Introduction: Minimalist Running Sandals (Huaraches)

About: It's all about the process. The finished product is just a bonus!

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.

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

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!).

Step 6: Your Finished Product!

 If you're happy with the fit, then you're done - you won't have to do any of that lacing again. All you have to do is slip the heel straps down and you can just slide out of these huaraches. They're now ready for you to take them out for a forefoot-striking jog.

Many many thanks to Steven Sashen over at for the inspiration to make this Instructable!

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