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I've been debating making a good pair of hobnailed boots for a post Roman/early medieval persona, since I heard they would give me a lot better grip than a simple flat sole, but when I started looking around for examples, I couldn't find any! It seems like no one really used hobnails after the Romans. But I know that many other reenactors like to use hobnails, so I thought perhaps a few of you might have some evidence. What kind of evidence is there for hobnails being used after Rome? Should we assume that they weren't used again until the Tudors? Basically, are dark age hobnails a real thing, or just made up?
- Simon Atford
- Absolute Wizard
- Posts: 3022
- Joined: Wed Mar 01, 2006 11:24 pm
- Location: Darkest Wiltshire
Hobnails don't really provide better grip. If anything they make you slide around more on smooth surfaces. What they do is prolong the life of your sole.
Keep calm and prepare to hack
I know on smooth surfaces they make it a bit more slippery (and according to some, painful-- or at least you get more blisters), but I was under the impression that on soft surfaces (grass, sand, gravel, etc.) they would work like modern sports cleats to help grip the ground.
When I was portraying a 15thC traveling trader and carrying a large basket on my back, I had several times when I slid on even slight grassy hills. After this bit of excitement I put hobnails onto my boots which already had clump soles added, result, no slipping. I have found no trouble walking on roads or paths except for very smooth marble effect paving, but even then not as slippery as grass.
My website www.leathstitch.co.uk
I excavated a hobnail from a boot in a late 4th/ early 5th century context at Dorchester on Thames. And I've used mine to walk Hadrians Wall and on the Wansdyke this Saturday. They absolutely improve grip on grass, mud and gravel!
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