Valenki – Traditional Russian Winter Footwear
Do you know them? They are made of wool felt and consist out of 100% natural materials: the Russian Valenkis! Valenkis are the best solution for cold (Russian) winters, because they keep your feet insulated from snow and cold and have healing properties due to their natural heat and massage while wearing them. Valenki literally means “made by felting”. They are not water-resistant and that is why they are often worn with galoshes to keep the water out. Galoshes are a type of rubber boot that is slipped over the shoes to protect them from getting wet.
The first Valenkis were quite expensive and only wealthy people, such as tsars and the nobility, could afford them. In the first half of the 19th century they became widespread when they started manufacturing them by industrial methods. Later they lost their popularity because many Russians associated them with a traditional rustic style of clothing. However, the total annual amount of produced Valenkis in Russia is about 4.5 million.
Back then Valenkis served perfect for many years in one family and they were even given as heritage to younger generations! Soviet soldiers could resist during the Second World War thanks to the best possible winter uniform which included, of course, Valenkis. At the beginning they are uncomfortable, but after a couple of days the sole will take the shape of the foot and they will be very comfortable. Today Valenkis have been making a comeback as a stylish element to today’s Russian wintertime wear. They even have appeared on runways! You can both buy souvenir Valenkis or designer Valenkis.
In Moscow you can visit a Valenki museum. The exhibition includes a large collection of Valenkis throughout the centuries, even creations by modern designers. Liden & Denz Moscow is organizing an excursion on September 4 from 2-4 p.m. There you will learn more about this traditional footwear and about the process of making Valenkis. In the museum you can even buy your own pair! Sign up for this very interesting event!
P.S.: It is said, that Peter the Great wore valenkis as the best remedy against hangover.