leather and you'll be well served if you decide to do business with them.

Lionel Twain (author)2016-10-16

During the summer of 1991, I worked for the woman who owned Medieval Moccasins while she was at the Michigan Renaissance Festival and she did not seem to be too protective about the patterns. During the week, while the festival was not going on, we could work on them anywhere we pleased, as long as we got the work done. I would work on mine down by the lake or around campfires or around the glass blower's booth.

The woman who owns the company now is her daughter (she was only ten when I made the moccasins). I haven't worked at or attended a Ren Fest in years, but I have heard that she is very unpleasant to work for.

Regardless, I remember having seen the same design fifteen years before I worked for MM. She didn't invent the design.

EmmelieB (author)2016-07-19

Good tutorial. Tho my pair got to short for my on the heel. I think I misscalculated at some point and didn't think of that I got pretty flat feet så I would have needed around a 7 heel flap instead of 4. But learned something in the process so :)

DanielleMetalsmith made it! (author)2016-06-14

This is an awesome tutorial and I planned to make these for so long before I finally did, I'm really happy with the outcome, thanks so much!

ChristinaR36 made it! (author)2016-03-31

It was a very helpful tutorial and I really liked how easy to understand the pattern was. I was able to make my own pattern to use in case I need to make more pairs. Very easy to walk in, and quells the brain at 3 AM when you can't sleep. :) I am new to my local sca group and have found this a wonderful entrance to the game. Hoping to attach some faux fur to the inside to make the leather rub a little less at a later date. Thank you very much for the tutorial. :)

Kies_1 (author)2016-02-20

Iron age cobblers had a rough job.

Kies_1 (author)2016-02-20

Iron age cobblers had a rough job.

Kies_1 (author)2016-02-20

Iron age cobblers had a rough job.

Kies_1 (author)2016-02-20

Iron age cobblers had a rough job.

Euve made it! (author)2016-01-29

I added rabbit fur inside for comfort when I wear them without socks. They're so comfortable! :)

This tutorial was well-made, I managed to make them in less than 3 houyrs.

TheMOEtoes (author)2014-07-11

Your tutorial is wonderful! Seriously though I had the pattern drafted in15 mins and is cut out and sewn in 20 mins! ( I am a fashion student ) SUPER COMFORTABLE. I am going to rip off soles from cheap ballerina flats to glue/sew on the bottom for long term wear. Plus I cut insoles out of an old yoga mat to make them super cushy. I used thin leather cause I could not afford thick leather and dye but with the soles attached they should be fine.
I had a pair of Irish dancing guilles that looked just like these. I literally wore everyday until they dissenter-grated. Unfortunately they got discontinued plus I could not afford the 50 bucks for them. So it is wonderful that I found this tutorial! I now can have an endless supply of these in color, coutured to my exact foot size and shape and only 7 dollars at the thrift store for the leather jacket. Thanks again for this GREAT tutorial and for all those people out there that have to put there hateful two cents in,this is a shoe tutorial not a history lesson.
Happy stepping

Ps I have picture of them but when I use the internet version it will not let me post anything not even words and he app will not let me post pictures... Once I can find a way I will post pictures. Thanks!

RabidL (author)TheMOEtoes2015-12-22

I wear a side seam moccasin all the time (a similar enough shoe for purposes of the comment) and when I first made them I was told to wear them as is for a short while to mark my tread pattern then cut out a piece of leather the same as the tread pattern and use a contact adhesive to glue it on. When you wear a hole in the sole, use a hair dryer to heat then pull off, cut another leather sole and glue it on in its place. I've just worn my first sole hole (took a month of wearing constantly) so I'm ready to resole. :)

dvlahakis (author)2015-08-09

This was a fantastic tutorial, thank you so much for the clear pictures

MorNiLachnan (author)2009-07-19

I have made many pairs of these. We do reenactment and they are my favorite shoes. We have made ours out of about a 8-9 oz latigo that is pre-dyed as part of the tanning process. This seemed to wear better than tooling types of leather. We had tried using deerskin but it seemed too elastic and the shoes stretched. I use a pair of those athletic insoles for extra cushion and arch support. We wear ours with either wool socks done in nalbinding (a type of knitting) or felted wool liners. The beeswax helps with waterproofing and traction. The easiest way is to rub the beeswax into the leather like it is lip balm and then use a lighter to waive near it to melt the wax so it absorbs into the leather. Be careful not to start your shoes on fire wax burns. Those people asking about the origins. I think they were from an anglo bog find that was very early dark ages. I have also seen the same shoe in some of my Viking age Irish archaeology books. Of course there are also the well established gillies shoes also. As for the medieval moccasins person, they are full of it. But the notion that she is bullying people, I will make sure I tell everyone I know not to do business with her.

