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Inari, Finland

In winter, the Saami of northern Scandinavia use nuvttohat, a fur boot made from reindeer skin. When reindeer are slaughtered for consumption, their legs are used for footwear, each animal yielding a single pair of boots.

Used in an extremely cold climate, the boot is made entirely from vegetable-tanned reindeer hide, provides the ultimate protection from the local environment, and does not interfere with the natural anatomy of human feet. Walking in snow demands a specific way of moving, a specific gait; the reindeer boots allow this by largely mimicking a barefoot gait, so can be considered minimal footwear. 

Woven laces keep snow out, and they are laced in patterns that refer to the different Saami communities. Inside the boot, kinkaheina (dried grass) is traditionally used instead of socks because of its insulating properties.

Low weight is an important feature: combined with the thermal protection of the hide and grass, this makes the reindeer boot one of the lightest, warmest types of winter footwear available. Living in northern parts of Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Russia’s Kola Peninsula, the Saami are the only Indigenous people in the European Union to have their own language, culture, and means of livelihood, and this includes reindeer husbandry. They mainly wear the nuvttohat (in North Saami language) or nutukkaat (Finnish) in winter, when the temperature is below -10°c.

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