Designer valenki, fabulous boots of Russian Santa Claus

Valenki are traditional Russian winter footwear, essentially felt boots. Today, valenki are not just keeping Russian city goers' feet warm in winter, they are glamorous, customised pieces of folk art. RBTH spent some time in the valenki designer’s workshop to find out, how the original footwear for Russian Santa Claus (Ded Moroz) is created.

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. Today, valenki 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.

In Russian, the word “valenki” (felt boots) is derived from another word that describes the means of making the footwear: valenki were first made from sheep’s wool that had been compressed by hand until it turned into felt.  To make the wool thick and dense, you had to roll it (“valyat” in Russian) with a rolling pin.

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