Cowmouth Shoes

What is it?

These are Kuhlmaulschuh, “cow-mouth” shoes, as seen in the attached extant shoes and period imagery, sewn out of leather with a separate wool lining / inner shoe / short over-sock.       

V&A #T.413-1913,
leather shoe dating to the 1520’s-40’s

early 15th century linen sock in Regensburg, photo by Elsa Hahma
Triunfo Del Emperador Maximiliano I, .

What was it used for and who used it? 

This pair of shoes and inner shoes is meant to reflect those which might have been worn by a trossfrau, a follower of the landsknecht, although similar shoes were worn by both men and women throughout Germany and the rest of Europe .

What time/location? 

These shoes are intended to reflect German fashion in 1535, although I also referenced the construction of a pair of English shoes of the same time frame in the V&A museum in the construction process . The idea for the inner sock is taken from an inner sock found in Regensburg

What materials and process were used in period? What is different from the period version in materials or process?

These are leather shoes, sewn with waxed linen thread, using a turnsole technique, with an additional sole and welt added for durability, and a decorative, removable wool lining, also sewn with linen thread. The leather is vegetable tanned leather – I chose to use a fairly lightweight leather for ease of sewing and because it appears to match that of the V&A shoe. Although it won’t be as durable as other options, inventories show that middle-class families ordered as many as 10 pairs of shoes per year, per person, so comfort and ease of construction may have been more of a priority .  

1. Decorative binding.
2. Outer
3. Lining
4. Welt
5. Insole
6. Outer Sole

Diagram from (figure 12)

In general, these followed period practices in construction although I did not use a last in sewing them together, which a period cobbler probably would have . Turnsoles were still in common use in the early 15th century, especially in lower-class versions – welts were just beginning to be added with outer soles . This particular pair of shoes was assembled based on the above diagram of shoes found in a cache in Kempten, German, from around 1500 .

Extant Kuhlmaulschuh pattern from Stepping Through Time.

The biggest difference in construction from period practice is that I used a duct-tape pattern rather than constructing a last and draping the leather directly into the shape of the shoe – I used duct tape and a sock to duplicate the shape of my foot, then added seam lines based on extant shoes / socks . As carving a last was outside the scope of this project, this was an acceptable substitution.
I do not own Stepping Through Time but I referenced a pattern found on Francis Chasse’s website from the book in determining the seam placement for the shoes, as well as the extant shoe from the V&A.   

Shoe in Progress…

More pictures to come.

What would I do differently in a future version?

Future shoe experiments include making lasts so that I can make a heavier leather version of these, fully welted rather than turned.  I also need to acquire a copy of Stepping Through Time so I can reference patterns directly.


Biblioteca Digital Hispánica. “Triunfo Del Emperador Maximiliano I, Rey de Hungría, Dalmacia y Croacia, Archiduque de Austria [Manuscrito] :... De Quien Están Descritas y Colocadas En Esta Colección Las Acciones Gloriosas de S.M. Imperial, Durante Su Vida... - Manuscrito - Entre 1501 y 1700?” BIBLIOTECA DIGITAL HISPÁNICA, Accessed 10 Mar. 2020.
Ahlin-Cordero, Malin. “The Trossfrau Sock « Whilja’ s Corner.” Whilja’s Corner, 14 Jan. 2014,
Ahlin-Cordero, Malin. “The Trossfrau Sock II « Whilja’ s Corner.” Whilja’s Corner, 22 June 2016,
Victoria and Albert Museum. “Shoe.” V and A Collections, 10 Mar. 2020,
Anna. “Renikas Anachronistic Adventures: Socks for the Ladies.” Renikas Anachronistic Adventures, 15 Jan. 2017,
Atzbach, Rainer. “Medieval and Post-Medieval Turnshoes from Kempten (Allgäu), Germany.” Muzeum Jihovychodni Moravy. Acta Musealia, vol. 2001, 2001, pp. 184–94,
Baker, Jenny. “Shoes Part 2 - Extant Shoes & Boots - Summary of Finds from 11th Century to 16th Century.” Looking for the Evidence, 21 Mar. 2013,
Carlson, Marc. “Footwear of the Middle Ages - Lasts, History and Use in Medieval Shoes.” Footwear of the Middle Ages, Accessed 10 Mar. 2020.
Classe, Francis. “Lesson 10: Early 16th C. Cow Mouth Shoes, or Kuhlmaulschuh (Leather) - Chopine, Zoccolo, and Other Raised Heel and High Heel Construction.” Chopine, Zoccolo, and Other Raised and High Heel Construction, 21 July 2012,
McNealy, Marion. “Shoes in 16th Century Germany.” The Curious Frau, 2 Apr. 2009,
Zander-Seidel, Jutta. Textiler Hausrat: Kleidung Und Haustextilien in Nürnberg von 1500 - 1650. Heidelberg University Library, 2015,

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