For a society that lives primarily in a deep desert environment, what would be the most practical and/or common type of footwear in terms of both style and material?

The world is medieval-ish, but it's fantasy so it's not bound to any specific time or place. I have been trying to get some examples of the types of shoes worn by Bedouins and other desert-dwelling cultures. The Fremen of Arrakis are also a source of inspiration. This is a semi-tribal culture and portions of it are on the move regularly, often on horseback, so it should be a boot or shoe, not a sandal unless a sandal would be no issue on horseback.

  • $\begingroup$ Why would you discard sandals in a desert? $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Jun 1, 2020 at 5:38
  • $\begingroup$ i remember renan or maybe its Alexp (iam not so sure) give a link regarding this to certain question cant found it though, even upon quick google. $\endgroup$
    – Li Jun
    Jun 1, 2020 at 5:42
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    $\begingroup$ ah found it! maybe this can help desert footwear guide theres other one regarding historical shoes but cant found it, i though it was this one sorry. but i hope the information can help. $\endgroup$
    – Li Jun
    Jun 1, 2020 at 5:51
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH I would turn that around: design and materials are almost inseperably interlinked. When you create a design for swamps, mountain walks, climbing, silt water walking, poolside relaxation or warm indoor shoes they will vary greatly, and the available material in turn will change the designs. Some designs become impossible without the right materials, some become much more complex or bulky. The question (as posed now) is fairly well constrained without choking it: common medieval times desert footware in a fluff fantasy world. $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Jun 1, 2020 at 7:22
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    $\begingroup$ One Amazon tribe dips there feet in rubber from the rubber tree, making bonded perfectly form fitting shoes. there are many strange options for footwear. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jun 1, 2020 at 17:59

1 Answer 1


In deserts with snakes and scorpions, ankle covering boots are common (although often sandals or bare feet are in use as well.)
In deserts where there are sharp stones, and/or hot sand temperatures, sandals are the least, boots not unheard of.

When your riders (horse, camel, whatever) use metal stirrups, like the ones in use by most riding horses on our world, boots with heels and hard soles are the most wanted footwear. But other kinds of footwear have been used.

But in history, many peoples, spread all over the world, have ridden animals without stirrups or with a different kind of stirrup that does not have the same needs for boots, or even any kind of footwear.

People who walk bare feet all the time have tough skin on the soles of their feet. So if you are inclined against boots, you can have your peoples go bare foot.
On the other hand, you are the writer, if you want your people to wear beautiful boots, by all means have them wear those.

Typically, before rubber became the norm for soles, boots were made out of leather and some sort of yarn made of animal hair or plant fiber. In the making of boots often wood was used to make a last (the form of the foot to build the boot around) but you can invent something else if there is no wood in your world. Some boots will have been made out of wood as well as leather, but it is not needed.
With riding animals you will have leather (from old/butchered riding animals or from other animals used for food.) And adult animals have thick leather, it 'just' has to be tanned in such a way that the thick parts get strong and sturdy.

Dress shoes (at least in the 20'th century) were soled with leather, and walking on streets their soles could last a year or even longer, then you would take them to the cobbler and you would get them re-soled, which would last an other year or two, depending on the use.
Riding boots will not wear as much on most of the soles, though leather should do for them for a year at least, so you may need to 'invent' an easily replaced part where the stirrup damages the sole, or you can just have the readers assume that the whole of the sole will be replaced if needed. (Or leave it out, you will also not describe how often they replace their riding trousers, unless it is vital for the story.)

You can go into the design and making of the boot or leave that out, as fits the story.
But history on earth will have much information.

Go back at least to the pioneers in the USA and those natives who used horses, or the same time or before in Europe, North Africa and Asia, for samples that would fit in your time/tech frame.

  • $\begingroup$ In addition, some hints on desert footwear design - uneven terrain with different consistencies; concerns - blisters, bruises, sand/gravel getting in, ankle support. Make the sole tough (to resist penetration) yet flexible (to reduce blisters). Shoe should climb up on the calf (stop the sand getting in and those critters to find a spot to inject their venom) - above ankle in any case $\endgroup$ Jun 1, 2020 at 8:23
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    $\begingroup$ Farmers in the Netherlands are among the last clog users, their ground is usually uneven and can have surprises. Good fitting clogs do not give any more blisters than good fitting boots. Dutch clogs are wood only. $\endgroup$
    – Willeke
    Nov 20, 2022 at 10:14
  • $\begingroup$ But often filled with straw, especially in winters. $\endgroup$
    – Joachim
    Nov 22, 2022 at 6:26
  • $\begingroup$ Good fitting clogs do not have space nor need for straw. $\endgroup$
    – Willeke
    Nov 22, 2022 at 9:14

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