What Were Roman Sandals Made From?

Roman Sandals
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The ancient Romans wore various types of shoes and sandals. Most shoes were the natural color of leather, but upper-class people could pay to have them dyed red, yellow, purple, and gold.

Soldiers up to the rank of centurion wore caligae, military sandals. They were designed to help soldiers stand firm and keep their footing on slick or muddy ground.


Sandals were the most common form of indoor shoes for Romans, with a variety of designs worn to reflect social status. They were made from leather and secured by lace.

The military sandals called caligae were heavy, hob-nailed boots issued to soldiers throughout the Roman Republic and Empire. They allowed soldiers to walk long distances, and they were key in the expansion of Roman conquests Simple way. Little Gaius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, later Emperor Caligula, was given his nickname from the small pair of caligae he wore on campaign alongside his father.


Shoes were crafted of one piece of leather and fastened with a single lace. One type of shoe was called a carbatina, which completely covered the foot and had a thong between the toes. These were more expensive and may have been worn by the wealthy.

Soldiers in the Roman legions wore caligae which were heavy-soled hobnailed military sandal-boots. They were designed to keep soldiers on their feet during battle. This is how they got their name – a Roman solider who tripped or fell was at an extreme disadvantage to the enemy.

Enclosed Shoes

The ancient Mesopotamians, Egyptians and Greeks went barefoot or wore sandals for footwear. The Romans, however, developed shoes made of leather that reached over the foot and ankle.

For a soldier, good footwear was critical. It kept him on his feet so he could move and fight.

The basic military sandal was called a caliga. This hob nailed sandal was designed for long marches. It allowed the soldiers’ feet to breathe and was greased with animal fat so it would not blister. The sandals also offered some protection in battle. A solider flat on his back in the middle of a fight is at a disadvantage to an enemy soldier who is still standing.

Military Sandals

Caligae were heavy-soled hob-nailed military sandal-boots issued to Roman legionary foot-soldiers and auxiliaries throughout the Roman Republic and Empire. These military shoes closely resemble modern sandals but were not designed for combat and offered little protection to soldiers in battle.

They were, however, light enough for long marches and were greased with animal fat to reduce blisters. They allowed the feet to breathe on a long march and dried quickly after being wet from rain or snow. These leather sandals were so comfortable that the third Roman Emperor Gaius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (better known as Caligula) wore them at age 2-3 while on a campaign in Germania, earning him his nickname.


Peros were rawhide shoes that encased the entire foot. They were worn by members of the upper classes. They were a good choice for cold weather because they kept the foot warm.

Romans that had a high status like Patricians would wear shoes that were red dyed. These shoes were called calceus patricius or calceus senatorius. They came up to the calf of the leg and had four straps.

The caliga was a heavy-soled hobnailed military sandal-boot that was standard issue for legionary foot soldiers and auxiliaries including cavalry. They had thick soles that were nailed together with iron nails.


While the Romans didn’t invent footwear, they were responsible for a huge variety of different shoe styles. They developed shoes suited for specific climates and situations. They also created shoes for different occasions.

The standard military marching shoe for foot-soldiers up to a centurion was the caliga, which were robust hobnailed shoes. They were worn by soldiers who were in the military and by regular citizens. The Emperor Gaius Caligula got his nickname from these little boots.

Carbatinae were peasant’s shoes that looked like moccasins. They were made from one piece of leather with holes for the toes and could be dyed black, red or other colors.


The calceus was the main shoe worn with togas by Roman citizens. It was flat-soled, hobnailed and covered the foot and ankle up to the lower part of the shin. It could be dyed in a variety of colors including black, red, yellow, white and gold as well as purple and coated with a mixture of tree bark and mineral salts to preserve it. Shoes were linked to class and the shoes of upper-class citizens were often imprinted with patterns or laced with interlacing thongs.

At Vindolanda, wet conditions have preserved many shoes and sandals including a number of calcei. They show that the army began to switch to enclosed boots as they were more practical for the colder British climate.

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