Shoes is a general modern term for a class of costume worn on the feet, ostensibly to protect the feet, although often footwear is worn simply for style.
In the Middle Ages in English, the term referred specifically to a sort of footwear that only came to the level of the ankle, or lower on the foot.
In the Period of the SCA there were many types and styles of footwear. These were made from a variety of different styles of construction, the three most common being single piece construction, turned work, and an early version of modern welted construction. Other forms that appear in the archaeology are wooden shoes, pattens, shoes of woven cord, sandals, and even in some rare cases, shoes with metal soles.
The simplest technology for making a shoe is the single piece construction. In this type of construction, a single piece of leather is used to make a single shoe, usually by wrapping around the foot.
For people wearing outfits from before about 1400 what we call 'turned shoes' were the most commonly worn, especially among the higher social classes. For people wearing outfits set after 1500, the most commonly worn sort of shoe was what we today call 'Welted Shoes'.
Turned shoes were single-sole shoes that to modern sensibilities often seem like slippers or moccasins, and are therefore dismissed. They were made inside out, then turned right-side out. These were frequently made on a last (or a specially carved wooden form), especially after the 1200s, although a last is not always required.
Some later period shoes were given added outer soles that helped them last longer. These soles are sometimes erroniously referred to as clump soles by archaeologists. In the period of the SCA these would have been called outersoles or outsoles.
Welted shoes were made in a more modern fashion, right-side out, on a last. Separate raised heels are not found until after 1600 (except in some rare occurrences regarding carved wooden or cork soles in the 16th century).
Shoemakers (or Cordwainers) and Cobblers are not the same thing. Shoemakers were required to work in new leather, while Cobblers were required to work in old, used leather. There were serious class distinctions between the two.
Overshoes called pattens were made of wood with a leather strap or leather and cork (somewhat like a modern Berkeinstock). They raise the foot up off the ground immediately below ones sole, thereby extending the life of the shoes and preventing one's foot from getting wet in damp conditions.
Shoes in the SCA
Shoes are given the least amount of effort by most people in the SCA. As they are expensive to have made, many people do not see them as a viable part of their portrayal. However, the making of shoes (particularly turnshoes) is relatively simple once the pattern has been made. There are multiple websites with historical patterns on them.
Shoes in Re-Enactment
Period shoes are considered de rigour for most re-enactment groups. The adage: Clothes maketh the man has been reappropriated to become Shoes maketh the man. Any re-enactment group not making the effort to ensure that their shoes are historically accurate are not generally taken as a serious group.
Making their own shoes is considered a rite of passage by some groups as they learn that shoemaking is not a difficult task nor is it an expensive one. Arguments that period shoes are dangerous are typically based on supposed ankle injuries whilst wearing armour, but do not seem to be born out by the numerous re-enactors wearing them every weekend.
Movement whilst wearing period shoes changes slightly and a greater understanding of combat is gained from the experience.