Shoes are one a bit of an investment for a reenactor but they go a long way towards completing an outfit and a persona. If you are not ready to make this investment or you have children who will outgrow their expensive shoes in no time, the best alternative is to purchase black or brown (black only for military) leather lace up shoes. If you are ready to make the investment, here are the best sources for good quality, last-a-long-time, reenactor approved, reproduction shoes.
Before buying your shoes here are a few things that you should know. Your reproduction shoes will feel very different from modern shoes. While not uncomfortable, historical shoes do not have the padding in the sole that we are used to. The sole is very much a strip of leather sandwiched between the upper and the heel. Because of this you may feel things under your feet, such as gravel, that you wouldn’t normally feel. Some historical shoes have a normal last (that is, there is a distinct left and right foot) and some are straight last (which means that both shoes are exactly the same and there is no left and right.) Straight last are not at all uncomfortable! In fact, straight last shoes mold very quickly (after a couple of wearings) to the shape of your foot. Because of this, I personally prefer straight last shoes. If you do buy straight last shoes, don’t switch feet. Make sure you wear each shoe on the same foot every time you go out. Last but not least, expect your shoes to stretch. I’m not necessarily recommending buying a smaller size, however the leather WILL stretch over time. You may have to adjust the buckles after a while to ensure your shoes stay on your feet.
Fugawee carries both women’s and men’s shoes. Their shoes are very good quality and can last well even when you’re fording creeks. If you have any questions about sizing or what you need to buy give them a call. They are extremely friendly and helpful people. Buckles are sold separately. Stick with plain buckles for now. Fancy buckles may not be suitable for your persona. Also, women especially, for your first pair of shoes choose a low heal such as the Barbara style. The higher heels rapidly become very uncomfortable during long days spent on grass and uneven ground.
B&T Carries shoes for women, men, and children. Their products are good quality and they carry mules as well. Again, for women choose the lower heel option for your first pair and the pair you wear most often.
Sarah Juniper is a Gloucestershire based shoemaker whose offerings are incredible enough to reduce both men and women to tears. Her prices, however, are a bit steep.
American Duchess sells very well researched historical women’s shoes with some modern comfort factors. Her shoes can often be customized (by you!) to your liking based on historical examples. She sells dyes and paints that have been well-tested on her products and specifically recommended for her products. Her shoes are more upper class and I wouldn’t recommend wearing them out in the field. They don’t quite have the “hold-up” power to make it through the abuse we usually give our shoes at events. If you’re looking for something a little dressier to wear to A Soldier’s Christmas or the dinner afterward, her shoes are just the ticket. The Quartermistress has a slight obsession with these shoes so if you are curious or want to see samples feel free to contact her.