Modern Caveman

Modern Caveman

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How to Make Huaraches (Barefoot Running Sandals)

Huaraches are a type of Mexican sandal. I became interested in them after wearing Vibram Five Fingers and reading Born to Run.

Most projects for making the sandals are very easy...trace your foot on a piece of rubber and cut it out. Weave some lace onto it and you're done.

I wanted to make a more comfortable and presentable sandal, so I'm going to glue leather on top.


Overview of Steps

Cut Square of Vibram

The suede leather piece is 8.5"x11" from a crafting store. I used a piece of cardstock of the same size to trace the width onto the vibram.

Layout Materials.jpg Trace Size.jpg

About To Cut.jpg Cut Vibram Square.jpg

Cut with shears.

See Leather On Vibram.jpg

Vibram Upclose

Normally when using contact cement, you want to scrape or distress the surfaces being bonded so that the contact cement has more texture to grip. The top of the vibram material comes textured/distressed and the leather is porous and will absorb cement so this step can be skipped

Top Of Vibram Cherry Soling Material.jpg Bottom Of Vibram Soling Material.jpg

Prepare Surfaces for Contact Cement

Cover your working surface with a protective sheet, and clean the vibram material with alcohol or acetone so that it will be clean and oil free.

Cover Work Table With Plastic.jpg Acetone And Vibram.jpg

Wet Cloth With Acetone.jpg Wipe Vibram Surface With Acetone.jpg

Apply Contact Cement in Ventilated Area

Apply the contact cement where there is good air circulation. The pictures look like this is an enclosed space, but there was a door open behind leading outside. Even with this the fumes were still quite strong, so having a fan would be advisable.

Barge Contact Cement For Rubber And Leather.jpg About To Apply Contact Cement To Leather.jpg

The contact cement instructions suggest applying a base coat to any porous material and then a second coat before bonding to the other surface. Since the leather is porous and will absorb some, I did this.

Contact Cement On Leather.jpg Contact Cement On Leather2.jpg Contact Cement On Leather Done.jpg

Make sure to apply strongly to the edges of the leather. Then apply a single coat to the vibram.

When I applied the contact cement, I noticed that the vibram started curving down (away from cemented side). I believe this is because the cement contains a solvent, which somewhat loosened the rubber material and made it expand slightly. This curve went away overnight when the material was fully dry and bonded.

Contact Cement On Vibram.jpg Contact Cement On Vibram And Lether Done.jpg Contact Cement On Vibram And Leather After Drying.jpg

After allowing to dry to the recommended tack, apply a second coat to the leather and let dry again.

Second Coat Of Contact Cement On Leather.jpg

Bond Leather and Vibram

Carefully place leather on vibram. I recommend practicing doing this before you add any contact cement so you'll know how to lay the leather down without any bubbles and without going off edge. Possibly holding cardstock behind the leather and moving it to the vibram would work. I also should have cut a bigger piece of vibram and thrown out the excess.

Place Leather On Vibram And Smooth.jpg Place Protective Paper On Leather.jpg Smooth Leather On Vibram.jpg

Smooth the leather lightly at first. Then put paper covering it so you can smooth it firmly.

Place Board On Leather And Vibram.jpg Put Weight On Board To Firmly Press.jpg

Leave the paper in place, and cover with a flat board on the leather/vibram and use a weight to press. Allow to bond overnight for best strength.

Bonded Leather And Vibram.jpg Some Leather Overlapped Vibram.jpg

You can see I was slightly off center with leather and some leather overlaps the vibram.

Make Foot Tracings

Using a pencil and cardstock, make tracings of your feet. You should press your foot with some pressure into the paper so that your foot flattens a bit, making a slightly larger print.

Trace Foot Outline On Cardstock.jpg Traced Foot On Cardstock.jpg

Trace Other Foot On Cardstock.jpg Label Tracings Which Foot And Up.jpg

Label each foot "Right Up" and "Left Up" so you won't get them confused when you place them on the leather+vibram to trace.

Smooth Tracing Curve Around Toes.jpg Cut Out Foot Print Tracings.jpg

Draw around the outside of your tracing, so that all the bumps of your toes become a smooth arc. You want to trace it a bit bigger. If you make a mistake you can always trim it smaller later. Save the cuttouts, we're going to use them again.

Transfer Tracings to Leather

Trace the foot shapes onto the leather (use a sharpie). Make sure the foot tracings are facing upright.

Trace Cutouts Onto Leather.jpg

Make A Test Cut In Leather.jpg

Do a practice cut on scrap/outside material.

Cut Out Huaraches.jpg Standing On Huarches Blanks.jpg

Find the Lace Points

We want to find the places where we will punch holes for laces. We're going to mark three places on each cutout. I read instructions from this website for this method.

Draw Inside Ankle Bone Dot.jpg

On the inside of the foot, find the bone sticking out and make a mark directly down at the edge of the cuttout.

Draw Outside Light Spot Dot.jpg

On the outside of the foot, while standing, find the place where your foot makes less contact with the ground. Mark on the outside of the cuttout.

Draw Toe Point.jpg

Put a dot between your big toe and second toe, with the dot angled in slightly to the second toe.

Do this for the other foot.

Prepare Laces & Punch Holes

A leather punch is the right tool to create the lace holes. Punches cost $7-15 dollars and are worthwhile for many crafting projects.

DO NOT use a knife or nail to poke a hole. The hole must have clean edges that will not tear. By using a knife or nail the vibram is torn when it seperates, and will only tear more when pressure from laces and walk/running is applied.

If you do not have a leather punch, you can use a drill-bit. You want to remove material, not tear a hole, so a punch or drill bit are appropriate.

Leather Punch.jpg Guess Lace Size.jpg

In scrap material test hole and lace size before working on your huaraches. The laces should fit snug and be gripped slightly. They should not slide completely freely. A toothpick can be useful to help push the lace through the hold initially.

Make A Test Hole In Scrap.jpg Cut Laces And Burn Closed.jpg Test Hole Size In Scrap.jpg

Mark hole points on leather

Take your cuttouts and make marks onto the leather pieces. Poke a hole with a pen/pencil through the dot between the big toe and second toe.

Poke Hole With Pencil For Toe Dot.jpg Mark Leather Dots From Tracing.jpg

Indicator Lines On Leather.jpg Mark In Where Hole Will Go.jpg

From each indicator line on the edge of the leather, make a mark 1/4" inside. This is going to be where you put the edge of the hole punch or edge of drill bit. In other words, you want to have 1/4" of material left after you make the hole.

Punch Holes

The toe-hole is probably a bit too far in from the edge for the leather-punch to reach. You may have to fold over the vibram material to reach it.

Punch Doesn Reach Dot.jpg Fold Over Toe To Reach Dot.jpg

Lace Huaraches

Each lace should be about 6 feet long (2 meters).

Insert Lace And Tie Figure Eight.jpg Tighten Figure Eight Knot.jpg Draw Knot To Vibram Sole.jpg

Always go from top to bottom when threading the laces to help go in the right order. Tie a figure-of-eight knot on the underside of the sole and draw it tight. If there is extra lace material after the knot, cut it short and burn with a lighter to prevent fraying.

Thread Lace To Outside Hole From Top To Bottom.jpg

Top to bottom thread the outside hole, which is the right-side for the right foot, and left-side for the left foot.

Thread Lace On Inside From Top To Bottom.jpg

Bring the lace around fron and then thread the final hole from top to bottom.

Tie to your feet

There are instructions on this youtube video.

Wearing Huaraches1.jpg Wearing Huarches2.jpg

Brand new!

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