When I first started photographing LARP, I fretted about my costume. While my costume has improved over the last couple of years, my footwear really hadn’t. Prior to my first event a friend had told me ‘I only LARP from the ankles up’, it seems a sensible way to apply comfort and practicality to LARP.
However at the same time, nobody wants to see a pair of beautiful, brand-new white trainers running around a battlefield full of heroes and Orcs when everyone else has made such an effort with their costumes – and I believe that applies to crew at events too.
These were the first boots I bought (well, the black version were). I think they cost me £20 at the time and were a cheap way for me to be wearing something other than walking boots or trainers when I photographed Empire LRP for the first time.
Those boots taught me alot about suitable footwear for LARP over the two and a half years that I wore them. The most pressing thing that they taught me was that cold and wet feet are the quickest way to make me miserable in a a field – and that sentiment echoes through the advice given to all new LARPers by almost anyone who is an old hand.
Of course the easiest way to keep your feet dry with minimal expense is to wear a pair of Sealskinz inside your regular LARP footwear. They’re essentially waterproof bags for your feet, in the convenient shape of socks.
Hundreds of LARPers swear by them. They enable you to wear any kind of footwear and nothing will penetrate the sock. No water, no mud, no snow (yes, I remember the first Empire LRP event too) – so in theory your feet stay lovely and dry all weekend, which hopefully means they’ll be staying warm too.
They’re ideal to put inside a pair of reenactment shoes, which can’t easily be waterproofed by any modern method.
I won’t lie, Sealskinz didn’t really work for me. Maybe it’s years and years of wearing nice leather walking boots where your feet can really breathe, but I felt a bit suffocated in there. So that meant that a lovely pair of handmade reenactment boots were really out of the question for me, because I didn’t want to have wet feet for the sake of taking photographs or roleplaying.
When I began to drill down the things that weren’t quite right with my cheap pirate boots, both look and grip came top of the list of ‘things that need to be better on my next pair’. They look fine, except when you look at them closely you can tell that they’re fake suede and the straps are PU. You see both of those fabrics – when they’re on a really cheap pair of shoes – begin to fall apart and wear down to the synthetics pretty quickly. They’re fine when they’re covered in mud, but then again you don’t really want those boots to be covered in mud because then your feet get wet…
The grip too, one of those things you need at a LARP event is good grip. Certainly out in our British countryside anyway. Flat, shiny, plasticky soles aren’t good on wet grass or mud, something a bit more study was required.
I’d been lusting after these boots for about a year – they’re [amazon text=Dublin River Boots&asin=B00FBJMLO8]. A friend who rides horses told me about them. ‘They’re waterproof’ she said. ‘Not like, just around the feet – but all the way up to the top!’ I went and looked at them in multiple shops, but they never had a size 3 available for me to try on (yup, Dublin make their boots down to a 3!). They also make a version with a wide calf too, so if you’ve ever even looked at a gym or a bike in your life and thought about doing some excercise, they’ll likely fit you too. (Welcome to the problem of being a woman who exercises…)
They also have a really nice chunky sole to them – because they’re meant for country sports and riding horses. And the leather is finished in such a way that it just doesn’t look too ‘modern’. I mean they do look modern, but they’re not totally anachronistic to most settings.
I know they’re expensive, but they did actually change the enjoyment I was having of events. Instead of wandering around either in my nice walking boots (which don’t look very IC and to be honest, I don’t really want to wreck at events) or in shoes that let the water in, my feet were warm, comfortable AND they look vaguely like shoes that my characters would wear! The best thing about them too is that they also work for events that are more modern in style, so they’re practical across the board. Plus they’re good for just popping to the shops or for keeping my toes warm when I sit on Oxford train station’s cold, windy platforms waiting to come home from university.
- Good footwear can really affect your enjoyment of LARP when it’s out in the British countryside.
- Sealskinz are great, but not for everyone.
- It’s ok to want your feet to look IC – but it’s also ok to decide that’s a step too far in most games.
- Good grip is both big and clever for LARPs with fighting or running.
- Comfortable shoes/boots shouldn’t be an afterthought. But be prepared to drop almost as much money as your armour on them.