Friday, February 19, 2010

Homemade Peasant Sandals

Back in my heyday when I was young and handsome and long-haired in the early 70's, I had the moccasin boots, the leather fringe jacket and a leather headband - the entire rig.  People used to assume I was not straight.  Let me hasten to add that the term "straight" in those days was applied to those people who were non-drug users and therefore not entirely trusted by those who were not straight.

The person who "turned me on" to wearing sandals, was, ironically, an aspiring preacher named Sam Miller. I worked five golden summers at summer camp as a canoeing and swimming instructor, waterfront director and trash man and most of the time went barefoot. The soles of my feet were so thick I could walk on hot pavement like an Indian fakir. I laughed at thorns, Sneer at snakes.  As a result of the constant exposure to healthy exercise, open air and a lack of constraint, my feet are healthy to this day.

Sam always wore sandals at camp. Later, as I became elderly like Sam (around 25, I think) there were fewer opportunities to go barefoot. Teachers, in those unenlightened days, were required to wear shoes while teaching.  So, when I went outdoors, my soles were not the thick bear paws they once were and therefore vulnerable to stones, stickers and hot pavement. I learned then the value of the simple sandal as a compromise footwear solution providing ease of donning, airy comfort and comfort in and around water.

Homemade sandals are by far the best type. Hurache sandals are a Native American design popular in Mexico where native runners favor them over old sneakers. The design shown here borrows on that, but is more of a peasant/communist revolutionary model with old tires for soles and ropes for straps.

You'll need:
  1. An old car, bicycle or motorcycle tire for the sole, fiberglass or fabric reinforced - not steel
  2. A fine toothed power saw to cut the sole out like a sabre saw, reciprocating saw or band saw
  3. A drill with half inch hole saw or maybe larger for the front tabs
  4. One of those white paint marker pens
  5. A 3 foot length of polypropylene/nylon rope - the soft kind
  6. A lighter 
  7. A sharp knife. 

Step 1
Lay one of your own shoes or sandals lengthwise in the inside of the tire you are cutting up.  Mark the shape of the sole with a white paint marker, then cut around the shape leaving 3 inches or so of rubber around the shape.  Do that for both shoes.  Then mark 1 to 1 and a half inch tabs on the sides where show and a 2 inch by 3 inch tab on the heel.  When you have it all marked, cut out the soles.  The tabs on the sides should be thinner sidewall rubber if you got the right kind of tire. The heel tab will be thick like the soles. A note about cutting out the sole from the tire.  Avoid cutting through the bead where the tire meets the wheel. This is reinforced with very strong steel cable and can wreck your saw blade cut just inside the bead on both sides all the way around to remove it like a hoop from the rest of the tire.

Step 2
Mark a single hole in each tab and two in the heel tab.  You will want to make the front tab holes slightly larger to accommodate 2 pass throught of the lace ropes.

Step 3
Drill the tab holes as shown and then use a round file to smooth the sides and edges so the rope lacing will pass smoothly through the hole.

Step 4
Fold up the tabs and cut a 3 foot length of soft nylon rope for the lacing. The side tabs, since they are made from the sidewalls, should fold up naturally. The heel tab will likely be more stubborn, but once you've laced it, it will stay up and provide heel protection if you've cut it right.

Step 5.
Lace your rope through the two holes in the heel first and then through the rear side tabs from the inside going to the outside.

Step 6
It's easiest to finish the lacing by putting your foot in the sole as you lace.  Bring the laces across the top of your foot, criss-cross them and then run them through the front tab holes from inside to outside as shown.

Step 7
Bring the lace ends back across the top of the foot and through the side tab on the opposite side of the foot as shown in the pictures.

Step 8
One method to finish the lacing is to tie off the ends in a stopper knot at this point and melt the ends to prevent unraveling.  Adjusting the fit as the sandal wears and stretches is a little more problematic this way , but if you make it a little tight the first time, it should be pretty snug for a sandal after you've worn it a bit.

Step 9
If you want your sandal to be adjustable, simply bring the loose ends back over the top of the foot and tie them in a bow like a regular shoe.  I like them that way. Looks funky!

Check out the sandal pattern at Barefoot Ted's Adventures.

Really nice overview of the sandal-making process with photos.


  1. Also definitely look at simple sandal pattern/materials:

  2. Good weblink, Reaper. I'll add a link to Ted's website. I really like the site. Good stuff in there and a nice photo illustration in the pdf you gave the address for. Thanks.

    I've ran barefoot or wearing those old-style thin soled track shoes as a kid and spent probably half my life. Never had any problems with my feet despite my Mom's dire warnings about ankle support. Again, thanks for the link.