Valenki, the best way to walk a mile in Russians' shoes

Editor - Stakheev Vladimir, photos - Vadim Kantor, traditional Russian folk song - "Valenki"

Valenki are traditional Russian winter footwear, essentially felt boots: the name valenok literally means "made by felting". Valenki are made of wool felt, so they are not water-resistant and are often worn with galoshes to keep water out and protect the soles from wear and tear. 

Traditional valenki were made of dried sheep’s wool and had no hard soles. They were usually produced only in black, gray or white, and to protect the valenki from mud, they had to be worn with rubber overshoes – not a particularly attractive look. And so as more options became available to fashion-conscious consumers, valenki were replaced in Russian cities with lighter, more water-resistant boots.

Today, valenki come in various colours and are embroidered with designs ranging from ones aimed at children to elaborate modern concepts. They can be decorated with print or made with fur trim. They are not just keeping Russian city goers' feet warm in winter, they are glamorous, customised pieces of folk art.

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