Wooden shoes are a Dutch icon like tulips and windmills, but a bit more peculiar. You may wonder why the Dutch were so fond of this particular type of footwear? So I put on my own wooden shoes to find out more about wooden shoes in The Netherlands.
The Dutch walked on wooden shoes because they were comfortable, durable, cheap, water-resistant, well insulated, and provided good feet protection. That made wooden shoes well suited for farmers and manual laborers, a large part of the population in those days.
Read on below because there is much more to know about why the Dutch loved their comfortable, water-resistant, and protective wooden shoes so much.
The History of Dutch Wooden Shoes
The Dutch did not invent the wooden shoes but have adapted an existing shoe used by the Romans to their climate and harsher weather conditions.
The original idea for a wooden shoe comes most likely from the “calceus shoes” worn by the Romans about 2000 years ago. These Roman “calceus shoes” resemble sandals with a wooden sole and leather straps on top. The Dutch have adapted this Roman idea and used only wood to protect their feet against water and provide more comfort in their colder climate.
The first completely wooden shoes in The Netherland that we are aware of date back to 1230 and were found during an archeological excavation at the Nieuwendijk in Amsterdam. However, completely wooden shoes were most likely produced and worn already much earlier in The Netherlands.
Are Dutch Wooden Shoes Comfortable?
I can assure you from personal experience that wooden shoes are very comfortable to wear once you get used to them. Wooden shoes are more comfortable to wear on grass or farmland than on paved roads. That makes them very suitable for working in the garden, especially when the grass or farmland is slightly soggy.
It is correct that wooden shoes keep your feet warm in cold weather and cool in warm weather. I wear my wooden shoes with socks to protect my feet’ skin and provide more comfort and warmth.
It doesn’t matter if wooden shoes get wet and dirty because you can leave them at the front door and enter the house walking on your socks. That is why many farmers are enjoying their coffee breaks on socks only because their wooden shoes are left outside.
Wearing thick socks helps a lot to make your wooden shoes more comfortable. You hardly ever see a Dutchman wearing wooden shoes without thick socks.
Why Are Wooden Shoes Associated With The Dutch?
Wooden shoes were worn all over Europe by farmers, fishermen, and laborers when they appeared centuries ago. After that, wooden shoes were widespread and used everywhere and by everybody. So, why is it then that wooden shoes are associated with the Dutch?
Holland has been a trading nation for centuries. The Dutch traveled all over the world and brought various trade products with them. One of these products was the wooden shoe. This is why people in other countries presumed that the wooden shoes came from Holland.
Dutch wooden shoes are known for their characteristic painting and decoration. The traditional Dutch wooden shoe is yellow with decorations on, often tulips or windmills. The industry is increasingly responding to the needs of the tourist or consumer.
Do The Dutch Still Wear Wooden Shoes?
Wooden shoes are not as common anymore as they used to be in The Netherlands. However, it will be in the countryside that you will still see Dutchmen wearing wooden shoes.
Some farmers still like to wear them because they are really convenient on wet and soggy farmland because they are water-resistant. It doesn’t matter if they get dirty and easy to clean, much easier than leather shoes. I am not a farmer and don’t live in the countryside, but I have wooden shoes to work in the garden.
There are also modern wooden shoes, clogs with a leather top for more flexibility and comfort. These clogs are very comfortable as well as shock-absorbing. These modern clogs are popular with people with physical jobs, such as nurses, cooks, and butchers. People in these professions wear them daily for their comfort, posture correction, and shock absorption.
How Are Dutch Wooden Shoes Made?
If you want to understand how Dutch wooden shoes are made, you can best watch the Youtube video below. It has received more than 700.000 views in a few months.
It is a fascinating video taking a look inside a traditional wooden shoe factory in Marken, The Netherlands, that still uses a steam engine to produce wooden shoes. That is very rare these days and worth having a look at it.
You can buy your own pair of wooden shoes and have them shipped to your home through their website: https://netherlandssouvenirs.com/.
A pair of wooden shoes costs about € 10-25, depending on the decorations and where you buy them.
Wooden shoes with extensive decorations are more expensive. If you want your wooden shoes at bargain prices, you should buy them in a regular garden shop rather than a tourist shop in a city center.
How Should Wooden Shoes Fit?
If you decide to buy wooden shoes for yourself, you must get the correct size of wooden shoes for your feet.
Wear thick socks when you are trying out different sizes of wooden shoes. Thick socks will make walking in wooden shoes much more comfortable when you are not used to them.
Slide your feet as much forward as possible in the wooden shoes.
If your index finger fits exactly between the back of your feet and the wooden shoe, you know that you have the correct size of wooden shoes.
You will be able to easily slip in and out of the wooden shoes and walk comfortably with your wooden shoes if they are the correct size for your feet.
Where Are Dutch Wooden Shoe Factories?
If you are interested in visiting a traditional wooden shoe factory in The Netherlands, there are still about a dozen of them up and running. Check out their websites on the map below to find out more about them.
Usually, they have demonstrations and a shop where you can buy your own pair of wooden shoes to take home with you.