Making Huarache Running Sandals

Posted: September 12, 2011 in Barefoot, DiY, Fitness, Health, Inspiration, Life, Reviews, Running, Sandals, Shoes
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First test pair finished. Learned a lot with this pair.

If you saw my previous post regarding huarache making, you’ll know that I had finished my first pair of entirely DiY huaraches. During the trial and error process I learned a few things and I would like to begin sharing those with you today. First we are going to talk about the materials that I’ve chosen for my first batch of trials, and what I like/dislike about them, and how I think they have worked out for my sandals. Grab a beer (guiness if you’re awesome), some chips, and sit back and enjoy the post.

Soling material:

First of all, find a good rubber. Without good rubber, you won’t have a good sandal. Anything worth doing is worth doing right and with good materials. It doesn’t have to be something expensive like Vibram Cherry rubber, or a super light sheet of neoprene. Although, if you have the means of purchasing these items in bulk, by all means do so. However, it does need to have certain qualities that make it suitable for prolonged use, and it needs to be something that is readily available.  I settled on a 6mm thick sheet  of stall mat sold at the local hardware store. I liked this rubber for a few reasons. First off, it was a tad bit stiffer than 4mm Cherry rubber used by most professional huarche companies. Secondly, it was dirt cheap. I bought a 5×5 (feet) sheet of this rubber for 6$. If at all possible, try to stand barefoot on top of the rubber and slide your feet across it. DO NOT buy rubber that doesn’t feel good under foot. In fact, that’s my biggest complaint with the Vibram cherry rubber. I just don’t like the feel underfoot, and I wished Invisible shoe offered a footbed for it. That being said, if a footbed is something you are interested in, then the texture of the naked top isn’t AS important, but it should still be considered.

A profile shot of the rubber. Highlights the thickness.

As far as thickness, that is based on your chosen application for your huarches. I liked the 6mm because it offers better protection when hiking, and, in my opinion, feels better under foot for extended periods of time.  I had three different thicknesses available to me. 4mm, 6mm, and 10mm. In my hands the 4mm was super flimsy. If the rubber is too flimsy, there is a good chance that the toe portion will sometimes fold under your foot. That is an undesirable characteristic, and has turned more than a few folks off from huaraches. The 6mm, which I chose, felt stiff enough that it wouldn’t fold up under foot, yet thin enough to provide adequate ground feel. Ground feel is important. The 10mm was extremely dense and stiff. As soon as I put it in my hands I knew it was way too thick for me. It was also really heavy. As a barefoot/minimalist runner one of the biggest benefits of being shoeless is not having to lug around all that weight. So, if you are going to wear shoes you don’t want them to be super heavy.

This rubber is super flexible.

To recap, when shopping around for rubber there are some things to consider. First, and most important, is texture. A bad texture will rub your the wrong way, quite literally. The thickness needs to be taken into consideration as well. If it’s too thin, it will be floppy and uncomfortable to walk on. If it’s too thick, it will feel like you have tied bricks to your feet. Not too mention if it is too thick, it will be difficult to cut, and IMPOSSIBLE to cut with clean lines.

Foot Bed:

Ok, so a naked top isn’t for you. I personally like the feel of both a naked top and a foot bed, and I have home made pairs with each. When choosing a foot bed material, you will need something that is flexible, feels GREAT underfoot, is easy to adhere to the rubber, and is aesthetically pleasing to you. Flexibility is something that shouldn’t be much of a problem. I’m sure you’ll be using a fabric of some sort or a leather type material. If you are choosing leather, make sure it is something that isn’t stiff. Sometimes leather can be stiff, and if it is stiff, it will decrease the overall flexibility of the sandal. This can be detrimental to the sandal, and would remove a major benefit that is provided by the sandal in the first place.

For my test run, I chose a cheap faux suede fabric that can be found at any hobby lobby or craft store near you. When buying this material, I knew that it would not be the final foot bed choice for me. However, I knew that it would provide me a cheap material to practice adhering to the rubber, and would give me something comfortable under foot until I could find a suitable leather for my foot bed. If you are planning on doing several test runs like me, I suggest trying out some cheap suede fabric to make sure that you like the feel of a foot bed. This way you haven’t wasted money on expensive leather to find out you don’t like the way a foot bed feels. Furthermore, faux suede comes in a variety of colors and really lets you personalize your sandals. However, I would not recommend this material as the final foot bed for your sandals. I say this for two reasons. First, the adhesive WILL soak through the material and will cause darkening in some areas more than others. Secondly, it doesn’t really mold to your foot. Thus it doesn’t add too much comfort to your sandal. Many people love Birkenstock sandals because they mold to your foot, and a good piece of leather on your foot bed will provide much of the same qualities. Thus comfort will increase over time if a good quality leather is used as your foot bed.

A shot of the fake suede I used for a trial run. A hint? (I didn't like it)

Lacing:

Ahhh, the laces. The most frustrating part of any huarache is the laces and the tying system. There are several factors that should come into play when selecting a lace for your sandals. Durability, comfort, elasticity, and aesthetics are all important factors to focus on when picking your laces.

Durability is key. In traditional huaraches, the thong that goes between the first 2 toes is knotted under the shoe. If you choose a lace that is not durable, this knot will wear down quickly. You don’t want to blow out a knot every time your wear your sandals. So don’t skimp on the materials. I recommend Polypropylene braided cord. This is often called Para cord, and is the same lacing used by invisible shoes. I recommend this because it’s durable, cheap, and comes in a variety of colors.

You want something that is going to be comfortable against the skin. As with the foot bed and rubber, try to feel the texture of the material on your feet. If it feels uncomfortable just sitting on your feet, it wont feel good while tense over the top of your foot. The Para cord is soft and doesn’t rub on the top of my foot. I have been very happy with it as a lace. A major part of comfort is the thickness of the lace. Go too thick and you will have a HUGE knot underfoot, and it could be uncomfortable between your toes. Too thin and your sandal will feel insecure on your foot and could dig into your skin depending on how tight you lace them. I personally use a 2mm and a 3/8 inch lace. I like the 3/8 inch lace, but finding nice colors is difficult. Also, the knot is a bit larger and even after adequate walking time, the knot can be bothersome. The 2mm is easier to find in several colors, however, the durability of it is still up for grabs as I’ve only had the 2mm lace for a few days. I don’t see any visible sign of wear and tear, but it’s too early to pass judgment.

Elasticity is more of a personal preference than a requirement. The Luna Sandals offer an elasticized leather lace which takes all the guess work out of tying your huarches, and makes getting a dialed in fit easier. However, it is expensive stuff, especially if you are not buying in bulk. If you do choose to go this route, I’d recommend just buying a set of laces from Luna Sandals. This is the cheapest place that I’ve found that sells an elasticized lace without requiring bulk amounts.

Aside from the foot bed, the lace is the ONLY other option you have to personalize the sandal to your style. Make sure that YOU like the color, texture, and appearance. If you don’t like it don’t waste your time trying it. Even test pairs need to be appealing to your eye and able to work for your style.

I hope you have enjoyed this post. The next post in this series will focus on the HOW of taking the raw materials and turning them into something that resembles a sweet looking sandal.

Until next time,

Puff

Below are some shots of the materials and finished products of my first trial huaraches.

A quick shot of the tools I used. Minus scissors of course.

A shot of the naked top.

A shot of the foot bed. That's after several weeks of wear.

Tied in a stylish slip on manner.

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