Instructables

Minimalist Running Sandals (Huaraches)

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Picture of Minimalist Running Sandals (Huaraches)
Barefoot running, while as old as mankind itself, has experienced a revival of late, in no small part thanks to Christopher McDougall's book Born to Run. Born to Run introduced us to the Tarahumaras of Mexico, who are renowned for being able to run great distances with virtually none of the injuries that seem to plague your average runner. The Tarahumaras typically run barefoot or in huaraches, thin sandals often made from discarded tires.

Today you can purchase custom-made running huaraches for $50 and up. For about $20 (and up), you can buy a kit containing all the materials you need to make your own huaraches. Or, you can do what I did and test the waters with less than $5 worth of supplies.

This Instructable guides you through the process of making your own huaraches with a rubber car mat and parachute cord. If you have purchased some of the materials (such as the mighty fine Vibram sole material) to make your own huaraches, this Instructable may be helpful to supplement the instructions included with your purchase.
 
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Step 1: Materials Needed

The materials needed, and the expense required, are minimal. You need a car mat (or some other thin rubber material), some parachute cord (about 6' for each sandal), and a pair of scissors. For better results, you can spend an extra $10 or so for a leather punch in order to make cleaner holes for the laces. The cleaner the holes, the less likely the rubber will tear. But if you don't have a leather punch, don't sweat it; just use a nail or a drill with a small bit. Worst case scenario, one of your huaraches tears, but you'll still have a good bit of car mat left over to make yourself another one.

When choosing your car mat, keep in mind that the top of the mat will be your tread, and the bottom with be your sole. So look for a mat with a nice even tread pattern - just picture the treads on sandals and shoes you currently use. And the bottoms of car mats are usually textured with little nubs (as in the second picture), so remember when you're selecting your mat that you'll have to slice all of those off later.

Step 2: Creating the Template

Picture of Creating the Template
The first thing we need to do is to create a template of the foot, which we will then transfer to the car mat. Simply take a pen or marker and trace around the foot. Don't worry about capturing every nuance of your foot's shape; in fact, it might be best to hold the pen more or less vertical when tracing. You can always remove material later, so it's better if your sandals are too big rather than too small!

After tracing the foot, but before you remove it, you need to mark where the three holes will go. The first is on the inside of the foot, and is just forward of your ankle when you slightly bend your knee. The second is on the outside of the foot and is where your foot makes slightly less contact with the ground; it's usually slightly forward of the ankle as well. And the third hole is in between the first two toes. Since the foot tends to drift towards the inside of the sandal when running, it might be best to place the hole slightly towards the second toe rather than right in the middle, to help keep your foot in place. The additional pictures below help illustrate these marks.

After you're finished, remove your foot and transfer the side marks onto the template. Then take your pen and round out the contours of the tracing so that you have a more "regular"-looking sandal shape. When in doubt, be generous with your outline; remember, you can always trim it later!

Once you're done with that, cut out your template. Flip it over and step on it with your other foot. Does it fit well? Good! You're ready for the next step. If you have different-sized feet, repeat this step for your other foot so you have two separate templates.

Step 3: Transferring the Template

Now it's time to take the template and transfer the pattern onto the car mat. A pencil should be more than adequate; in the right light, you will be able to see the line just fine when you cut out them out (as you can see in the second picture). So go ahead and cut out your soles!

If you have those nubs on the bottom of your car mat, now is a good time to trim them off. A basic pocketknife will suffice. Don't worry if you leave slight dimples or divots in the sandal. Your foot won't feel those, whereas it will feel any projections you haven't trimmed off.

Step 4: Punching the Holes

After you've cut out your soles, put the template back on and transfer where the holes need to go. For the side holes, mark them just inside enough so that there is a sufficient amount of material on the outside to prevent tearing. If you intentionally cut your sandals wide on the sides, put the marks for the holes inside the lines of your original paper template; otherwise, your foot will slide around in the sandal.

Now it's time to whip out your leather punch (or rusty nail) and put the holes in your sandals! That's pretty self explanatory. Once again, if you gave yourself extra material, be sure that you punch inside the pencil lines from your paper template for a better fit.

Step 5: Lacing 'Em Up

I tried to keep the lacing instructions simple. Please refer to the pictures below for more detail!

