German footwear

The german soldier neede footwear to march all over Europe. An collectible item not as focused on as the ironcross, steel helmet an beltbuckles. The information availeable regarding the german footwear in ww2 is limited. As all of the field gear, weaponry etc the shoes worn also developed during the war du to new needs and scarcity of materials.

German footwear are rare and expensive and there is a good reason for the limited supply. After the war ended there were scarcity of all commodities. The dutch had shoes made of wood, the norwegians used fishskin as replacement for leather when making shoes. The german afterwar pile of footwear could be used after the war as it had no insigna or special resemblance to the nationalsocialist era. The troops leaving former occupied area didnt leave their footwear behind. Most encountered are worn, repaired, fake or modified after the war. (photo: Norweg nat library)

The marchstiefel

"Our country was under the iron heel" is an expression often used as an expression for the occupation. The german marchstiefel with its distinct sound when marching in the streets was as iconic as the steel helmet. Used before, during and even after the war there are several versions of the socalled "Knobelbecher". The prewar, or high stiefel, was about 39cm tall. When the war started they were shortened with 4 cm to save leather. They were produced in brown leather and ordered colored black. The sole was constructed of 3 major parts, the base sole, the heel and the front sole. The heel is made up from several stacked leatherpieces fastened with pegs. A horseshoe shaped steel surronds the back of the heel. This horseshoe should be narrow. On zcech and afterwar boots the horseshoe is wider compared to the one pictured to the left.  The front sole has steelknobs, with exception for the stiefel for panzer. These knobs on all we have seen has a shape with edges, not round shaped. The frontsole often have a steel plate at the tip to protect the sole, but are often seen without this feature. 

The boots are often marked under the sole and in the upper part of the stiefel. 

The upper shaft of the boot was closed on the back with the stitching on the inside on regulation marchstiefel on a reinforcement  leather band.  The top shaft of the boot are made of one piece of leather. Privately purchased can differ. The view from the side should show an angle of the heel, on regulation boots it should not be a straight line of the backside but angled inwards. The front of the stiefel should look like a "sharks nose". It is visible when comparing the marchstiefel werhmacht to the NVA version further below as it has a high nose. Rubber was a scarce commodity so the boots were made out of leather, some rubberized version exist. The NVA stiefel are made out of artifical leather and has a rubberized feel to it.

At both sides inside the shaft there are pullups, loops for pulling the boots on the foot. These are often missing or replaced after war. The example shown here seems to have pullops looking like the ones found on east german postwar boots. The officers stiefel further down has original pullups.

Another version rarely encountered, is the reischsweer version called "schnallenstiefel". They have lacing in the lower part of the shaft an the 3 leather tabs closing a flap over the front of the stiefel. Further back in time we find the ww1 marching boots, they can be identified by an ovelap sown on the side of the shaft instead of the backside. Hard to find item.

Officers stiefel

Picture above displaying 100% authenthic officers boots. These were taken by a relative after the german troops surrendered.  A faint ink production marking can be seen inside the boots.They are hard shafted and meant to be used in the barracks/tagesdienst. The version for front use was soft shafted. They have leather loops inside the shaft to pull the stiefel onto the foot. These are often replaced or missing. One version was the "reitstiefel" or riding boot. It had a leather extension on the back of the heel tol hold the spur and is higher than the standard boot. These boots were made up until the sixties and used by the police. 

The schnurschuhe 37

Starting in 1937 the german soldier received a pair of schnurschuhe to be used with the drilich uniform. These boots were meant to be used with gaithers and soon saw use on the front instead of the standard knobelbecher.  They all follow the same design with a look of modern italian dress shoes. They have 5 eyelets with lace and then four hooks for the lace. Later in the war they have eyelets all over. The sole was constructed in the same manner as the knobelbecher with wodden pegs, heel iron and steel pegs on front. Also here there should be an angle at the heal and upwards. They often have the size number stamped in the sole of the boot. The rear stiffening leather belt was usually inside the boot, but on later versions it is seen on the outside of the heel. The italian version has a toe cap on top of the toe made of leather with a seam going over from side to side. (right top image)

Gebirgsjaeger stiefel

Similar to the schnurschue, but constructed of ticker leather, the shoes for mountain troops were made for grip. They had steel cleats under the soles. They had feldgrau felt on top of the shaft to prevent the leather from grinding the ancle of the soldier. Some can be observed without metal cleats, it is believed, but not confirmed that these are made for skijaeger troops. The mountain boots are often seen on period pictures worn by other troops than gebirgsjaeger.

Der fliegerstiefel

Made out of leather with a fur inner lining, the flying boots were constructed for use in the cold. Most commonly made with black leather but brown versions also exist. The picture left shows fliegerstiefel made after 1940. Prior 1940 they were double zipped to ensure proper fitting. An electrical heated system of flying boots also exists. It used 24volt system and was almost identical to the standard fliegerstiefel. The similiraity between RAF vs Luftwaffe is again quite obvious.

Over the ankle the fliegersteiefel has a leather strap to ensure tight fitting of the boot. Often seen is a signalpistole tucked into one of the boots. The flying b0ots are very distinct, though variations exist they are rarely mistaken with afterwar and other countries boots. The zippers, fur, stitching etc is a good way to see if it is 100%. Many of the original boots were used after the war so many have been resoled. The flying boots shown here came from Sola airport and are confirmed original as a relative stole them. He used them postwar when driving long distance to keep his feet warm.

Other footwear

There are also other special footwear used by german troops. Fighting in the cold they had wachtstiefel in different variations, most often seen with a very large sole and made out of felt. The troops at operation Barbaross was not equipped for fighting in the cold as the operation was to be a blitz and over very shortly. When the Russians halted the invasion, winterbekleidung became necessary and several and some improvised footwear and camouflage werew used. At Dombås the paratrooper used curtains from houses as snow camouflage. Boots made out of straw (similar to the one used for grenade canisters) are often seen. Above pictures of the wahctstiefel. The manufacturers marks is often to be found on the upper skirt side of the boot. After wear they are often hard to read. This specimen was manufactured in 1941 by Paul Otto-

Afterwar use/fakes/reproductions

In addition to civilans using the boots they were also used by the BGR i west germany and the Kaziernierte polizei in east germany. The NVA "knobelbecher" to the left is neue art and made from artifical leather with a rubberized feel to the material. It has the reinforcement band on the outside and rubber soles. It is not an imminent threath to the collector. The early version of these boots are more similar to the marchstiefel with the shark nose front and leather construction but they have rubber soles. Miltech, prestof and other reenactor manufacturers make concincing reproductions but the leather is different. There is often a red gloom in the leather of the originals as they used the inside of the leather on the animal to form the outside of the boot. The reproductions are made to make money, not to fight on the eastern front so the craftmanship is much poorer. Originals have drilled holes in the soles where they put wooden pegs to holde the sole together. This feature are often not present on fakes/reproductions.  To make them the same quality as in 1939-1944 the cost of making them would probably exceed the profit gain selling them as original. Better to fake iron crosses and ss field caps, less effort more profit.