Overshoes are an article of rubber footwear worn over regular shoes. They are used as protection against water, mud, or cold, and are commonly known as galoshes. Overshoes are weatherproof and made of durable and thick rubber. They are used to keep the feet warm, or to protect a nicer pair of shoe from the elements.
Overshoes are often used in heavy rain, in muddy areas, or where snow is frequent. The rubber of the overshoe insulates the foot from the cold of the snow. The thickness of the boot keeps the water or mud from penetrating into the inner shoe.
Overshoes are shaped as other footwear, with a hole to fit the foot into, a wide opening for the toes, and a narrow closing for the ankle. The galoshes fit onto the shoe as a shoe or sock would fit onto the foot. They are often black rubber and are simply designed, with little or no marks on them. They are usually not laced, and generally fit onto the shoe loosely and tighten up in the elements.
Overshoes are also known as galoshes, from the French word galoches. These shoes are thought to be descended from the Middle Ages when nobles would wear shoes called gaulish, which were wooden soles covered with a leather shoe up to the ankle.
Rubber overshoes, now the standard throughout the world, first emerged in the United States around 1890. The overshoes were created with vulcanized rubber, which was durable and easy to mold, compared to other forms of rubber which would break and crack in more inclement weather. These vulcanized rubber shoes were first introduced by Charles Goodyear, the first American to vulcanize rubber, earlier in the century.
Overshoes have been essential to many in the bitter cold of Siberian, Russia. They are sold and produced most extensively in that region, and help the inhabitants of the area to keep their feet warm and active while trekking expanses of sub-zero terrain. Because of use in places like this, and with explorers and journeymen on the poles and in the arctic, children around the United States have come to know them as “arctics.”
Another popular type of overshoe, sometimes used synonymously with these and galoshes, is the Wellington boot. These boots are generally just below knee-high, and were first popularized by Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, in the 1800s.