First, prepare a 6' length of paracord (5' for children, as in this Instructable) by melting the ends slightly and pinching them while still hot, to facilitate putting them through the holes. Use pliers if you're prone to sizzling your fingers. Now put one end through the top of the toe hole and tie your favorite knot on the bottom (pictured is a figure eight).

Follow the pictures below to complete the lacing. Once you are done, complete these steps for the other sandal (look at the monitor through a mirror if you're directionally challenged!).
iconns9 months ago
I must say that your instructable has inspired our lives dramatically. We even made our own specifically catered to the art of huaraches made from would be trashed bike tires. We also were featured in the Durango Herald. Front page! We also have a facebook page where people can purchase some of ours or post photos of their own.


Our instructable: instructables.com/id/Upcycled-Minimalist-Running-Huaraches-or-Lifestyle/

Durango Herald Article: http://durangoherald.com/article/20130630/NEWS01/130639950/0/waitress-races/When-tires-wear-out-use-them-for-walking-

Our Facebook: facebook.com/TiredFeetUpcyclery
offseid (author)  iconns9 months ago
Awesome! Best of luck with Tired Feet!
jscherrer2 years ago
Just made a pair of these out of some older leather I had on hand. After the second mile I had to adjust a little, but all in all the 6 miles I did on gravel and pavement felt pretty good with no blisters. These will help my barefoot training when in the city. Thank you again. Jacob Scherrer
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offseid (author)  jscherrer2 years ago
Awesome, they look great! And to answer fireburner, the form that you use when running barefoot (or minimal) is a lot less stressful on the soles than you'd think. Ideally, the foot makes contact with the ground and leaves the ground with only minimal movement over the surface itself. You don't "push off" when running this way, but rather just lift the leg as you move forward.

So as long as the rubber is thick enough (and the holes cleanly punched enough), there shouldn't be any tearing or destruction for a long time!
Look great, wonder how they would hold up on a 4 mile run?
My total run was 6 so they did well so far. I will take them camping and do some rock climbing to test out the durability in wet conditions.
Culturespy3 years ago
 I used some thick leather I had laying around to make a pair when I was in Arizona. I also went ahead and opted for tying them with paracord. I used the next size smaller than 550 and it worked great. I was able to hike around the Camelback mountain and Papago Buttes areas with no trouble at all. 

I haven't run in them but they worked fine with a 30lbs toddler and another 15 or 20lbs of gear on my back. 

Thanks for posting this. Looking forward to making another pair soon. 
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I'm from Arizona and I have frequented the Camelback mountains for hiking...I was always warned to wear protective footwear to prevent rattle snakes and other wild critters from bites....its hard to see those things sometime. I always opted to wear running shoes and jeans

Even when you stay on the path, you can encounter them. Did you ever have any problems in this?
I'm gonna give these a shot tomorrow when my paracord arrives from Amazon. Couldn't find it anywhere locally and it looks more comfortable and minimalistic than laces. Can anyone tell me if these slide on and off easily without adjustments each time? Would love to make 2 pairs-one to run in and one to keep in the car to easily slip on when I have to wear shoes in public places.
A note to all die-hard DIY'ers!!! Car tires are easily obtainable from your local auto shop. In fact, they will give you the used ties for free! And, as everyone knows, free is best. ACHTUNG! Be certain to get BIAS PLY tires, steel radials will leave spikey pieces of evil on the sides!
mscurry1 year ago
Hey, i've been looking around for a good mat to use, i was wondering where you got yours from/the brand? Or could i use any type of leather..?
offseid (author)  mscurry1 year ago
I got my no-name rubber car mat from a dumpy little department store. Really, any kind of rubber mat would work. You might want to find one that has a good "tread" side, for running/walking, and the "foot" side will need to be smooth or at least easily smoothable (I had to shave off the nubs on mine as I couldn't find one entirely smooth).
Just_Jimi3 years ago
Im on my 4th pair of these sandals, the first pair I made from an old hot waterbottle and polypropalene rope. Now using 3mm shoe repair rubber which you can get in a sheet from a friendly shoe repairer. I use long walking boot laces which are soft and comfy. Havent had problem with the knot and your foot moulds to the rubber. You cant beat running barefoot , so I only use them where there is gravel or thorns. The Invisableshoe.com site is very helpful and there is loads on youtube. Get out there and enjoy it.. I hate wearing trainers now..
it is so great that instructables evolve with the users building them and adding useful details... :)
thanks to all of you wonderful people!

so glad that i found this website :)
offseid (author)  Just_Jimi3 years ago
Hey I bet I can get some shoe repair rubber pretty easily, there's tons of shoe repair guys on the streets here in town - thanks for the idea, why didn't I think of that???
dZed4 years ago
Great instructable! Thanks!

