On a cold winter day, there’s no better way to keep your toes dry and toasty than a pair of warm boots. Today’s Wonder isn’t about just any old boots, though. We’re talking about mukluks!
Have you ever heard of mukluks? Some of you might even own a pair or two. If not, you’re sure to want a pair after you read today’s Wonder.
Mukluks — sometimes called kamik — are soft boots originally created by the Inuit and Yupik peoples of the Arctic areas of Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Russia. They resemble traditional moccasins with higher, boot-like tops.
Mukluks were traditionally made from the skin of reindeer, seals, moose or bear. The word “mukluk” comes from the Yupik word (maklak) for the bearded seal.
Today, people often use the word “mukluks” to refer to any type of soft boot made to be worn in cold weather. Modern “mukluks” sometimes look a lot like high-top sneakers.
Traditional mukluks were very light and allowed hunters to move quietly. Others who didn’t wear them hunting might decorate their mukluks with pompons or colored beads.
To make them warmer, mukluks could be lined with the fur of Arctic animals, such as rabbits, foxes and raccoons. These natural materials also gave mukluks one of their best cold-weather qualities: breathability.
Mukluks allow air to circulate around the foot. This is especially important in the Arctic. If you wear boots that don’t allow perspiration to be released back into the air, sweat can accumulate inside the boot and freeze, causing frostbite.
Using animal skins made mukluks like a second, thin layer of skin on the feet. Animal skin is naturally water-resistant, so mukluks kept water and snow out as native peoples traveled across the Arctic hunting for food.
Today, boot manufacturers often use the style and design of mukluks in modern boots. Uggs, for example, are a popular modern style of boot that were inspired by the warmth and strength of traditional mukluks.
Another modern piece of footwear — slipper socks — also owes its design to mukluks. Instead of animal skins, slipper socks are usually made of wool attached to a soft leather sole.