RanaRavens (author)MorNiLachnan2015-08-03

You can also use a blow dryer to heat the leather. I used to do this with my hiking boots when I was weatherproofing them.

AmyCat59 (author)MorNiLachnan2013-09-24

You can also get the leather to absorb the wax by putting it in an oven set to a very low heat, or even microwaving it a bit... less danger of scorching than using a lighter.

BlankaB (author)2015-07-24

Hello, I added your Viking shoes to my blog ( ) and to my Facebook site. Hope you will like the post. You can like and share it, if you want it to be more popular. Thank you for your great work :)

Best regards,


flamesami (author)2014-12-02

I really like htese! I have seen pictures before, but your instructable is really good! I have to know though: how did you come about the felt socks? I've never seen anything like them and can't find anything on google. Did you make them? If you did, can we get an instructable? if you didn't make them, can we get a link to them for buying?

LeeAnneArchel made it! (author)2014-10-12

A well made instructable. Very easy to follow. Now I have some supper comfy shoes, that I plan to wear to ren fest.

hseth1 (author)2014-04-05

Thank you! Amazing tutorial! Nearly number 1 on my Next-things-to-do List ;)

crickleymal (author)2013-12-04

I've seen something pretty similar in the Roman museum at Caerleon. That puts the basic design back another 1000 years.

bailywolf (author)2012-05-22

I've been looking at different styles of minimalist running shoes, and found this instructable invaluable in my first efforts at making my own.  I made a pair from a cheap floor mat (around $4 from lowes) because I didn't want to waste good material on freshman efforts.  The laces I swiped from my chucks. 

They ended up surprisingly comfortable for floormat shoes (where any comfort probably rates as surprising).  with sock, the nerd factor skyrockets, but so does the genuine comfort.  Do I have the moxie to rock this look?  We'll see. 

I made a simpler fan toe, and the result is a hybrid of this instructable and something like a BeNat shoe. 

Next step, run in them a little to see if I can cripple myself with blisters, and then when I recover, start looking for a source of cheap or scavable leather.  Current thinking is to paint one side with something like truck bed liner or some other paint-on tough and grippy material, and then make them soft-side in for more comfort.  


sharon_bb (author)bailywolf2013-10-28

HAAAHAHA.Major moxie indeed: did crowds spread before you in awe, riotous laughter, fear?
So? Did they stay together? The laces look like they'd be a tad painful after a long run. I haven't seen them being marketed. Did they work for you?

bailywolf (author)sharon_bb2013-10-28

The prototypes held up for a couple of runs. Perfectly comfortable. I ended up ordering some leather and making my pair for running from a suede split, with a second layer for the sole. Later, I added a crumb rubber and contact cement sole for more grip. And I made a pair for my daughter to run in as well. I guess I have a few hundred miles on them at this point, mostly on trail, and they've been fantastic.

danderson26 (author)2013-08-24

Thanks so much for this great tutorial! I was so worried how this would turn out, but I really wanted to make a pair for a Shakespearean play I am in. Take a look! I think they turned out quite well, and mostly because your instructions were so clear and thorough. Thanks a bunch!

khaotik (author)2009-03-19

Please excuse my impolite suggestion that anyone jump in a lake, although there is no inherent danger in doing so and the activity is actually quite enjoyable on a hot sunny day...

Anyway I did some research because the idea of anyone claiming ancient knowledge or craft as their personal intellectual property is extremely irksome to me.

The person who posted this instructable is not in violation of copyright law, nor is anyone who makes these shoes from this instructable to wear OR to sell, because its her particular pattern drawing that the MM lady has a copyright on.

Medieval Moccasins vs. Reality

Read all about this issue at

Making Ghillies
Tue, April 24, 2007 - 11:54 PM

...See, we could post pictures of the patterns we've made, but the lady at midieval moccasins is REALLY determined that her copyright extends to any type of pattern drawing made any way by anyone, of that whole kind of shoe, as well as any shoe like it...

Now, technically, the guy at the copyright office said what was in the file was a copy of her (medieval moccasins lady's) catalog...she insists to her lawyer that she sent in a copy of her pattern drawing, but copyright law only applies if we were to get a copy of THAT drawing, and made copies to sell. If you draw your own, it's called reverse engineering, and the lawyer giving classes on copyright laws told me that anyone can go get a thing, take it apart, make a copy of how it's made, and make them, and even sell them, and not violate the law.

Re: Making Ghillies
Wed, April 25, 2007 - 8:58 AM

You can copyright a specific pattern drawing (same as any other artistic drawing) but you cannot copyright the "look" or the functionality of clothing. The fashion knockoffs you see in Walmart and similar stores are perfectly legal.

