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Picture of Viking Leather Turnshoes

My Medieval Reenactment persona is a Viking, so naturally I needed some viking shoes. Since TJ Maxx was out of authentic viking wear I made my own, and I'm passing along what I learned in the process in hopes that it will help some other shoeless vikings, or anyone in need of some simple leather shoes. I also think this is a good project for people who want to try leather work without investing a lot in tools immediately, though it is a bit tricky at parts and might not make the best first project.

My shoes are based on the styles of about 800 to 1100, because they are very simple, and I don't have a ton of shoe making experience, but since you're making your own pattern you can fancy these up as much as you want.

I learned to make turn shoes from this PDF:

It has lots of helpful photos and diagrams, and is worth reading for awesome historical context, more detail on some steps, and a slightly different way of doing certain things. There are also more shoe styles at the end.

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials
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For Making the Pattern:

  • A big sheet of paper, newspaper works well
  • Some string
  • Some tape, I used washi tape because it was nearby and pretty but anything will work.
  • A sharpie or other marker

For the Actual Shoe

  • Soft leather for the upper, about a couple square feet. You don't need a lot, but I recommend getting a bit more than you think you'll need just in case you need to re do something.
  • Thick veg tanned leather for the sole, the thicker the better. I think I used 7-8 oz (it wasn't labeled) but 9-10 oz or heavier would be good.
  • Artificial sinew, which is not historically accurate but is much more durable than the more authentic linen or wool. If you want to use linen or wool go ahead, just be warned that many repairs probably lie ahead.
  • Needles, at least two big dull ones.
  • An awl, preferably a very sharp diamond shaped leather awl. You could probably get away with a book binding awl or a nail, but a sharp leather awl will save you a lot of grief.
  • Scissors for cutting paper and leather and/or a very sharp knife for leather
jkking721 year ago
Have you thought about selling a pair of these? I would love to buy a pair from you!!
LilacKraken (author)  jkking721 year ago

Thank you, that's very flattering! I have considered selling them, it's tricky because they're best when made with an actual tracing of someone's foot, but I might be able to do it with measurements. If you'd like I can let you know if I come up with a good way to do that.

Please! I would be absolutely overjoyed if we could come up with some way to get a pair made. Please keep me up to date if you think of a way!
LilacKraken (author)  jkking721 year ago
I believe I’ve figured out how get the right size and shape based on the standard sizing cybermutt suggested and a little measuring! If you’re still interested in a pair let me know :)
How much will you sell them for?

you might get the actual foot tracing in scanned version from the customers and then print them out))

I would use a universal foot measurement page that you can link to so that everyone uses the same measurement between each other. There is some learning curve as you adopt to using it, but it would help with someone using the wrong ruler,string stretches, etc. For example:

That way, everyone makes it easier for you to do it. Or if they are a techie, tell them to trace their feet and then scan it in for the BEST comfort! I would be interested as well for around the house and perhaps even driving. I have a pair of slip on's that I use for driving but I use HOT GLUE gun on the bottom for texture!

JacobmF124 months ago
I will also buy a pair let me know if you make them for sale
darklotus1 year ago

Great instructable and very inspiring.

panuli51 year ago

Growing up in Europe as a kid, we wore "Turnschuhe" during our gynmastics classes. We also wore them at home during the winter - very comfortable play shoes that allowed you sliding on the wooden floors like on ice skates - good memories!

A gymnasium or building where gymnastics is practiced is called a "Turnhalle". I have always wondered why. Maybe it has to do with these shoes?!

"Turnen" means exercising in German - "exercise hall" is Turnhalle translated literally. Turnschuhe, or turn shoes are shoes we had to wear as kids during Turnstunde - exercise hour. This intractable brings back good memories - a welcome distraction from the classroom studies...

LilacKraken (author)  panuli51 year ago

That's so cool! I'm glad this brought back good memories, and now I know a tiny bit more German, thank you!

WainaniK1 year ago
Great instructionss! Suggestion : Use large brown paper bag for pattern. Easier to read measurments & durable to keep.
LilacKraken (author)  WainaniK1 year ago

That's a really good idea, do you mind if I add it to the instructable? I'll credit you.

TorBoy91 year ago

How durable is the stitching? Thanks for the 'ible. I had some trouble following the pattern part, right close to "This next part is a tad trickier.". Maybe you could add some arrows to your diagram? Thanks, interesting 'ible.

LilacKraken (author)  TorBoy91 year ago

I color coded the measurements for that part, hope it helps!

LilacKraken (author)  TorBoy91 year ago
The stitching is very durable as long as the ends are secured well, and I will definitely improve the diagram when I get home! Thanks for letting me know it needed clarification.
OWK000.1 year ago

ve been looking at handmade Native American mocassins for grounding shoes. Making my own had not quite occurred to me. I have inflammory arthritis and I like to dance, so shoes made of only natural materials that conduct electricity and suck off bad electrons sounds like heaven. I'll have to try! The handmade mocassin folks also sell 100% natural rubber souls you can glue on but you lose the grounding quality. By the way, kudos, you do nice hand work!

LilacKraken (author)  OWK000.1 year ago
Thank you very much! I would definitely recommend making insoles for these if you plan on dancing in them for some extra padding.
LauraF991 year ago
I saw another tutorial suggest letting the shoe dry on your foot. It’s cold and uncomfortable but the shoe dries perfectly in shape with your foot for an even better fit. I’m going to try this, thanks for publishing it!
LilacKraken (author)  LauraF991 year ago
That makes a lot of sense, and would probably work great as long as you don’t walk around while they’re drying, which is where stretching could be an issue.

Te Norwegian in me, and part Sweed that came across the border says, check it out!! I think Ive got most of what I need except the soles. A friend who makes saddles will help there. Thanks for the inspiration.

seamster1 year ago

Very interesting! Thank you for sharing how you made these. I was curious about the name up to the very end! :)