Roman Marching Boots ("carbatinae")
Neil Lucock

Florentius's web site has an excellent article;
Vindolanda Research reports Vol III - early wooden forts
Roman Military Clothing (1), Graham Sumner - Osprey (as worn by the Beneficarus on plate B (page 26))

These enclosed boots are based on a find from Vindolanda, a fort on Hadrian's Wall. They start to appear towards the end of the 1st Century and continue in use until the mid 3rd Century



The Florentius site discusses making boots on a last. I don't have one, so I'll use the same technique I used for my first pair of medieval shoes.


Equipment needed;

Soleing leather, 5mm thick

Vege-tanned leather for the uppers, 2 to 3 mm thick.

Thonging for laces, each needs 130 cm 

Linen thread and needles.

Hob nails

A drill with a fine drill bit.

Tools to cut the leather with.

An awl.


A Hammer, vice, hole punches, Sureform file/rasp and tinsnips will be useful.

I bought my leather, hobnails and linen thread from Le Prevo leather:  







Start by drawing around each foot and cutting out four pieces from the soleing leather. It can be hard work to cut out, I use a pair of tin-snips. Glue two pieces together by the rough sides of the leather. I used Evo-stick but any glue suitable for leather is OK. Sandwich the two pieces between wooden blocks and fasten in the vice to dry overnight. Repeat for the other foot.














Clamp each sole in the vice and tidy up the edges with a Sureform rasp. Then drill holes around the edge of each sole with a 1mm (or finer) drill. The holes should be about 5mm apart and 2mm from the edge. It's a  cheat, but you'll never drive an awl through two layers of soleing leather and retain your sanity. Once you have drilled around the edges, hammer in the hobnails.






You'll need something solid to hammer on, an anvil or heavy vice, as the nail points  come through the layers of leather and bend over. The hobnails will protect the sewing by keeping it out of contact with the ground. If you don't use hobnails, bury the stitching in a groove between each hole so it doesn't wear.


You now need to make the uppers. I made mine in two pieces and sewed up the heel but you could make the upper from one piece. The best way of making a pattern is to put a sock on your foot, cover your foot in tape. Use masking, parcel or duck tape. Mark a line where the upper meets the sole. Carefully cut it off, flatten it and stick it onto paper. Discard the sole part, transfer the pattern to the reverse of the leather you are using for the uppers but add at least 5 mm for seams and add a bit on the foot top. You want to make sure it is big enough. Another way is to use the uppers from your caligae as a pattern.








Stitch the uppers onto the sole with linen thread. I punched holes in the upper with an awl, doing 10 centimetres at a time, then sewing it. You should ensure that each stitch is doubled before moving to the next hole. Start at the heel and work your way to the toe. This takes ages.













Mark the centre point on the upper part of the sole so your two uppers meet level. The shoes have an outside seam over the toes, you'll need to cut of the excess to sew this up. I sewed back as far as the toe knuckle joint, where it meets the rest of your foot. I read somewhere that toes should have plenty of room. Remember that leather will mould itself to your foot as you wear the boot. I tried to make mine a snug fit around the toes.

















Put in a ā€œDā€ shaped  heel stiffener  made from a piece of the leather used for the uppers. I glued mine, as it's not authentic and I didn't want the stitching to show. It helps to prevent you walking on the back of your boots and keeps them in shape.
















Making boots fit is not easy. Keep trying them on and ensuring your foot will go in. The laces need to pull certain areas tight, otherwise the boots will flop about on your feet and you'll walk on the sides. I aimed to cut off the edge of the uppers so that I'd have a gap of about a centimetre. I marked where I thought the line should be with an awl, then cut off the excess.

I used a Bosch Xeo, a battery powered rotary cutter. It isn't good for detailed work, but it is a useful tool for trimming things when they've been assembled and need adjusting.







Punch out the holes in the uppers (measure against your foot while wearing the boot and make a mark with the awl) and thread a thong through as a lace.


 It would be  easier to cut out the holes before you sew the uppers to the soles, but doing it last ensures your boots will fit. It's only when you have everything tightened that you find out how it fits. This pair seem very comfortable, so they'll probably be a bit slack once I've worn them a bit. You can punch a hole outside your original lace holes if you need to make them tighter, it will be hidden by the lace.











I made some leather insoles and stuck them inside for comfort.