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5 Different Types of Clogs

A woman walking on the cobblestones wearing wooden clog shoes with leather straps.

When they’re in your drains, clogs are a terrible problem. But when they’re on your feet, they’re a style choice that you made. And the secret about clogs is that you’ve probably worn them way, way more times than you think. If you believe clogs are just wooden shoes that come from Holland, you’re totally wrong!

The truth is, you probably see clogs just about every single day…and you may even be one of the people who’s wearing them every single day. It’s time to find out everything you didn’t know about clogs. And it’s time for you to stop thinking that they’re always made of wood.

What Are Clogs?

By the technical definition, a clog is simply a wooden-soled shoe. That leaves the door pretty wide-open for all sorts of designs. For most people and by most definitions, however, a shoe is a clog when it has a very distinct shape. The traditional clog that you probably picture when you think of clogs is extremely recognizable and it dates back through the centuries as one of the oldest shoe designs that are still in use.

Clogs have been a part of the fashion world for over a hundred years, which is pretty good. And while the definition of clogs is pretty loose, most industry experts agree that there are three basic types of clogs. The first is the traditional clog design, in which the shoe is made from a single, hollowed-out piece of wood.

This is probably what you imagine when you think of a clog. Then you’ve got your wooden-soled clogs where the upper is made from another material and then joined to the wooden sole. Next, you’ve got your overshoe clogs, which has a wooden sole and straps that are used to go over other footwear.

In history, the basic clog design is actually thousands of years old. These shoes date back as far as ancient Greece, possibly, so they’ve definitely been around for a while. That has given designers plenty of time to perfect the style and play with clog fashion. There are artworks dating to the 1200s that seem to clearly depict clogs, so we know they’re at least this old.

The Rise and Fall

Various wooden clog shoes with different colorful designs.

Like all fashion, clogs have gone through their ups and downs. They became incredibly popular with women during WWII when affordable fashion was a must-have. There was a lot of rationing on materials at this time that made other styles expensive or impossible. Wood and cork, however, were readily available and this made it very easy for shoemakers to create clogs. Women embraced them and they became a signature look of the war years.

After the war, however, clogs fell out of fashion again until around the 1960s. Like many trends, this one came out of nowhere as shoe designers began to play with the traditional clog look. The style caught on and became hugely popular during the middle and last half of the decade.

It set the stage for the 1970s when clogs were one of the styles that totally ruled the fashion scene of the day. The style exploded and adapted again in heeled designs that were readily embraced by the fashionistas of the decade.

It’s safe to say that clogs aren’t going to fade out of the fashion spotlight any time soon because clogs are now everywhere. The style has been adapted and played with so much, you probably don’t even realize how many pairs of clogs you’ve worn in your life.

Types of Clogs

This is a close look at a woman wearing a pair of Dutch wooden clogs.

The oldest clog ever found dates to the Netherlands in 1230. Carbon dating has pinpointed the year. This pair of clogs have a pretty traditional style: an open back that allows you to slip the foot inside with a closed upper that completely surrounds the top of the foot and toes. The toes of the shoe slope slightly upward and the shoe ends in just a slight heel. It’s a design so iconic, you’ve probably owned a pair of shoes with the exact same profile.

Ice skate clogs aren’t so common in the U.S., but they’re quite popular among the Dutch. These clogs are fashioned from a single piece of carved wood and finished with an ice skating blade.

The smuggler’s clog has another very distinct shape. It is made from a single piece of wood or other material, so the upper and lower are inseparable. The design encases the foot entirely, with an opening for the foot to be slipped inside. There is a slight heel and again, a toe that slopes slightly upward to form a point at the tip.

Wedding clogs are another pretty well-known type of clog. This style is actually part of a long-standing wedding tradition on the island of Marken. It became the fashion to give a pair of stylized, embellished clogs to a future bride when proposing marriage. The woman then wore the clogs from the moment she accepted the engagement to the day of her wedding. After the wedding, the clogs were kept and displayed in the couple’s home.

Modern Clogs

A woman trying on different pairs of modern clogs.

Today, clogs are made in all kinds of different styles and designs. But basically, clogs typically have thick, somewhat rigid soles with a fairly simple upper. They’re made to be slipped onto the feet. Clogs don’t have laces or straps to hold them into place. This is why many clogs are made with open back designs.

And while the toes are often pointed upward in traditional clog designs, this is not a necessity for the style. Many clogs also have a heel that can be very slight or several inches high. Clogs can even be made in open-toed and sandal styles, based on the strappy overshoe style that is one of the hallmarks of the clog design.

You will still see traditional wooden clogs in dance performances. The wooden-soled shoes are seen in native Dutch and Scandanavian dances, where the shoes are very much a part of the performance because they make noises as they strike the ground.

Fashion clogs today are made with all sorts of materials in every possible color and pattern. The most common style of clogs you will see, and one that you probably have in your home right now, are found in slippers. The slip-on, simple design is perfect for comfy footwear. That’s probably why Crocs are made in a clog design, too. See? You’ve worn lots of clogs. And now that you know more about them, you’ll be aware of it every time you reach for your favorite slip-on shoes.

Various colorful Dutch clogs on display at a store.

Clogs Q & A

Are clogs comfortable?

In many designs, modern clogs are made to be comfortable. After all, you don’t really want to wear shoes that hurt your feet. Crocs are pretty well-known as some of the most comfortable footwear you can slip into, so many clog designs are comfortable.

Wooden clogs made in the traditional fashion, however, are not. This design is completely rigid and completely static around the foot. It doesn’t move or flex so it’s definitely not great to wear, especially if you’re doing anything physical or athletic.

Are clogs bad for your feet?

Because clogs are typically made with a heel and usually surround the toes, often coming to a rounded or pointed toe at the tip, many experts say the design isn’t great for your feet. Your toes don’t have a lot of room to spread out and all foot doctors say that you shouldn’t be wearing heels because it can lead to bunions and other foot issues.

Are clogs in style?

Though they’ve had their ups and downs, clogs are never out of style for very long and they’re definitely poised to heat up the fashion scene at any time. These shoes have been worn for hundreds of years, so it’s safe to say that clogs are always going to be around and they’re always going to be in style.

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