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Pattens were clogs, overshoes or sandals, held on the foot by leather or cloth bands, often with a wooden sole or metal device to elevate the foot and increase the wearer's height or aid in walking in mud. They were worn during the Middle Ages outdoors and in public places over (outside) the thin soled shoes of the day. The word probably derives from the Old French pate meaning hoof or paw. For women they continued to be worn in muddy conditions, until the nineteenth or even early 20th century.
Pattens were worn by both men and women during the Middle Ages, and are especially seen in art from the 15th century: a time when poulaines, shoes with very long pointed toes, were particularly in fashion. Medieval pattens were known by the terms 'patyns', 'clogges', and 'galoches', but the original meanings of these terms are unclear. These terms are usually referred to as 'pattens' for convenience. There are three main types of pattens - those with a wooden 'platform' sole raised from the ground either with wooden wedges or iron stands. The second type has a flat wooden sole, which was often hinged. The third type has a flat sole made from stacked layers of leather. Some later European varieties of these pattens have light wooden inner sections with leather above and below. In earlier varieties of pattens, dating from the 12th century on, the stilt or wedge variety were more common. From the late 14th century the flat variety became increasingly common. Leather pattens became fashionable in the 14th and 15th Centuries . Most pattens were constructed of alder, willow or poplar woods.
In 1390, the Diocese of York forbade clergy from wearing pattens and clogs in both church and in processions, considering them to be indecorous "contra honestatem ecclesiae". Conversely, the famous Spanish rabbi Solomon ben Abraham Ibn Adret, "the Rashba", (ca. 1233-ca.1310) was asked if it was permissible to wear "patines" on Shabbat, to which he replied that it was the custom of "all the wise in the land" to wear them, and certainly permitted. Since shoes of the period had thin soles, pattens were commonly used mainly because of unpaved roads and also the fact that indoor stone floors were very cold in winter. Furthermore, refuse in cities – including the contents of chamber pots – was usually thrown into the street. Unlike clogs, which are usually flat-bottomed, pattens tend to only make contact with the ground through two or three strips of wood. They raised the wearer up considerably, sometimes by four inches or more.