This article covers the main types of footwear worn by the Red Army. It does not cover specific types of footwear such as cavalry jackboots and officer’s burki.
A word on soles
When buying Soviet footwear, one point that many re-enactors ignore are the rubber sole patterns. However this is what differentiates between a farb and one that wants to portray the frontoviki as realistic as possible. Boots from the GPW had either leather soles or the rubber pimple sole. Tractor soles are 100% postwar. Luckily production of pimple soled boots continued after ww2 and are still aplenty if you know where to get them.
Full leather jackboots were pre-war and were rare as leather was short in supply. The main type of jackboot was the Kirza jackboot, which saw use from august 1941 onwards. Basically, it was a leather jackboot but the shaft was made with an artificial leather instead. They can be bought from Cyrill Mekhanitchev or Voenspec.
Low boots were produced and worn throughout the war as they consumed less leather than jackboots. They were worn with puttees at all times and the laces meant they were better fitting than jackboots, but the puttees meant putting them on took longer. The snugger fit also meant it provided more comfort. These boots are better for re-enactors who often experience foot pain or if one has larger calves as the shaft of a jackboot may limit calf size while puttees are flexible. Original postwar are available from Cyrill Mekhanitchev and reproductions are available from Voenspec.
Both the British and US provided the Red Army with extra footwear through Lend-Lease. As they were low boots, they had to be worn with puttees as well. British lend lease boots began in 1942 and the US in 1943. Reproduction British Ammo boots can be bought from William Lennon (rufflander.co.uk), a company that had produced the exact boot back in WW2 and still uses the same machines to make their reproductions. Original British Ammo Boots are also fairly easy to source. Reproduction US lend lease boots can be bought from Cyrill Mekhanitchev.
Valenki were warm, thick felt boots that were issued to troops in the winter. They are only worn when the temperature is lower than 0°C as snow would not melt then so the boot doesn’t absorb the water. Sometimes they were worn with galoshes (rubber boots for the valenki) to further reduce the problem of absorbing water. They can be bought from Cyrill Mekhanitchev.
Instead of socks, the Red Army were given footwraps/portyanki. They were simply sheets of cloth that could be easily washed and could be worn in 4 ways, 1 in each corner, before it needed a wash. They came in cotton for summer and flannel in winter. 2 or more layers could be worn if one’s boots were too big. Both types can be bought from Cyrill Mekhanitchev. OTK87 also sells the cotton type.
Puttees were worn with all types of lowboots to prevent dirt entering the trouser or the boot. It also provided additional protection and ankle support. They were originally made only in black to give the illusion of the soldier wearing jackboots, but due to material shortages during the war, other colours such as grey, khaki and green appeared. They can be bought from Cyrill Mekhanitchev and Voenspec. Voenspec ones are softer and stretchier which are less realistic but more comfortable.
The spoon was often tucked in the shaft of a tight boot or the puttee with only the bowl peeking out to allow quick access for the soldier. This allowed the soldier to eat during brief breaks between fighting without having to rummage through his rucksack. In fact many photos show infantrymen without neither a meshok nor a gas mask bag in battle, most likely to reduce their silhouette and weight. To quote Napoleon, ‘an army marches on its stomach’.
leather shoelaces were the norm back then. They do not guide through eyelets well so when tightening boots feed it through eyelet by eyelet instead of just yanking it through or they will snap.