Bast shoes are one of the most ancient types of footwear in Russia. They remained in daily use until the early 20th century. The Bast Shoe is a hero of popular fairy tales and is often mentioned in songs and four-line folk rhymes. The word ‘lapot’ (a bast shoe) is figuratively used as a term for simpletons and bumpkins.
Bast shoes were woven from the bark of different trees, not only the linden tree, but birch, elm, oak and other trees, as well as from hemp. The soles were additionally reinforced with vine, leather patches, or enlaced with a rope.
Bast shoes were the most affordable and cheap kind of footwear (those who knew how to weave them could provide themselves and their family members with free bast shoes), which is why they used to be the footwear of the poor. Besides Siberia, in almost every Russian village people wore bast shoes until late autumn, other than wealthy peasants. And those facing tight times wore them in winter…
Bast shoes were actively traded, as their weaving technique was not developed in all areas of the country. A pair of bast shoes did not last long – the most durable lasted for a week at best. They were worn over footwraps (pieces of cloth that are wrapped around the feet) to avoid chafing.
Bast shoes are still manufactured by craftsmen, but as souvenirs. Vintage bast shoes confidently occupy their long-deserved place on museum shelves.
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