Traditional Ukrainian shoes: history, types, features, sizes

Ukrainians were always famous for their ability to dress and look perfect. One of the most prominent Ukrainian artists Ilya Repin once said: “Only Parisians and Ukrainians have good taste in clothes…Ukrainian costumes are truly folk, graceful and convenient, despite huge boots…”

It’s hard to imagine Ukrainian nation without their bright red boots. Being an integral part of traditional Ukrainian costume, boots have a long and interesting period of development.

History of Ukrainian footwear development

Historically traditional folk shoes were grouped by several criteria.

According to the material boots were divided into three groups:

  • made of bast or bark;
  • made of leather;
  • made of felt.

Materials determined the technology of footwear production, according to which boots could be:

  • plaited;
  • tied;
  • stitched.

Plaited footwear


Boots, plaited from linden or birch bark, were called lychaky. They were worn at home and for work by all members of the family. Traditionally lychaky consisted of the braided sole, loops and the cord that was used for tying the shoe to the feet.


Another type of plaited Ukrainian footwear was called postoly, made of linden and willow bast. Postoly as well as lychaky were short-lived shoes, so each family had sufficient reserve of materials for their production.

Tied shoes


In some western and southern parts of Ukraine leather footwear was preferable and more convenient. Postoly (khodaky) were made of thick but gentle pigskin or cowhide. Before putting these shoes on, the feet were first wrapped up with a linen or woolen cloth. All khodaky had laces which were wound up round the leg.

Depending on the configuration of the toe cap and the way of tying postoly were square-toed and with pointed toes. These types were also diversified by additional laces and leather weavings.

Stitched footwear

Stitched footwear is the next stage of shoes evolution. The design of such shoes was more complicated, so they became more comfortable and diverse.

Stitched shoes consisted of several parts including sole and heels. They could be divided into three subtypes:

  • slipper-type that was the most simple. It covered front and back parts of the feet, fastened with small cords and buckles;
  • shoe-type was popular in 19th century . It covered the feet and the lower part of the calf tied by lacings, cords and buckles;
  • boot-type covered the feet and the calf.

Leather boots were known since Kievan Rus times. But only in 18th-19th centuries they became prevalent mainly among prosperous people.


Boots made of felt, valenki, were popular in regions with severe frosts for their ability to keep warmth. First valenki were wholly made of felted sheep wool. Later to prevent the premature deterioration they were hemmed with leather or rubber sole.

Today felt boots and shoes are not popular in Ukraine because of quite warm winters. Such type of footwear is sometimes used as home slippers.

Red leather boots as the symbol of Ukrainian culture

Ukrainian red boots
Ukrainian red boots

Ukrainian folk and Cossack clothing is considered to be uncompleted without ceremonial leather boots. These shoes were made of red, yellow, sometimes green saffiano leather and were called “sapiantsi” or “chornobryvtsi”. Festive sapiantsi unlike their everyday and men`s analogues had cocked toe-caps and higher heels. Such type of shoes was quite expensive, so only wealthy Ukrainians could afford to buy them.

Nowadays sapiantsi are still popular in Ukraine, but now they are worn mainly by folklore dancers. Ukrainian red folk dance boots as a part of Ukrainian folk costume look stylish and gaudy on women`s naked legs. Exactly these red dance boots attract audience’s attention during watching dynamic folk dances.

National Ukrainian shoes
National Ukrainian shoes

Ukrainian red boots have not just practical significance, but also deep symbolic meaning that can be seen in wedding rituals. In Ukraine boots symbolize fertility and conceiving, sacrifice and the exchange sign. Many years ago guys gave boots to their beloved to confirm their serious intentions, so such a gift was equivalent to avowal of love.

According to one of Ukrainian wedding rituals a groom presents a pair of shoes to his mother-in-law proving his devotion to her daughter and their family.

Red color of boots also plays special role as the symbol of viburnum and virginity. In other cases red color symbolizes the level of host`s wealth and has protective effect.

Contemporary Ukrainian footwear

Footwear produced in Ukraine has approximately 20-25 % share of the local market, other 75-80 % of goods are imported. Nevertheless domestic manufacturers slowly but steadily win the positions even against foreign trademarks due to affordable prices and high quality.

Modern Ukrainian shoes production
Modern Ukrainian shoes production

Ukrainian footwear production is based on three pillars:

  • Modern design. Engineers and designers always improve their qualification and have internships abroad.
  • New technologies. Ukrainian companies monitor the tendencies of world fashion, materials, equipment and production technologies.
  • Perfect materials. Ukrainian manufacturers follow world standards during the purchase of materials and other components.

There is a wide range of Ukrainian footwear on the market: boots, jackboots, flats, sneakers, loafers, sandals etc. One need only visit any online store or shopping center to be convinced of this. Men’s, women’s and children’s footwear of Ukrainian manufacturers is constantly updated and improved.

If you decided to purchase Ukrainian footwear you should consider some differences in Ukrainian shoes size comparing with other countries analogues.

Ukrainian shoes size (women, men)

Women`s footwear

Feet length (cm) Ukraine China USA Great Britain Europe
21,5 34 34 5 3 35
22 34,5 35 5,5 3,5 35,5
22,5 35 36 6 4 36
23 35,5 37 6,5 4,5 36,5
23,5 36 37,5 7 5 37
24 36,5 38 7,5 5,5 37,5
24,5 37 38,5 8 6 38
25 37,5 39 8,5 6,5 38,5
25,5 38 40 9 7 39
26 38,5 40,5 9,5 7,5 39,5
26,5 39 41 10 8 40
27 39,5 42 10,5 8,5 40,5
27,5 40 42,5 11 9 41
28 40,5 43 11,5 9,5 41,5
28,5 41 43,5 12 10 42


Men`s footwear

Feet length (cm) Ukraine China USA Great Britain Europe
24 38 38,5 6 5 39
24,5 38,5 39 6,5 5,5 39,5
25 39 40 7 6 40
25,5 39,5 40,5 7,5 6,5 40,5
26 40 41 8 7 41
26,5 40,5 42 8,5 7,5 41,5
27 41 42,5 9 8 42
27,5 41,5 43 9,5 8,5 42,5
28 42 44 10 9 43
28,5 42,5 44,5 10,5 9,5 43,5
29 43 45 11 10 44
29,5 43,5 45,5 11,5 10,5 44,5
30 44 46 12 11 45
30,5 44,5 47 12,5 11,5 45,5
31 45 48 13 12 46


Liked it? Share it!