I made a pair of these some months back, and visually they're very similar to yours. I used rubber from a professional mower tire that I got for free from a place that rents them out (walked up and asked, walked away with two free old tires). It's thicker than what you're working with, but not nearly as heavy as most tire rubber. Plus, no steel belting or wire like car tires. I did ruin a hacksaw blade and a half cutting through it, but that's what? A buck or two?

To get the paracord through the thicker rubber, I used a hammer and nail to make holes, then my wife's crochet needle. I tapped it in the with the hammer, threaded the paracord, and pulled the needle through with pliers. I scuffed up the needle a bit (another dollar or so), but I think it's still good for sewing up crochet work.

There's a lot of plans for sandals like this online, and I think the thing that sells one pair over another is the lacing. Barefoot Ted's lacing instructions, which I think you linked to up there, are fantastic, and it's what sold me that these were viable footwear -- I had tried two or three iterations of nylon strap and buckles before finding it. I barefoot run in the nearby fields and woods, but wanted something for the large-gravel roads that are between me and where I run.

Unfortunately, the paracord seems hard to adjust. It seems to be either too tight between my first two toes, or too loose around the ankle. Barefoot Ted recommends and sells leather strapping and I've been wondering if I should make the switch. Have you had any problems with the strapping cutting into your foot? They're fine for walking, but the cord really bothers me after a bit. It's a shame, because they do stay on my feet a hundred times better than anything else I've tried.

Thanks again!
offseid (author)  dZed4 years ago
Hey, appreciate your comments! It's cool to hear what else people are using for their huaraches.

As for the alternate lacing, I believe Steven Sashen of InvisibleShoe.com said that it came from one of the members of the Huaraches Google Group. I really prefer this lacing since it's a one-time deal, assuming you're happy with the fit. Besides, you'll look weird enough wearing these things - you'll look even weirder with the ancient Roman lacing that Barefoot Ted and the Tarahumaras use. Not that running barefoot/minimalist is about looks, but...

The paracord may not be the ideal lacing material. Since it was what I had on hand, it was a no-brainer. The stuff InvisibleShoe.com sells is a polypropylene/nylon blend and is most likely more easily adjustable as well as softer and more comfortable.
dahee offseid2 years ago
(removed by author or community request)
sashen dahee2 years ago
Dahee,

a) Sorry to hear that your knot wore out. Typically, the knot lasts for a long time -- I'm still using the same lace/knot that I started with 2 years ago. I got an email today from a customer who just finished his 10th marathon in the same pair.

Since the knot flattens out (and can be pre-flattened with a pliers and some heat, which is what we do when we make huaraches for customers), and is covered in flexible rubber, and is in between your toes, there isn't usually the kind of abrasion/friction to cause what you experienced. More about this in a second.

b) Had you simply called us, we would have not only happily replaced the lace, but given you the instructions (below) about what to do about it in the future. And, we still will if you give a shout or drop us an email.

c) In denouncing our entire company and product line, it seems you've conflated a "lace issue" with the fact that what your friend bought for you is not just the lace, but the best outsole on the market today for barefoot-style running -- the ONLY one made specifically for that purpose, designed by the former lead designers from Nike and Reebok... and he also purchased our labor in making the shoe for you, rather than you getting a kit for a lower price and doing it yourself.

d) I know people sometimes hate hear what I'm about to say: but the reason you're having the problem you describe is "form-related." Simply: There's one of two things you could be doing:

1) If you're actually wearing out the knot, then you're "scraping" your feet as you walk. The only way you can wear out the knot, and all the other materials you put on top of it, is with friction. And the only way you create friction at the toe area is by "pushing/scraping" in the 2nd half of your stride (backside mechanics).

