Today we associate cleats on shoes with sporting events (golf, football, etc.).  Henry VIII is reported to had the royal cordwainer, Cornelius Johnson, make him a pair of boots “to play football” with oversized and prominent cleats attached to the soles and heels.  Despite their ubiquitous presence in the sporting world, shoe cleats have been a feature of military shoes for over two millennia.  Anyone who has seen a well drilled honor guard or color guard will note the distinctive sound of the shoe taps. These taps have a long military history that dates from the Roman Empire.  Roman legionaries wore studded sandals that resembled cleats. The caligae (as they were called) were heavy-soled hobnailed military sandal-boots known for being issued to legionary soldiers and auxiliaries throughout the Roman Republic and Empire.

The obvious purpose of taps and cleats is to give soldier taction and to extend the ware of the heels and soles but anyone that has been through Basic Training will no doubt remember the distinctive sound of the Drill Instructor’s shoe taps. The sound of metal striking the ground in a determined rhythmic cadence encourage marching precision.  Metal shoe taps are excellent tools for keeping perfect time and have long been used as a part of military training and to demonstrate discipline and precision in competitions, exhibitions and parades.

Another advantage to fitting your military shoes with cleats or taps is they extend the ware of the heels and soles.  In the 18th Century iron horseshoe heel plates were affixed to shoes to prevent wear provide greater traction in the mud and ice of 18th Century roads. They also keep you from grinding away your heels when doing proper 18th Century drill.

Published by Michael Carver

My goal is to bring history alive through interactive portrayal of ordinary American life in the late 18th Century (1750—1799) My persona are: Journeyman Brewer; Cordwainer (leather tradesman but not cobbler), Statesman and Orator; Chandler (candle and soap maker); Gentleman Scientist; and, Soldier in either the British Regular Army, the Centennial Army, or one of the various Militia. Let me help you experience history 1st hand!

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