If you make your own pattern and happen to recreate the exact look of Medieval Moccasins' ghillie and wear them or sell them, they can do nothing. If you take THEIR pattern drawing and post copies of their pattern drawing on your website causing them to lose sales of their pattern drawing because people can get it from you for free, they can invoke the copyright laws against you.

angeldmort (author)khaotik2013-04-15

"he guy at the copyright office said what was in the file was a copy of her (medieval moccasins lady's) catalog."
EXACTLY. I did what this guy did - traced my foot, made a pattern, made a tester, tweaked it... I put the tester on eBay, and got a cease and desist order with a demand for damages, etc from her lawyer. I talked to the guy at the copyright office too, and was told the same exact thing. Sadly, she had the money for a lawyer, (who seems very ignorant about copyright law, actually) and I didn't, and it's not like I don't make a million other things, so I dropped it. It was funny, but the lady lawyer looked at my page and was all friendly and impressed (her client IS a one trick pony, after all), but seemed confused that the copyright office would tell anyone anything, so the feeling wasn't mutual.

And actually, you could take their pattern, post it, etc and you aren't violating what she copyrighted, or there'd only be one brand of jeans, one type of car, etc. You just can't print a copy of her catalog.

What it comes down to is that she's a nasty bully and scares a lot of people away from doing anything remotely like hers because it's ALL she can do.

maeve (author)khaotik2010-01-10

This design does not belong to medieval moccasins- if they are marketing them as medieval, then the designs been around alot longer than the company! For all we know you could have inherited a pair of Irish dancing shoes from a long lost relative, and ou could be using that pattern! That's like saying using someone else's recipe for mashed potatoes and cream is subject to copyright. Great instuctable!

aseaheru (author)maeve2011-05-08

or a pattern from a diffrent company

aseaheru (author)khaotik2011-05-08

if she did not invent it then it is not hers to copyright.

Popcornfilms (author)khaotik2010-01-10

 your pretty anal arent you?

but thats besides the point, these shoes are cool!!

ScottSEA (author)khaotik2009-08-28

Well said, my friend!

3frog (author)khaotik2009-06-04

Good for you for sticking up for this GREAT INSTRUCTABLE!

espdp2 (author)2013-02-15

Favorite! I got here from I like the general philosophy of being able to make things for yourself.

rspaziano (author)2013-02-08

This made my day! Thank you!!!

metiswoman (author)2013-01-25

You rock! Thank you so much for taking the time to make this instructible for us. We are making ours this week.

morninglory652 (author)2013-01-10

In step 14, you mention that you "tanned the leather" then rubbed it with beeswax. Please tell me, how did you tan it?

eyesee (author)2013-01-10

I also have a pair of

penny049 (author)2013-01-06

I like your shoes & think the tutorial will be very helpful in making my own pair.

Gadisha (author)2012-07-21

Cool, I would like to make some out of felt, as baby/toddler shoes, with some anti-slip latex on the soles!

Darcy777 (author)2012-05-26

Ahhhhhhhhhh! I love these! I so want to make a pair or 13. Sorry for the rather useless comment. I drank too much Rock Star this morning.

Biggsy (author)2012-02-21

I made a similar pair to these using re-enforced wool a few years ago, very comfortable. Well done nice instructable.

shortone (author)2011-11-28

Put you in my gift guide for guys! Just thought I'd let you know :)

cbullows (author)2011-09-16

I'm hoping to make some of these for myself and my bridesmaids for my wedding next year. I'd like to make the knee length ones so been looking at lots of pictures to figure out how it's done, I have a couple of ideas but still not entirely sure. Either making them on a right angle so that the length is attached to the outside of the shoe and then sewn into the heel or just having a seam running up the back by making them in two halves.

Anyone have any suggestions?

Also any suggestions of where and what to buy in the West Midlands (UK)?

mogg (author)2010-10-03

ouff no lutefish for any of you! reef knot will untie with any strain across it. You want a butterfly/surgeons knot. You add an extra turn on one side of the reef knot and it wont untie itself unless you intentionally brake the back of the knot. If you want something pretty a true-lovers knot is better, though it wont untie easy.

aseaheru (author)mogg2011-05-08

im hungry now.....

Gileohi (author)aseaheru2011-09-05

He must be referring to Lutefisk. If you were a true viking you'd know. These shoes by the way are Gaelic, not Scandinavian. They are however nice, I am going to try my hand.

Beschaulicheit (author)mogg2011-03-24

This comment is my favorite. Oh, the beauty of the knotty arts!

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