2) If you're breaking the lace above the knot, then you're probably overstriding, which can cause the lace to move back and forth as you "jam" into it.

Remember, that one reason for using huaraches or being barefoot is to discover and address the ways our gait is less-than-optimal. And something like blowing through a knot is a bit of feedback to use for that purpose.

Oh, and if you had to make a 2nd knot, make sure you heated it to seal the lace material, per the instructions at www.invisibleshoe.com/kit. This makes the knot more solid and stable.

e) FWIW, the lace you recommend is a weaker material than one we include with our shoes (we tested it 2 years ago)... so it's surprising to me that you had better luck with that than with ours. It's possible that by the time you switched laces you unknowingly modified your stride, too, eliminating the cause of the issue, regardless of the type of lace.

The way gait changes happen is often unconscious -- we do something that feels wrong and our body figures out how to fix it before we realize we've done it --- that's why we can walk in cowboy boots without tripping over the extended toe; our brain quickly adapts to accommodate.

f) If you don't want to explore or address the form issue, then my suggestion is to use Shoe Goo or epoxy on the knot and the first 1/2-1" of the lace. It won't last forever (even water wears away rocks), but it's easy to add another layer every now and then.

-Steven
dahee sashen2 years ago
Wow.
Thank you Steven!!
I deleted my comment because I understand that I was wrong.
Your thorough and lucid reply delineates that you have a very caring company.
First off: No, I am in no way offended that you told me I have a bad running stance!! Thank you so much! Now I can learn how to correct my stride and stance! I love being told I am wrong and I know I have much to learn. Thank you so much for all the information Steven!

I will write back a lengthier reply by this weekend. I have two exams this week and lots of labs.
sashen dahee2 years ago
No rush... you know where to find us (www.invisibleshoe.com/contact/)
why (knot) drill, using a regular old power drill, through the tire rubber?
offseid (author)  MadBricoleur3 years ago
I suppose you could. I'm a hand-tools woodworker so you won't find an electric drill in my shop! Haha. But I think the most important thing is that the hole be very clean with no raggedness at all. If it's not a clean hole, the rubber will tear - trust me, it happened to me on my very first pair! So if a drill can make a clean hole in rubber (as the leather punch certainly does), then go for it!
jsgraham dZed4 years ago
Paracord doesn't stretch that much.  Plus it shrinks when it gets wet.  A suggestion if you have to do it again.  Go to your local Tandy leather store and buy one of their Jumbo Extra Long Permalok Needles.  The paracord end can be cut to a point, then melted to make it nice and pointy.  Then you can screw that end in to the needle.  Those needles are lifesavers when you're lacing paracord.

If you can't find a Tandy Leather dealer, you can Google it and find a dealer online.

Good idea on the mower tires.  Prolly an old ATV tire would work too.  But you'd have to work the tread down a bit.
dZed jsgraham4 years ago
jsgraham, I'm thinking back now, and had the most trouble with the paracord straps when I was running in wet conditions. Maybe that aggravated the problem. Thanks for the suggestion on the needle -- maybe I'll pick up some leather strapping at the same time.

Offseid, I'll check out the different instructions. You're right that I was using the "ancient Roman" style of lacing. It was a bit of a pain to go so far above the Achilles tendon. Any lower and it would tighten up on that -- does not feel great.


jsgraham dZed4 years ago
One bit of advice if you are going to use paracord for any kind of wet conditions.  Soak the length of cord in ho water for awhile.  As in pre-shrink it.  A length of 6-foot cord will shrink up about an inch or two.Keep in mind that paracord doesn't shrink then expand back to its original length.  So once you pre-shrink it, it's good to go.

I usually buy my paracord in 100-foot lengths at a time.  And when I get it home, I drop the whole hank into the sink and run some hot water over it.  Then I string it out straight and let it dry in the sun.  I'd hang it over the clothes line, but I have a Brown Lab who loves to pull stuff off the line. ;-)

I always recommend buying from an original military contracted mfg.  The cheap paracord has a very loose sheath around "maybe" 3 or 4 strands in the core.  Military grade has 5 to 7 strands for the core.  The sheath is tighter and more uniform.  Believe me, you will be able to tell the difference.

