I shouldn't have bought them: they're not beautiful, they're not useful and I bet nobody collects them. But pattens do give us a glimpse of 17th-century life. OK, that's why I bought them.
Medieval shoes, particularly ladies', had very thin soles. Medieval streets were deep in mud and filth -- think horses, dogs, chamber pots, and more. Hence the need for pattens. Pattens were overshoes with thick soles or raised platforms that lifted the wearer two to four inches above the filth. People wore them until well into the 19th century.
In 17th-century England, men began wearing thick leather boots that did not need pattens. But women needed them still, and a new design of patten evolved for them, one that had iron hoops supporting wooden soles (which also saved the newly fashionable long dresses from the dirt).
Pattens may have been practical, but they had their downsides. Churches banned them because of the loud "clink" they made on the stone floors. Jane Austen noted the same thing and complained of the "ceaseless clink of pattens" in the fashionable lifestyle of Bath.
It was good manners to take them off indoors. In Van Eyck's portrait of the Arnolfinis (1434), she has just kicked hers off (they're in the earlier, all-wood style). But Miss Branwell, aunt of the Bronte sisters, "particularly dreaded the cold damp arising from the flag floors in the passages and parlours of Haworth Parsonage ... [and] always went about the house in pattens, clicking up and down the stairs, from her dread of catching cold."
Samuel Pepys had a different problem: in his Diary for January 24, 1660, he wrote, "Called on my wife and took her to Mrs Pierce's, she in the way being exceedingly troubled with a pair of new pattens, and I vexed to go so slow." (Wooden pattens were sometimes hinged to make walking easier, and reduce the impatience of husbands like Samuel.)
Awkward, noisy and slow: I haven't tried this pair to see if the description fits (the difference between my clodhopping feet and those of a 17th-century lady is unbridgeable), but they are an authentic reminder of everyday life some 400 years ago. Nike be damned!
View them here.