Minimalist Running Sandals (Huaraches)

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I enjoy the process. Who cares how long it takes?

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 InvisibleShoe.com for the inspiration to make this Instructable!

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104 Discussions

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Culturespy

8 years ago on Introduction

 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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CJDViseCulturespy

Reply 2 years ago

If I were to buy some leather to use what should I look for?

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CulturespyCJDVise

Reply 2 years ago

I just bought the thickest stuff I could find. I have some Latigo leather i keep meaning to use that I'm sure will make good sandals but haven't tried it. They sell it at Tandy.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latigo_leather

I have also been told you can use heavy pig skin and get it wet so it mold to your feet. Basically make your huaraches, put them on, stand in water until they get soft and wear them until they dry.

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CJDViseCulturespy

Reply 2 years ago

I checked out Tandy, Latigo leather is expensive! Any other advice would be greatly appreciated. Now about the pig skin, where can I find that besides obviously on a living pig.(Chuckle chuckle)

I noticed that your post was written 6 years ago. How has your sandals held up since then?

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CulturespyCJDVise

Reply 2 years ago

I bought scraps of Latigo in a store. It wasn't bad.

I still have the ones I made for this but I haven't worn them in a while. I made others and didnt need to wear the first ones. I also got both pro climbing and cycling contracts which led to a lot less pure hiking but huaraches make great pack shoes for when you want out of technical shoes in camp.

I'm not sure where you'd get pig skin. eBay maybe if Tandy doesn't have it.

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offseidCJDVise

Reply 2 years ago

I would say any kind of leather cord should do just fine. But synthetic cord (like shoelaces) might be more comfortable.

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CJDViseoffseid

Reply 2 years ago

I wouldn't classify myself as a "treehugger," but I always try to use natural materials and avoid synthetic fibers.

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marxdarxCulturespy

Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

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?

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iconns

5 years ago on Introduction

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

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jscherrer

7 years ago on Step 5

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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offseidjscherrer

Reply 7 years ago on Step 5

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!

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jscherrerfireburner

Reply 7 years ago on Step 5

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.

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ReginaT7

11 months ago

Nice Instructable! Thx :)
Has anyone so far thought about health risks because of the rubber? Because there could be tar oils in it.
Just wanted to say..

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offseidReginaT7

Reply 10 months ago

Hi Regina, thanks for your comment. That's a really interesting question! I have never considered that before, but maybe I should! :)

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adamvs

1 year ago

I guess you could use an old rugby/ American football for soles.
Good 'structable!

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azerrdkun

Reply 2 years ago

Well, yes of the tube is wide enough

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AlpineAdventurer

3 years ago

Hi. I have made some through your instructions.. But i have had some problems. Mine ripped on one of the side holes, because of the thinness. Also i find that they are very sloppy and loose even though i have trimmed them and tried to tighten them.. Have you found any ways to stop this from happening? Thanks!