I found a guy on eBay that sells the good stuff at affordable prices.  His handle on ebay is majesticdreams.  He lives in Fort Worth, TX and he has 42 different colors to choose from.  He stands behind his product, and if for any reason, I don't like what I get, he'll refund me.

www.supplycaptain.com is a good supplier as well, but I've found that they don't have as many color choices.  Although I prefer the subdued military colors, there are folks that like the bright and vibrant colors.
offseid (author)  jsgraham4 years ago
That is awesome advice, an Instructable within an Instructable! I didn't know there was so much variety among types of paracord. The stuff used in this Instructable was real-deal U.S. Army 550 Cord, so it should be good to go - except now I need to go soak my huaraches in some hot water, let 'em dry and then re-lace them!
ghostis2 years ago
For added visibility, you can try Sterling GloCord for the strapping. It's got a reflective tracer woven into it.

http://www.sterlingrope.com/products/455695
Hola , i guess i know your friend Chris , is he living in seattle ? i am jorge from casa latina from CDT , i saw those huaraches with my own ojos , say hi to chris i lost contact with him since i came back to mexico about a year ago. , those are really nice huaraches.
dchall82 years ago
Funny how you start reading one topic and end up somewhere completely different. That's how I got here.

I'd like to comment about paracord. The reason it is made like it is is so that when your parachute opens at 100 miles per hour, the stretch in the cord will not yank on you too hard. Paracord is made from stretchy nylon. When nylon rope becomes wet, it will stretch for miles. One summer back in the 90s I pulled 75 feet off of a 50-foot hank of nylon rope and still had 50 feet left to work with. After that I converted to polyester (not polypropylene) rope.  My preferred rope for most every application is Lehigh Group BPE650PW-P 3/16" X 50' Diamond Braid Polyester Rope.  I get it at Lowe's for under $5, but other box stores carry it.  Polyester will not stretch under extreme tension, wet or dry. 

Leather would be a good idea for laces as long as it never gets wet.  With shoes it is just a matter of time before it gets wet. 
This is great! I usually wear my flipflops until they have holes in the bottom, but this seems like a great and durable replacement for them!
nakuru2 years ago
In Africa we used to make them out of old car tires.
caprafan3 years ago
I wonder if you left the nubs if they would imitate the Adidas Adissage massage sandals, though perhaps it would distract from sensing the ground.
offseid (author)  caprafan3 years ago
Hmm, I doubt it. I think it would be more like running on tiny individual pebbles, which is kinda why you put these things on in the first place - to AVOID that feeling! :) Well, maybe some nubs would work like that but you can kind of tell from the picture that these nubs are a bit tall and agressive. If they were low and mild, maybe.
madmac20103 years ago
Excellent! Thank to this great ible, plus the unwitting generosity of my dog, which left me the soles of a pair of slippers when I woke up this morning, I have new type of summer footwear. Given that is already over 100F/42C where I am, your work is much appreciated! Great work Offseid.
offseid (author)  madmac20103 years ago
Thanks MadMac, appreciate those kind words!
Dude!! I freaking LOVE Huraches! But neoprene rubber, which is the kind from Barefoot Ted's website, is so expensive. Thanks man!
offseid (author)  Aqueous_Snake3 years ago
You're welcome!
 I made a pair of these the other night from the squishy shelf-liner for kitchen shelves, and a pair of shoelaces (one per sandal).  The shelf-liner didn't hold up too well (didn't think it would, was doing this for free to see if I liked running in 'em), so your car mat idea is perfect!  For those of you without the ready access or desire to buy parachord (I wouldn't use it much), long shoelaces work great!  Running in these, I stopped slapping my feet like I do in running shoes.  Looking forward to future running!  Thanks for a great instructable!
This material, the squishy shelf liner, could be used on top of  a harder  material to make a composite sole. You could use several layers if you want it to be extra softness.

 Laminate them to each other  laminate them to each other and then cut it out to match the size of the harder material. Spray adhesive sounds like the right application for this. A utility or an xacto knife with a #11 blade should do the job.

The shoe laces also seem like a good idea as they're flat and might be a bit more comfortable and form fitting for you feet.

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