My new Valenki (felt boots)!

I can’t wait to needlefelt them! I just have to figure out what I’m willing to live with indefinitely.

I first saw these crazy felt boots in a Russian museum years ago. Those were miliary boots and didn’t include the rubber galoshi. They looked nutsy at the time (before I was a knitter and understood the warming virtues of wool), but the museum guide said those boots were a big part of the army’s success in the Russian winters of WWII, vs. the Germans, who just had regular leather army boots. Of course, then I didn’t realize how warm wool is, or that it stays warm wet, so I just assumed the Soviet soldiers were crazy frost-proof machines. Now that I’m a wool convert, I really wish I’d’ve bought some as a souvenir. Thanks to the eBay, I’ve got my own now (under $30/pr incl. shipping).

Here’s how they arrived, with galoshi (rubber overshoes) separate. Apparently these can be worn in snow without the galoshi, but they’re recommended for rainy or street wear. These boots are really awesome. The felt is very dense and rustic, and has a little VM embedded in it.

The two pairs are quite different. The black ones are much lighter, more flexible felt, the little rubber overshoes slid on quite easily. They’re also shorter. I had to work pretty hard to get the overshoes on the brown ones, which are almost twice as thick and VERY stiff. They’re also a size larger, but oddly, both fit just fine.  You can see below how much stiffer and thicker the brown ones are below:

The strangest thing about these boots is that there’s not a clear left or right, and they’re semi-handmade, so the two are slightly different shapes. I’m guessing they’ll break in and soften up a bit, and I’m assuming if I’m consistent in my wear, I’ll end up with a distinct right and left boot (or not, if I’m not).

The wool is really coarse and scratchy, so I’ll probably make some merino or alpaca liners to fit inside the boot part. That seems better than socks, which would stay with my foot and abrade against the boot. And liners would only go to the ankle, thus not getting stinky and requiring washing.

Anyway, I dont’ know what to felt on them yet! I think I might have (read: compell) Ron draw on them & then needlefelt whatever he draws.

I may use them as a template to make some knitted then felted indoor ones, something a little softer and more slipper-like. I’m also tempted to buy an extra pair and cut it down to just the size of the galoshi for some cloggy slippers. Hm. Or just a bit taller, then needlefelt on a knitted fair isle border… Hm.

The only downside I see is that they’d be less than ideal for really nasty, wet weather, because I’m guessing they’d take forever to dry. Besides, I have to find a fault, because I already ordered some nice warm boots for the winter (I ordered them right before these, but they haven’t yet arrived).

In the past, I’ve bought kiddie boots from Land’s End (the size 6 big kids fits my women’s 7.5-8 foot & the 7 fit’s Ron’s 8.5-9 men’s foot), and while they’re cheap, warm, and pretty sturdy, I was tired of my purple ones (clearance color) from last year and the pink (also clearance) from the year before, so I decided to Goodwill them while they still had about 90% of their useful life intact and get something a little nicer and more fitted for this year. Sadly, they don’t seem to be making the awesome kids’ Extreme Squall boots anymore, but I found women’s Extreme Squall 7s in magenta on clearance hoping they’d run large. They didn’t, but Marilyn, who has little doll feet, bought them off me. After googling “warmest boots,” I decided to order a couple of these and these on clearance from L.L. Bean (I used code 3004296 for free shipping). I’ll keep the pair I prefer & return the other.

22 Replies to “My new Valenki (felt boots)!”

  1. Oooh! I want a pair of those! They look like the Kazakh boots my friend Asel gave me in high school (except those didn’t have rubber stuff on the bottom, and they had cutwork felt on them)… also no distinct rights or lefts to them. Very cool!

  2. Your shoes are the size of egg cups. Tiny!

    We’re the same height and both of your feet fit in one of my shoes.

    Don’t pout. Everyone wants tiny doll feet, dummy! They’re adorable, like little foot-shaped candies!

  3. I used to have a pair of these during my childhood in Kiev. These are very light to wear, and comfortable! We moved to Canada, and I really missed my valenki. Heavy, synthetic boots got in the way of playing in the snow!

  4. my husband works in tunneling so wears boots and is always in water. He keeps one of these in his office and one at home (a boot dryer in case the link is too long and you have to search for one);jsessionid=UGI4MI1MQNYLNLAQBBKSCO3MCAEFAIWE?id=0006605810205a&type=product&cmCat=froogle&cm_ven=data_feed&cm_cat=froogle&cm_pla=0220306&cm_ite=0006605810205a&_requestid=35955
    Not only do they help dry out the boots, but they are great for wet or stinky tennis shoes and slippers, too. (hint-when you take the boots off the warmer slap your slippers on there and your feet will be so happy when you get home!)

  5. Hm! And you know, I’ll bet if you have a flat heat register (like a floor heater or or the type of heat registers we have in some of the rooms here) would be easy as pie to make your own with a wooden base and two hot water PVC pipes! Hmmm… You just have to make sure your register doesn’t get too hot, or it would be a fire hazard. At my place in Sandy Eggo, the floor registers got so hot, they melted the bottoms of my Docs while I stood there warming my feet.

    But ours here are definitely not that hot. If I can figure out a non-electric DIY version, I’ll post instructions.

  6. Oj, oj! Don’t put the valenki near the radiator to dry! Let them dry out slowly and be sure to take off the galoshki when you dry and store them.

  7. How fun to see the valenki are getting some attention! I live in NY, and find them to be the perfect snow boot. I either get funny looks from conservative suit-types or interested inquiries when I’m in Brooklyn or the East Village. Anyway, mine are also from AKA Culture and I got a discount with the code AKACH09. Sweeeet!

  8. I went to St. Petersburg last December. One of the things on my list was a pair of valenki to use for snowshoeing here in Canada. After much effort two city friends found grey valenki and galoshi for me For 1500rubles I have terrific footwear. In Helsinki a red pair with rubber bottoms cost 160euros…. BIG difference. I willdecorate my galoshi and my felt boots!

  9. My valenki found in St.Petersburg, with the help of city friends because valenki are nowhere to be found in the markets, cost me 1500 rubles. They are grey and the galoshis are black. In Helsinki I saw red valenki with rubber soles for 160euros. BIG diffeence! Am looking forward to using my valenki for snowshoeing. It will be easier to get into the snowshoe with the felt boot. I have been using Sorells and they are just too bulky.The felt will shape itself to my foot. Am looking forward to decorating the galoshi and the felt uppers of the boot. Long live natural fibers and handmade objects!

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