Marschstiefel (Marching Boots) M1866
The M1866 Marschstiefel, were also known as Infanteriestiefel , but Frontsoldaten themselves would call them "Knobelbecher" (Dice-shakers). Prior to 1910, Marschstiefel were dyed black, but with the issue of the new field uniform in 1910, boots and other leather gear were issued in the natural brown leather. However, wartime realities caused a return to prescribing that boots and leathers be dyed black in 1915.
The total height of the infantry boot was between 14" and 16" and the shaft was constructed from two part parts with seams on the sides. Two 4.7" (l2cm) long straps were attached inside the boot on the sides to function as pulls in order to get them on. These straps were made made from Gurt (fabric) or other materials as of 1916 (leather). The sole of the boot contained between 30 and 45 hobnails. The 1.2" (3cm) high heel was reinforced with steel, a bit like a little "horseshoe". Later in the war, leather shortages let to the demand for heels to be manufactured from several layers of wood. Initially only troops in the Heimat were equipped with these economy boots, but later on they also appeared with front line troops. The model 1866 boots were used well into the Reichswehr period.
Side view of the M.1866 Marschstiefel showing the side seams.
Bottom view of the M.1866 Marschstiefel showing the common basic hobnail pattern.
Top view of the M.1866 Marschstiefel.
Many reenactors are tempted to use WWII jackboots for WWI, this is discouraged. While evidence exists that this style might have been used for private purchase boots, nearly all infantry, especially in wartime, would have had the issue M.1866 marching boot. This boot and the WWII M.1939 marching boot have one major difference. The M.1866 marching boot has a shaft that is constructed of two pieces of leather, with the two seams running up each side. The M.1939 marching boot has the shaft constructed of one piece of leather, with the single seam running up the center back. In the photos above and below, the side seams of the M.1866 boots visually separate it from the single rear seam of the M.1939 boot.
Side view of a reproduction WWII
M39 pair of Marschstiefel.
Rear view of an original WWII M1939 pair of Marschstiefel (before they would have been dyed black) - the single rear seam can easily be seen.
Hobnails and Heel Plates:
One style of heel iron.
Another style of heel iron.
Basic WWII German hobnails.
Left: Some vendors supply a two-prong style of Hobnail - avoid these. We find they just don't do the job the regular "nail" version can do.
Members of IR63 who choose to wear Marschstiefel will acquire them only from authorized vendors. A rough side out finish was more common on wartime boots than the smooth side out finish and therefore, a rough side out finish is preferred. The Marschstiefel should be at least 14" tall, with single or two-piece insteps and they must have seams up the side of the boot. Square, boxed or pointed toes are unacceptable, as are rubber heels and soles.
Marschriemen (Boot tighteners)
As reenactors, and not really used to wearing jackboots, many reenactors utilize a type of strap that encircles the ankle with a auxillary strap that runs under the sole in the arch in front of the heel and it has a buckle adjustment. This strap, Marschriemen, tightens around the ankle and keeps the boot in place.
Marschriemen are seemingly far more common among reenactors than the real soldiers of the time, but photo evidence does show that they were not uncommon, especially early in the war. However, as the war dragged on, Marschriemen became much less common. We suspect that Marschriemen were private-purchase items, and as wartime resources dwindled, the availability of Marschriemen declined. In addition, due to leather shortages, Schnurshuhe were far more common late in the war and since these did not require Marschriemen, this heavily contributed to the dwindling number of Marschriemen as well.
Notes on blackening leather:
In 1915 order came down that all leather was too be blackened. This was expected to be done by the soldiers themselves and was not part of the production process. Therefore, depending on availability of materials to do the blackening, this was not always done. There has been an ongoing debate since WWI reenacting began on how universal blackening was - and the debate continues.
Members of IR63 over the years have included many serious and casual collectors, and the sheer number of items dated 1916-1918 that we have observed that have never received blackening indicates to us that non-blackened leather was not a rare ocurrance (or blackening was definitely not universal). Therefore, IR63 is not going mandate that all leather be blackened (although blackened is the preferred condition.) See the "How-to" page for a non-dye method of blackening.
Now, deciding not to blacken leather DOES NOT mean you should show up at an event with pristine undyed leather. One limiting factor for blackening is oil - if you tried to blacken/dye heavily oiled leather the color would not take, and worse, it would rub off on everything around it - including your uniform and hands. Germans were fastidious on leather care as leather was a limited quantity and preservation of what they had was more important than its color. So, if you don't dye - OIL.
Over oiling is not good, but a good coat of oil applied periodically will naturally darken leather over time. So, how much is too much? Hard to quantify, but the is an article on leather care Leather Preservation that should help.