One of the most expensive and hard to find items of anyone’s historical costume is proper period shoes. Many cheap alternatives to period shoes are terrible for your feet, and really aren’t very period at all.
If you can afford it, there are a number of professional cobblers and shoe makers around at major historical reenactment events. If not, a quick search online will turn up many possibilities for mens renaissance shoes and womens renaissance shoes. Not all are strictly period, but for most events, as long as it looks somewhat close, it’s good enough.
Granted, if your interest lies in Napoleonic reenactment, or perhaps Victorian England, you may not be able to slap on a pair of leather sandals and claim that they’ve been brought over by your new Roman legion boyfriend. But, for medieval and renaissance era reenactment and festivals, a handy pair of leather sandals, leather boots, leather moccasins (minus the fringe), cheap canvas shoes from Wal-Mart, or even rope sandals often will do the trick. Some festivals will even allow you to go barefoot, though this is not common for insurance reasons.
You can even make your own period shoes. Moccasin patterns are easily adaptable, and readily available. Renaissance shoe patterns are affordable, and will guarantee you proper period shoes if you use the correct materials. Who knows, it could be the start of a whole new career!
Of course, some other period shoes can be much more difficult to find. For example, period shoes for toddlers are virtually non-existent! And, Civil War shoes are a bit more complicated than simple gillies, and are therefore more difficult to place and more expensive to purchase if you’re only looking for simple shoes. The authenticity standards are also much higher for many of the more modern historical reenactments. Hm… That sounds a bit oxymoronic, doesn’t it?
If all else fails, you may want to search out a good quality reenactment shoe pattern.