What Were Shoes Made Of In Ancient Rome

What Were Shoes Made of in Ancient Rome?
People started wearing shoes in ancient times and throughout the ages, there have been many different types of footwear designs and materials used to make them. In Ancient Rome, shoes weren’t as widely available as they are today, yet there were still several different materials used for making shoes.

Leather was very much the main material used for making shoes in Ancient Rome. During this period, tanning was a very popular trade and the use of tanned and processed leather was widely available. Leather was seen as a strong material and a good choice for making shoes. For instance, it was used for making sandals, moccasins, boots, and many other types of shoes.

In addition to leather, Ancient Roman also used hide to make shoes. The hide, which was derived from animal skins, was resilient and waterproof. Roman shoemakers used it to create soft and light shoes that had a protective outer layer.

Ancient Roman also used wool fabric to make shoes. It was used to make winter shoes, especially in the more rural regions of the empire. Wool was seen as an inexpensive material, as it was widely produced as textiles.

Silk was another popular material used by Ancient Roman. It was used to create stylish and glamorous shoes, such as the classic Roman sandal. Silk was seen as a luxury material and could only be acquired by higher-class citizens.

Finally, there were even some shoes made from the rare and valuable material of gold. These shoes were very expensive and were only available for the wealthier members of the Roman society. Gold was seen as a symbol of power and prestige, and it was used to decorate and enhance the wearer’s appearance.

Tailoring Techniques

In ancient Rome, shoemaking was very different from what it is today. Most of the work was done by hand and the same techniques were used for centuries. Generally, the materials were cut into pieces that would form the shoe’s upper, while the sole was usually made from a piece of leather. It was then folded and stitched together by the shoemaker. This process was called “tailoring” and it was done with a needle and thread.

The tailoring techniques used in Ancient Rome were fairly limited. The shoemaker would use the same few techniques over and over, such as top-stitching and side-stitching. This resulted in some very basic but durable shoes.

Different Styles of Shoes in Ancient Rome

In Ancient Rome, there were a variety of different types of shoes. These ranged from formal shoes, such as the classic Roman sandal, to more casual styles, such as the humble moccasin. Shoes could also be divided into three categories: footwear for the upper classes, footwear for the lower classes and footwear for everyday wear. This gave rise to different styles that were suitable for different occasions.

In the upper classes, more extravagant designs were worn, with elaborate decorations and materials such as gold and silk. In the lower classes, simpler designs were worn that were made from natural materials such as leather and wool. In everyday life, sandals were the preferred choice of footwear, as they were affordable and comfortable.

Adornment and Social Significance of Shoes

In Ancient Rome, shoes had a great deal of social significance. They were often used as a way of expressing one’s identity and status. For example, a higher-class citizen might wear more elaborate shoes with intricate decorations and symbols, while a lower-class citizen might wear simpler shoes made from plain materials. Shoes were also used to denote rank and status. A soldier, for example, would wear soldier’s boots, while a slave would wear sandals.

Adornment was also an important aspect of Ancient Roman footwear. This included the use of engraving, etching and even painting to decorate the shoe. This could be done to express the wearer’s wealth and social status, as well as their political affiliation. Shoes could also be adorned with gemstones, pearls and other precious stones.

Functionality of Shoes

The shoes worn in Ancient Rome were also designed for functionality. This meant that the designs had to be comfortable and provide good support. The sandal was a particularly popular choice as it was lightweight, breathable and allowed the wearer to move around freely. In addition, leather and hide were used to make shoes as these materials were resistant to wear and tear. For example, Roman soldiers wore leather boots which provided good protection from the cold and wet weather.

Finally, there were also some shoes which were designed for specific functions. For example, there were shoes for running, martial arts and theater. These shoes had extra features such as ankle straps and raised heels which made them more suitable for these activities.

Lasting Impact of Ancient Roman Shoes

Today, many of the design elements and techniques used in Ancient Rome are still used in modern shoemaking. The use of leather and hide is still very common and tailoring techniques such as stitching and folding are still used to form the upper part of the shoe. In addition, the Roman sandal, which was the most popular type of shoe in Ancient Rome, is still worn today and has become a timeless classic.

The design of shoes in Ancient Rome has also had a lasting impact on contemporary fashion. Many labels and designers have taken inspiration from Ancient Roman styles and incorporated them into their designs. The iconic Roman sandal can now be seen everywhere from the catwalks of haute couture to the high street.

Materials and Processes Used for Shoemaking

In modern shoemaking, there are a variety of different materials and processes used to make shoes. Leather, which was the main material used in Ancient Rome, is still widely used today. However, there are now many synthetic materials that are also used such as vinyl, canvas, rubber, and even plastic. In addition, modern shoemaking processes such as molding, injection molding, and welding are now used instead of hand-stitching and folding.

The advances in technology have also allowed for more sophisticated designs to be created. This has enabled shoemakers to make shoes that are not only more comfortable and durable, but also more stylish and fashionable. Thus, the design of shoes has changed significantly over the years, but their importance and relevance remain the same.


In conclusion, shoes have been an important part of human culture for centuries. In Ancient Rome, shoes were made from materials such as leather, hide, wool, silk, and even gold. The designs of these shoes were influenced by the wearer’s social status, with more elaborate designs for the upper classes and simpler designs for the lower classes. These designs have had a lasting impact on modern-day fashion and many contemporary designers have taken inspiration from Ancient Roman styles. Finally, the advances in technology have enabled the production of highly comfortable and fashionable shoes.

Moshe Rideout is a professional writer and historian whose work focuses on the history of Ancient Rome. Moshe is passionate about understanding the complexity of the Roman Empire, from its architecture to its literature, political systems to social structures. He has a Bachelor's degree in classic studies from Rutgers University and is currently pursuing a PhD in classical archaeology at UMass Amherst. When he isn't researching or writing, he enjoys exploring ruins around Europe, drawing inspiration from his travels.

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