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Contact Dr Gheorghe, the coordinator, at alexis_project@yahoo.com for further information about the Alexis Project:

Email: alexis_project@yahoo.com

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Hafting a blade Back to Reconstructions of Ancient Artefacts



Making Roman Sandals

Click on the photos to see an enlarged version



It should be noted that these photographs and text concerning the making of Roman Sandals represent only a very small part of the Alexis Project, and there is no intention to set up a factory for making sandals!

The Roman Sandals project was begun and completed only to better understand the mind of our ancestors, and we strongly believe that a good way to understand their motivations and way of life is to try to make approximate replicas of the artefacts they made and worked with thousands of years ago. The team is not wealthy, but have much love for people everywhere, and this web site is a virtual monument to the ingenuity of humanity over the ages, and especially in the area occupied by modern Romania.

Slaveni CastrumRoman Sandal

A brick bearing the imprint of a Roman sandal. There is an entire collection from the Malva castrum with fingerprints and marks of men and animals.

Here the metal hobnails of the Roman sandal have been preserved in the burnt clay for almost two thousand years.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 28th October 2007




Roman SandalRoman Sandal
These drawings give in great detail the construction of the Roman Sandal, and show in particular the hob nails on the sole which extend the grip and the length of usage of the sandal.

Photo: "Roman Military Equipment" second edition, by M.C. Bishop and J.C.N. Coulston, published by Oxbow Books, 2006, pages 7 and 112.




recreating artefacts

It is necessary first to make the soles of the sandals, so Adrian took some old shoes and cut them out to make a pair of soles, the leather which touches the earth on Roman sandals.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 17th December 2007




recreating artefacts

Alina then cleaned both soles of the future Roman sandals.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 17th December 2007




recreating artefacts
There are three levels to any Roman sandal:


Here Adrian is making the inside of the sandals. The middle is not yet made, but it is very important, for here the laces for attaching to the leg are fastened, usually as an integral part of the middle sole.

Then the iron studs must be attached which made the sandals last a long time in use, and gave a good grip on the earth.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 17th December 2007




recreating sandals

This shows the great difference between a modern shoe sole and an ancient one. The Roman style is a better one, since it is the same as the anotomical form of the human leg, so a man can walk better in a Roman sandal than in a modern shoe. Some women use modern shoes which seem to be taken from a torture room , from an ancient castle in the Middle Ages.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 22nd December 2007




recreating sandals

Dr Gheorghe took a good image of the roman sandal from the book quoted above, "Roman Military Equipment" second edition, by M.C. Bishop and J.C.N. Coulston, published by Oxbow Books, 2006, pages 7 and 112.

From this he made a paper model for his work. As noted above, there are three layers to a Roman sandal, the bottom layer being in contact with the road or ground, and would normally be a strong and heavy piece of leather, possibly pig skin. The inner sole must be a fine grained skin in contact with the foot. The most complex layer is the middle one, for this forms the part of the sandal which envelops the foot and forms the leggings which bind the foot to the leg.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 22nd December 2007




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This model was then transferred to the hide shown here. The middle layer must be an integral part of the sandal, not just fixed to the edge of the sole, in order for the sandal to stand up to heavy wear, and have integrity.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 22nd December 2007




recreating sandals

At this point the middle sole of the sandal must be carefully marked out on the hide, and carefully cut. The sandal needs to be easy to mark out, and easy to cut using just a razor sharp knife, and many of the holes are no wider than that cut by a single knife stroke. It must also be remembered that these sandals were made in the hundreds of thousands for a huge army, so the time taken to construct them had to be kept to a minimum, while still creating a strong and reliable piece of footwear.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 22nd December 2007




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Here are the three parts of the Roman sandal held together, ready to be fixed with iron studs.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 22nd December 2007




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This photo shows that both the middle soles are ready. They will be put between the inner sole and the outer sole, and fixed together with iron rivets, or hob nails.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 22nd December 2007




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Now all the soles are ready for assembly, all made from strong pig skin, after a huge amount of work, using the design models shown in the book "Roman Military Equipment"

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 22nd December 2007




recreating sandals
Now that the work of cutting out the prototype is complete, Dr Gheorghe is completing standardised coloured patterns to help with further constructions. Only if you make something like this will you understand the subject fully. Dr Gheorghe believes that since the Roman army was huge, they needed to make many sandals very quickly, and ones which would stand up to hard use in very difficult terrain.

Dr Gheorghe believes that thirty pairs of sandals such as these could be cut out by a man in a single day.

There were two kinds of iron rivets, one for fixing the layers together, another larger type for contact with the roads, for the men were expected to walk over 15 km daily on a Roman road, or more, depending on the amount of climbing involved.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 22nd December 2007




recreating sandals recreating sandals recreating sandals
These sketches from "Roman Military Equipment" illustrate the progression of the sandal. Notice how the later versions were much more closed, most likely to accommodate a more varied environment, not just the hot Italian plains.

There would have been some differences over the period, as well as territorial factors that need to be considered. A pair of sandals made in Britain in the 3rd Century would differ from a pair made in Spain at the same time.

