Probably the most unique and extravagant folk clothing accessory in Finland are the nutukas, fur boots with an odd upturned stiff toe. This footwear is actually traditional for the Saami people who populate northern parts of Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Russia. So, the history of these folk shoes is long, and they’re still sometimes used by the locals even in modern days.
These unique folk shoes are called “nutukas”, “finnesko”, or “Saami boots” in English. They’re winter footwear; warm, soft, and cozy; perfect for low temperatures of northern territories. And they’ve been in use by Saami people for centuries. Although, the name, or rather names, for these shoes in Saami language are different – nuvttot, nuvtaga, novhtehke, gejhkehke, njuuppâh, and so on, depending on the region.
Nutukas are boots traditionally made from soft hide, typically sourced from a reindeer's leg or head. The fur is left on and sewn so that it is on the outside of the boot. To improve traction in snow, the pieces on the sole are assembled with a cut in the middle, so that the fur goes in different directions. The shaft of the boot is laced with a wide, highly decorative strap, called a “vuoddagat” in Northern Saami or a “skallebånd” in Norwegian. This strap is wound in several rows to keep snow out of the boot.
Traditionally, Saami people used grass, such as sennegrass, inside the boot to keep their feet dry and warm. Nowadays, a felt slipper is commonly worn instead.
Nutukas can be differentiated from mukluks and other styles of Arctic footwear by their stiff beaked toe. Although the shape of the curved-up beak varies regionally, it serves the same purpose of helping to hold a traditional binding strap on a pair of skis firmly in place. This upturned toe also helps to prevent the boot from sliding back and out of the binding as the ski kicks back. And in Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Russia, people often travel by ski, even for long distances, so this typical feature of nutukas is truly handy.
Finnish nutukas boots might look a bit strange for a foreigner, but they were designed specifically for the local needs and conditions. There is a beauty mixed with functionality in this traditional footwear.