Putting hobnails on shoes

We offer a lot of historical shoes and boots, some with modern rubber soles and some with historical leather soles. While leather soles are more accurate, they come with the downside that they can be very slippery. Both in the Roman and medieval periods people would use hobnails to provide more traction. Do check the thickness of the soles before putting on hobnails. You don’t want the ends to go through the sole on the inside.

What do you need?


-shoe anvil (or something similar)

-leather or metal punch


How to hobnails shoes:

Step 1:

Since you’ll be punching holes in a shoe sole, the sole needs to be supported by something hard that can suffer some blows. Of course an actual shoemaker’s shoe stand or shoe anvil would be the best option, but most people don’t have one readily available. A thick piece of metal that fits in the shoe should also do the job.

Place the shoe over your “anvil” with the sole facing up.

Step 2:

Hobnails can be spaced out over the sole in different ways. Look up some references and decide on your preferred placement. Mark the spots where you want the hobnails to go with a pencil.

Step 3:

With the punch and hammer, punch holes in the soles on the marks you drew on.

Step 4:

Place a hobnail in a hole and punch it in using the hammer. Repeat this until all the hobnails are in.


You can find our shoes and hobnails here.