Bast shoe


Bast shoes are shoes made primarily from bast—fiber from the bark of the linden tree or birch tree. They are a kind of basket, woven and fitted to the shape of a foot. Bast shoes are an obsolete traditional footwear of the forest areas of Northern Europe, formerly worn by poorer members of the Finnic peoples, Balts, and East Slavs. They were easy to manufacture, but not durable.

Bast shoes have been worn since prehistoric times. Wooden foot-shaped blocks (lasts) for shaping them have been found in neolithic excavations, e.g. 4900 years old.[1] Bast shoes were still worn in the Russian countryside at the beginning of the 20th century. Today bast shoes are sold as souvenirs and sometimes worn by ethnographic music or dance troupes as part of their costumes.

Lubok depicting a peasant making lapti (Russian bast shoes).

In Russian, they are called lapti (лапти, sing. лапоть, lapot); this word is used as a derogatory term for cheap and short-lived footwear and also for uneducated people (лапотник, lapotnik: one who is too poor to afford good shoes and wears bast shoes instead).

Bast shoes played an important role in the founding myth of Přemyslid dynasty, which reigned in Bohemia and Moravia until 1306 AD. Přemysl the Ploughman, its legendary ancestor, was a peasant of humble origin. His bast shoes and bast-bag were kept as relics at Vyšehrad and Czech kings put them on during their coronations. They were likely destroyed when Vyšehrad fell to Hussites in 1420.


  1. Schwäbische Zeitung: Forscher finden Steinzeit-Sandale am Bodensee. 10. March 2009.

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