Friday, November 30, 2018


Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Despite what it sounds like, a portyanki isn't a monster from Dungeons & Dragons. It's actually the Russian name for "foot wrappings", and they were commonly used by the armies of many nations through the 20th century in lieu of socks.* In fact, the Russian army wore portyanki up until 2013!

A portyanka (that's the singular term) is simply a piece of cloth -- ideally rectangular and roughly 3 feet long by 1.3 feet wide, but square and triangular cloths will also work -- that is wrapped around a foot like a bandage and tied into place. It acts like a sock to cushion and insulate the foot, wicking away sweat and protecting against blisters.

At this point, you're probably wondering why I suggest you learn to tie cloths around your feet when you have perfectly good socks. While socks are clearly the superior technology, there are several good reasons for knowing how to wrap your feet:

Portyanki are Easy to Make 
You might find yourself barefoot during a disaster, or your socks might become damaged or lost in a long-term SHTF scenario. Socks can be difficult to replace or repair in that situation, but portyanki can be scrounged from fabric like sheets, pillowcases, t-shirts, and the like, and they will fit any size foot. 

Portyanki can be Re-wrapped 
Socks with holes in them aren't very good, but since portyanki are wrapped, a hole isn't that big of a deal; just turn the cloth over and re-wrap it to cover the hole. 

Wet socks aren't pleasant, either. If you're wearing long enough portyanki (this is why I said the rectangular ones are better), you can take them off and re-wrap them so that the part which was wrapped around your shin (and are hopefully dry) can go around your foot, and the wet portion is now on the outside and higher on your leg where it can dry. 

Portyanki are Easy to Clean
Speaking of drying, because they are single pieces of cloth which lie flat, portyanki dry quickly in the air. Since the cloth is thinner than most socks, they are also easier to clean -- in fact, the standard Russian manner of cleaning portyanki was to boil them!

Portyanki are Disposable
Easy come, easy go. You didn't put a lot of effort into making them, so when they're worn and threadbare, you can throw them away without regret.

Despite all these advantages, there are areas in which portyanki fall short.

Portyanki are Slow to Put On
Socks are easily and quickly pulled on, but portyanki must be tied in a specific manner. It is possible to put them on quickly -- Russian soldiers were held to a standard of getting dressed in 45 seconds -- but that requires practice.

Portyanki Must be Tied Properly
Improperly tied portyanki will result in painful blisters! Make sure that all folds and wrinkles are smoothed out as part of the tying process.

Summer vs Winter
Summer portyanki can be made out of cotton (and if you're scrounging them, that's probably the material you'll use). Winter portanki were traditionally made out of flannel, although wool would be best.

Tying Your Socks
So how do you properly tie your portyanki? I'll provide you with a step-by-step procedure, but the easiest way to teach you is for you to see the process yourself. I've provided several videos of the process from different angles, in case a certain step isn't clear. If you only watch one of them, watch the first one.

  1. Place your foot on the portyanki such that most of the material is on the same side as your big toe. (We will call this the inside.)
  2. Leave approximately one foot-width of material on the same side as your little toe. (We will call this the outside.)
  3. Some people like to have their feet parallel to the sides; others place theirs at an angle, with their heel near the corner. Experiment to find which style works best for you. 
  4. Take the outside edge corner and wrap it over your toes, tucking it under the ball of your foot. Smooth out any wrinkles. 
  5. Take the inside edge and wrap it over your entire foot and ankle, smoothing out any wrinkles. Make sure that the cloth stays taut around your heel and ankle.
  6. Continue the wrapping motion and go under your foot, stepping down again once the material is smoothly wrapped. 
  7. Grasp both corners of the inside wrap and cross it, so that the front corner is in the back and the back corner is in the front. 
  8. Wrap this portion around the upper ankle and shin. You will have one corner pointing up your leg and another behind your leg. 
  9. Take the corner behind your leg and wrap it around to the front, tucking the loose end into the wrap you've made. 
  10. Tuck the final corner down into the wrap. 
Congratulations, you've tied your first portyanka! Now you get to do it again for your other foot!

*  Prior to the 20th century, socks were considered luxury items that were only given to officers.

No comments:

Post a Comment

The Fine Print

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Creative Commons License

Erin Palette is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to