Early medieval footwear of the Northwestern Caucasus: the finds from Moshchevaya Balka.
The cliff-face tombs of Moshchevaya Balka high in the Caucasus Mountains have yielded rich grave goods and clothing, well preserved by the cold and arid climate. The cemetery is attributed to Alanic tribesfolk and was mainly used from the eighth to the tenth centuries. Much of what was excavated over seven decades in the 20th century, under more- or less-exacting conditions, has been collected in the Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg. The collection is remarkable for the profligate use of Asiatic silks, probably gleaned from traders passing along the local branch of the Silk Road, but among the less spectacular finds are fourteen items of footwear.
All of the footwear from Moshchevaya Balka is of soft materials and without a seperately sewn-on sole, and has a fabric lining of raw linen which matches the form of the shoe and in many cases is sewn into it at the opening. Traces of grass stuffing still survive in one shoe - this form of insulation is very common among mountain dwellers of the Northern Caucasus to this day.
Figure 1 - General construction and pattern of Moshchevaya Balka footwear. Inset shows welted seam construction.
Generally the footwear was made from a single piece of leather, with a central joining seam on the bottom of the foot incorporating a heel seam and running to the toe along the centerline of the sole. At the point of the shoe the main seam meets a short and curved cross-seam, here the toe is shaped by neatly gathering the leather in small folds. There are three examples where the main seam runs instead down the upper side of the foot - at the point of the shoe it also strikes a cross-seam, which is curved however in the other direction . Joins are frequently decoratively strengthened by welting (Figure 1) - a thin strip of leather folded in half was sewn into the seam, appearing as piping on the outside.
Five styles of footwear are present in the Hermitage collection (Figure 2), but in most cases (i.e. those derived from undocumented excavations) particular examples could only be tentatively attributed to either male or female wearers on the basis of size. They resemble the footwear of modern Caucasian mountain-dwellers - low shoes known as chuvjaken, and soft boots.
Figure 2 - Types of shoes found at Moshchevaya Balka .
Type 1. Low slippers:
Figure 3 - Type 1 shoe with felt sock  from female grave, now flattened.
Type 2. Slippers with decoratively cut upper part:
Figure 4 - Type 2 shoe with linen liner and silk top band . Now flattened and the vamp is missing, apart from its linen lining which reproduces its form - note the sole and toe seams.
Type 3. Slippers with funnel-shaped upper part and border trim:
Figure 5 - Childs shoe  of type 3, partly reconstructed into original three-dimensional form. Note silk border which is fitted to the curves with small tucks.
Type 4. High slippers (half-boots):
Figure 6 - Dolls boot from Moshchevaya Balka . Note rear seam on shaft.
Type 5. High boots:
Figure 7 - Boot from Chasaut cemetary, details of decorative seams and appliques. After Runich, fig. 6.
Leggings - a brief description
Male and female lower garments were similar: short loose-fitting linen trousers tucked into thigh-high linen  stockings (Figure 8). These normally had feet, constructed similarly to the Type 1 footwear described above, made of a coarser grade of linen than the legs. Some however were footless, secured with a strap sewn under the arch. While womens stockings could be made of a single width of cloth , mens stockings were made wider with wedge-shaped gores in the forward-facing seam . Mens and womens stockings were fastened in distinct ways: those of women were bound below the knee with 2-3cm wide strips of linen, and mens were held up by garter cords that were fastened to the narrow cloth belt that held up the trousers (Figure 8, left above). The garter was fixed through a small hole in the upper edge, reinforced with a leather grommet.
The footwear of Moshchevaya Balka is of several different styles, but of a uniform construction poorly suited to outdoor walking. Though this may reflect the equestrian nature of Alanic society, it is perhaps more likely that custom required burial dressed in indoor shoes - perhaps to discourage the corpse from wandering, or in belief that the tomb was the new home of the deceased.