How to Buy Renaissance Shoes
One part of a Renaissance faire or reenactment outfit that often gets neglected is footwear. Finding good, comfortable shoes that look the part is a lot trickier than finding a costume, so we tend to ignore our feet. However, this is a bad idea. Nothing spoils a look like a perfect outfit combined with a pair of tennis shoes or combat boots. If you want to have a perfect costume for any kind of Renaissance themed event, you'll need to make sure you have good shoes.
The shape of shoes changed significantly around the turn of the 16th century. Before this time, the fashionable shoe had been narrow and pointed. However, the way shoes were made changed, and so did people's preferences. The fashionable shoe became broad toed and wider, with some very extreme examples having exaggerated toes around six inches across. Most people didn't wear these, however. Instead, their shoes were blunt toed, and shaped about the same as the foot.
Renaissance shoes are flat heeled. That's because the technology to attach wooden heels to a sole wasn't invented until much later. You'll also find that most really authentic shoes are built almost like clothing - the shoe is made inside out and then turned. In later period shoes, another sole may be attached after this, to make the shoe a lot more durable. If you want truly authentic shoes, the entire piece of footwear will be made of leather. It can be secured by thongs, a button, a buckle, or nothing at all. For peasants, a type of clog is entirely appropriate in many countries.
Most of us don't have the skill or materials to make our own Renaissance shoes. That means that we're restricted to what we can buy. Unfortunately, shoemakers are few and far between, and it can be hard to choose the right shoe. On top of that, you may have heard that period accurate shoes are uncomfortable or bad for your feet. If you wear them wrong, that can be true, but they don't have to be.
Pick a shoe that feels just a little too small, unless the seller advises otherwise. Most shoes in this style will stretch as you wear them, meaning that a shoe that fits just right when you buy it could end up being way too big! Some Renaissance shoemakers will have you wet your shoes and wear them until they dry, to get a perfect fit. Remember that you'll be wearing stockings with your shoes, so take this into account when choosing sizes.
Most modern shoes have padding built in, while medieval and Renaissance shoes don't. That causes many people to wear theirs without any kind of padding, which is hard on the feet. However, extant shoes have been found that were padded with moss, straw, and wool batting. Most of us don't want to use these types of padding, but a little teddy bear stuffing or cotton, or a modern insole could make your shoes fit a lot better and be a lot more comfortable.
Modern soles are also available on shoes that look authentic. If you're considering one of these, take a look at the shoes from a distance, and decide how they'll look with your costume. If they don't stand out too much, they could work. Just be sure that modern shoes in a period style are suitable for your feet and wear you'll be walking - some aren't good on uneven outdoor surfaces.