I have to hold my hands up, or maybe that should be feet, I was totally ignorant when it came to clogs and who wore them.

Mention clogs and the image that popped into my head was that of a smiling Dutch girl whose golden coloured, bouncy pigtails protruded from underneath a white, tulip-shaped hat. At least it did until I saw rows of clogs outside a shop in Ribadesella in Asturias.

Madreñas, Clogs in Asturias

This was no tourist shop either, it was a bona-fide shoe shop.

The wearing of clogs isn’t confined to little Dutch girls selling tulips under the sails of a windmill. Wooden shoes have been functional footwear throughout Europe and Asia for centuries and during a five minute conversation in Ribadesella I finally discovered why.

I’ve always viewed them as totally impractical and uncomfortable – how can your feet feel cosy enclosed in wood? In fact they seemed downright dangerous; concrete pavements and clogs seem like a recipe for a pratfall to me.

But then they aren’t designed for skeetering about on smooth concrete pavements. In Asturias, where they’re called madreñas, they’re farming footwear.

Imagine the scene. It’s a dark and stormy night; the fire’s lit and you’ve slipped on your favourite slippers to settle down in your cosy little stone cottage in the beautiful Picos de Europa. Life is good…until you hear an annoyed chorus of brays, moos and baas. You’ve forgotten to feed the livestock.

The ground outside is a mushy, muddy mess that wants to do serious damage to your favourite slippers. But fear not, you own a pair of sturdy madreñas. You don’t even have to take your slippers off, you simply slip your feet into the clogs, grab your coat and head into the cold, wet night; your madreñas protecting feet (and slippers) from the wet, cold mud. When animals are fed and watered and happy, you head back to the warmth of your cottage and simply slip off the clogs with slippered feet still dry and cosy, ready to take up their spot at the fire again.

Brilliant and a much better option than Wellington boots which always involve a lot of hopping about one one leg followed by a tug of war which invariable ends in the boots refusing to relinquish your socks (my aunt owned a farm so I’m no stranger to this scene).

Now when anyone mentions clogs the image that pops into my head is… that of a smiling Dutch girl whose golden coloured, bouncy pigtails protruded from underneath a white, tulip-shaped hat and then I think of the Asturian farmers. It’s proving hard to get rid of a stereotypical image that’s been with me for decades. In fact ever since a blonde haired Dutch family gave us presents of souvenir clogs and a windmill that played Tulips From Amsterdam.

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