4

At some point in the 14th C, if I remember correctly, mounted knights and nobles followed a fashion to wear poulaines or sabatons, which were really pointy shoes as part of their armor.

Unfortunately, there was a battle with the Turks, I believe, where the shoes showed the obvious drawback that you could barely stand on them, thus making it very hard to fight. Many European knights lost their lives when the enemy took advantage and the fashion came to an abrupt halt.

Couldn't find a reference to it. Wikipedia does mention those shoes re Battle of Sempach but the article didn't make the shoes seem like a big deal. Whereas my recollection was Turks, not Swiss and lots of dead knights.

  • 1
    Given the time period, my first thought was the Battle of Nicopolis, but that was lost through foolishness and hubris, not through shoes. – Mike Supports Monica Sep 16 '15 at 4:35
  • 1
    From what I can dig up, sabatons were meant as useful armor when riding (where your feet are at a very good height to be attacked by an infantryman). If you may have to fight dismounted, you shouldn't be wearing them, and knights generally didn't. – T.E.D. Sep 16 '15 at 14:12
7

The story is from Robert Walser's account (1908) of the Battle of Sempach (1386):

Fine noblemen drowned in their hundreds; no, they were drownded in the nearby Lake of Sempach; they were drownded because they were pushed into the water like cats and dogs. They overbalanced and fell over one another in their elegant pointed shoes—it was a real shame..... Many knights, in the abruptness of their desire to dismount, got caught up in the stirrups with their silly but fashionable footwear and were left hanging from them so that they bumped themselves over the grass bleeding from the backs of their heads.... The battle of Sempach teaches us, in fact, how dreadfully stupid it is to wrap up well. If only those puppets had been able to move, yes, they would have done.

This was a gross exaggeration, however. What the chronicles actually say is that the knights simply cut off the points of their shoes (which were leather) as they assembled on the field before the battle.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.