Medieval Greaves

Unbreakable Defence: The Significance of Medieval Greaves

During the medieval period, Medieval Greaves were used as protective armour for the lower legs. They were made of metal, such as iron or steel, and were worn by heavily armoured warriors like knights and men-at-arms. Greaves were designed to protect the shin and calf areas from blows and strikes during combat. They consisted of two separate pieces fastened together with straps or buckles. Often, they were paired with other leg armour pieces like cuisses and poleyns to provide comprehensive leg protection.

History of the Medieval Greaves

Medieval Greaves
Medieval Greaves by Gift of George D. Pratt is licensed by CC0 1.0

During the 13th century, Greaves were developed as defensive armour to protect the lower legs, specifically the shin and calf areas, which were vulnerable during combat. Greaves became essential to knights and men-at-arms who made up the heavy cavalry during the Crusades. These Greaves were typically made of iron or steel and consisted of two pieces fastened with buckles or straps. However, Greaves lost popularity as firearms became more prevalent, and plate armour decreased during the 16th century. Lighter and more flexible leg armour, such as half-Greaves and tassets, made full Greaves obsolete. Nevertheless, during their prime, Greaves played a significant role in providing crucial protection to warriors in the medieval era.

Early Medieval Greaves

During the early medieval period, Greaves played an important role in protecting the lower legs of foot soldiers and cavalry from attacks during close combat. These asymmetrical pieces of armour were designed to fit specifically on either the right or left leg and typically covered the shin, reaching just below the knee. Greaves were made from sturdy materials such as iron or hardened leather and were commonly worn by warriors such as Vikings, Anglo-Saxons, and early medieval knights. Even cavalry relied on Greaves for protection during mounted combat. Overall, Medieval Greaves were crucial in preventing potentially debilitating leg injuries on the battlefield.

Late Medieval Medieval Greaves

The Late Medieval Greaves came into prominence during the High Middle Ages, spanning from the 11th to the 14th century. This period witnessed significant advancements in armour technology, including the emergence of plate armour. They were an integral component of the full plate armour worn by knights and men-at-arms.

The Medieval Greaves held immense significance as they offered enhanced protection and improved articulation. As knights and men-at-arms engaged in fierce battles, Greaves played a crucial role in defending their lower legs. They provided coverage against powerful blows and projectile impacts, reducing the risk of debilitating injuries.

These Medieval Greaves featured a distinct appearance compared to their early medieval counterparts. They were typically symmetrical and covered the entire lower leg, extending from the knee down to the ankle. The plates were often articulated, offering flexibility and ensuring that movements such as walking, running, and mounting horses were not hindered.

Types of Medieval Medieval Greaves

The types of Medieval Greaves varied in their morphology, design, and level of protection. Each type catered to the specific needs and preferences of different warriors, ensuring a balance between defence and mobility.

  • Schynbalds

Schynbalds were a type of Medieval Greaves commonly used during the 14th and 15th centuries. They consisted of overlapping metal plates attached to a fabric or leather base. These Greaves were flexible and offered mobility to the wearer. Schynbalds provided decent protection to the shins and calves, making them suitable for infantry and lighter cavalry who required agility on the battlefield.

  • Closed Medieval Greaves

Closed Medieval Greaves emerged during the 15th century and were a more advanced form of leg armour. They covered the entire lower leg, consisting of articulated metal plates that allowed for both protection and mobility. Closed Medieval Greaves were typically worn by knights and men-at-arms in full plate armour, providing comprehensive defence against heavy blows and projectile impacts.

Uses of the Medieval Greaves

Medieval Greaves
Medieval Greaves by Mary Harrsch is licensed by CC BY-SA 4.0

For infantry and lighter cavalry, Greaves like schynbalds provided flexibility and mobility. These Medieval Greaves were often made with overlapping metal plates attached to a fabric or leather base. They allowed for swift movements, making them ideal for warriors who needed agility on the battlefield. Infantry soldiers, who were heavily engaged in close combat, relied on Medieval Greaves to shield their legs from slashing and stabbing attacks.

On the other hand, closed Greaves were specifically designed for men at arms and knights who wore full plate armour. These Greaves covered the entire lower leg and featured articulated metal plates. The articulation allowed for both protection and mobility, enabling knights to withstand heavy blows and withstand projectile impacts while maintaining the ability to manoeuvre effectively in combat.


Whether worn by knights, infantry, or cavalry, Medieval Greaves played a vital role in reducing the risk of debilitating injuries and bolstering the resilience of those who fought with courage and bravery. These leg guards were a testament to the ingenuity of armourers and a testament to the unwavering determination of warriors throughout the ages.

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