Text: Markus Munt

Photo: "Roman Military Equipment" second edition, by M.C. Bishop and J.C.N. Coulston, published by Oxbow Books, 2006




recreating sandals
At this time it is necessary to mark on the lower sole in contact with the road the points for the metal pieces which fix the soles of the sandals together.

There are about fifty such points, divided into three parts.

The small rivets or nails on the edge fix the three soles together. There are 24 of these on the edge of the sole. There is a free space in the sole, marked in black, which can move during walking, so that the Roman sandals may be the first anatomically correct shoes in history, because they take the form of the foot, and make walking easier and faster.

There are also small metal rivets in the middle of the sole, in a few lines along the sole so that the sole does not move around too much, fixing all levels of the soles together.

There are also large metal hobnails, on the inside of the sole, like a large letter S but only in the rear part of the sole. Dr Gheorghe believes that this is another reason to say that Roman sandals were the first anatomical shoe in history, because when the user walked on dry road, the outside area of the sole has a better impact with the road the inside part, since these large iron rivets on the inside part do not make strong contact with the road, because of the position of the foot, and the walker was not disturbed by them.

However, when the road was muddy, the outside areas are deep in the clay, and the inside then came in contact with the clay, providing good grip when walking in rainy weather.

All the large hobnails were put only in the back part of the sole. When running, only the front of the sole was in contact with the road, but when walking, the heel and the large iron hobnails are in contact with the road, and provide good grip and long life for the sole of the sandal.

The recreations of Roman sandals made today have the iron pieces in no sensible order, with no background knowledge of where the iron nails should be put.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd December 2007




recreating sandals
A small hole is punched in the sole at every marked point, to take the rivets which fix the three levels of the sole together.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd December 2007




recreating sandals
In every hole a rivet is put to fix the soles together. But at this point it should be considered whether the nails or rivets would be made of bronze, copper or iron? And how do they make the top of the rivets?

At this point, says Dr Gheorghe, "I believe that the soldier comes to the shoe maker and asks him for a new pair of caligae. The shoemaker asks him to put his bare foot on a large piece of skin. With a simple crayon, the shoemaker draws around each of the feet of the customer. Then around this the shoemaker draws, 10 cm further out, the part which will cover the top of the foot, as shown in the model above. He quickly cuts it out and joins it together, and the customer leaves the shop perhaps half an hour later"

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd December 2007




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Adrian, Amelia Negutz and little Amelia are working on the soles of roman sandals, making holes for metal rivets.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 6th January 2008




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Amelia shows here the first sole finished with the large rivets, showing their distribution on the sole.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 6th January 2008




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Amelia, Ionutz and Adrian working on both soles to put all the rivets into them

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 6th January 2008




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Adrian shows the first sole ready with all rivets in place.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 6th January 2008




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Alina making the inside sole, to protect the foot from the rivets.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 6th January 2008




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Here both soles of the roman sandals are ready, with rivets in place. The object of this work is not to make a totally faithful replica of the Roman sandal or caligae, but to understand some of the secrets of each artefact such as the sandal by making a simple replica of it, even if different materials and tools are used compared with those of the ancient people.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 6th January 2008




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Testing the Roman sandals on our youngest Alexis Team member, Maria-Amelia, age 4.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 6th January 2008




recreating sandals


Understanding how the sandals are put together, and the way the laces and straps are organised is not at all easy. There have been a lot of suggestions to the Alexis Team from friends in many parts of the world about this project, and we are very grateful for their help. The design used here is based on a sandal found in a Roman tomb, a very worn, old, and broken one, so the model is a difficult one to follow.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 6th January 2008




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Since the sandal turned out to be too big for Maria-Amelia, her mother became the next one to try out the sandal for fit and to determine the best way to lace up the sandal.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 6th January 2008




recreating sandals


It was very difficult to work out the way to put the laces into the right holes of the sandal. It turned out to be best to have Amy with her back to us to try to get the sandal on correctly.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 6th January 2008




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As well, it turned out to be best to use a white pair of laces so that we could see the lacing more easily.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 6th January 2008




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Now at last Amy is ready to walk in the sandal - on at least one foot!

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 6th January 2008




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The final step is to put the other lace into the same holes as the first sandal.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 6th January 2008




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At last, the final stage of the sandals project! This pair of sandals will be donated to the Oltenia Museum in Craiova, to be displayed as a replica or sample in the museum, near the other Dac shoes, called in Romanian Opinci. This will be another project for the team soon, so that visitors can see the history of shoes in our country.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 6th January 2008









Recent additions, changes and updates to the Alexis site

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This site is to publicise the history and culture of Romania, and displays information from the Alexis Project Association

Alexis Project Filiasi/Romania
RC J/263/230/2007 CIF 21464151
Email: alexis_project@yahoo.com

in a partnership and contract with the Oltenia Museum:
Oltenia Museum Craiova/Romania
CF 4417192
Email: muzeulolteniei@yahoo.com

Because Oltenia Museum has the ability to verify the scientific importance of this information and because the specialists of Oltenia Museum have made contributions to this site, the copyrights to it are part of Oltenia Museum property.



If you have any photographs or information which would be useful for this site please contact Don Hitchcock


This page last modified Monday, 24th January, 2011 09:17pm


Webmaster: Don Hitchcock

Email: don@donsmaps.com


My Archaeology website: http://donsmaps.com/