Barefoot Shoes

Huaraches – Review of the Original Minimalist/Barefoot Sandals

Vibram FiveFingers opened my eyes to minimalist shoe running and ever since, I’ve been on a quest to find the best balance of lightweight protection and comfort without sacrificing flexibility and ground feel. After VFFs…

Vibram FiveFingers opened my eyes to minimalist shoe running and ever since, I’ve been on a quest to find the best balance of lightweight protection and comfort without sacrificing flexibility and ground feel. After VFFs, my next stop was at Xero Shoes where I purchased a kit to make my first pair of huaraches, running sandals worn by Tarahumara and featured in Born to Run. From there I began to experiment with different lacing materials, soles, and tying methods. Now, I maintain a huarache kit with all of the essentials needed to whip up a pair in a moment’s notice.

This article will provide an introduction to huaraches to help get you started along with some tips I’ve picked up after making a few dozen for myself, family, and friends.

Why Huaraches?

If you’re already wearing Vibram Fivefingers, you know that less is more. With huaraches, even less is even more! Sure you could go all the way to pure barefoot running, and I do so when the conditions warrant. However for me, I’ve found huaraches to be the next best thing without having to laboriously scrub my feet or worrying too much about what I might encounter on the road or trail. Huaraches give you a truly minimal shoe that is completely flat, free of any support or cushioning, and plenty of room to spread those toes.

The jump from from FiveFingers to huaraches was a bit like the jump from modern running shoes to FiveFingers. For starters, my huarache sandals are about 40% lighter than my Vibram Bikila FiveFingers, but the biggest difference is the open-air benefits of a sandal. Forget about the dreaded Vibram stink and feet sweating continuously into a closed shoe or even a sock plus a shoe. The cooling you receive through your feet is a huge benefit with an open sandal. The combination of lightweight sandals and airflow though your toes and across your feet is a great feeling.

Huaraches are cheap and fun to make! For example, custom made huaraches from Xero Shoes start at $39.95, less half of what you’ll pay for a pair of Vibram FiveFingers. If you buy the materials yourself, they get ever cheaper. I’ve found I can make a pair for about $20 worth of materials. Finally, there is something very pleasing about making your own shoes which are tailored to your needs and your measurements.

For all the benefits of huaraches, they aren’t perfect for every situation. For example, the other day I must have run through a fire ant hill as evidenced by the dozen or so bites on my toes — something I wouldn’t have experienced in closed shoes. Also, though I’m sure it is possible, I was unable to endure a below freezing run last winter in Michigan in my huaraches: I broke out my Vibram Flows for that run. I consider my huaraches to be perfect running footwear for almost any occasion.

Purchasing Huaraches

Many people are hesitant to make their own huaraches citing a lack of know-how. It only takes some basic tools, a few materials, and very little skills. However, If you’d rather someone else do the work, there are many options. I started with Xero Shoes and I recommend them highly. You can order a kit, or they’ll send you custom soles cut to a template of your foot along with your choice of tying laces. Their website is a wealth of information too. Another excellent source is Barefoot Ted’s Luna Sandals which offers a wide variety of material choices. You can get everything from a basic to a premium huarache and everything in between. Finally, I’ve been running recently in Branca sandals, and I plan to do a full review of them in the future.

Rolling Your Own

My Huarache Kit: Vibram rubber, sheets of white paper, a hole punch, pliers, lighter to melt cord ends, scissors, marking pens, different type of lacing cord, and bobby pins for threading cord through holes in the rubber.

Let’s start with the soles. I’ve been making mine from Vibram “Cherry” rubber. This is the material Xero Shoes originally used, however, they’ve since moved to a custom proprietary huaraches-specific sole they designed (more on this via a review of the Xero Shoes Connect and Contact here). The Cherry rubber is available in sheets of 4 mm and 6 mm thickness. I prefer the thinner 4 mm rubber, but I have a pair made from 6 mm rubber for especially rocky terrain. This material is easy to cut and is extremely durable. I’ve probably put 500 miles on a pair of 4 mm huaraches with no noticeable wear. Rubber for soles is a specialty item available from shoe repair shops. I’ve been purchasing sheets of Cherry Vibram rubber from Nordshoe on eBay.

Once you have your soling material, simply cut your foot’s shape from it. I like to create a pattern of each foot using a sheet of white paper. Then I transfer the paper pattern onto the rubber. Rubber is difficult to mark with just any pen or pencil so I use a bright permanent marker to draw the lines. The advantage to using the intermediate paper pattern is you can flip it upside-down, place it against the underside of the rubber, and draw the lines on the bottoms of your soles. This way, there are no unsightly pen marks on the tops of your soles.

The next step is to decide upon your lacing method because that will determine the number and placement of the holes you have to make. I’ve experimented with a few different methods, but I found myself reverting back to my first, a slip-on method recommended by Steven Sashen, the founder of Xero Shoes. Check it out:

I like it because it minimizes the amount of lacing in contact with my skin while still firmly locking in my foot. Before I started running with them, I didn’t like anything running between my toes — I didn’t even wear flip-flops for this reason. However, after a few miles, the fears of anything between my toes vanished. I’m also wearing flip-flops now having rid myself of the between-the-toes phobia. There are plenty of different tying methods for huaraches including some that don’t go between your toes. Search on keywords “huarache” and “tying” in YouTube and you’ll find them.

Lacing methods are going to be a very personal choice so you might have to try different methods to find what works for you. I started with the slip-on method, tried a few others, but ended up where I started. Whichever method you choose, you’ll want them to fit snugly. If they are too loose, your feet will slide about and cause unwanted rubbing against both the sole and the laces. Plus, your feet will clap loudly against the sole as they smack together upon hitting ground. Of course too tight is bad too as you don’t want to cut off circulation nor do you want the laces to tear into your feet. Plan on making adjustments until you have it dialed in just right. One of the key advantages to the slip-on method is that once you have the laces the way you want them, you just slip them on and go!

FiveFingers and huarache choices abound!

There are plenty of options for lacing material. I’ve experimented mostly with different kinds of cord. My favorite for durability is accessory cord made of polyester with a nylon core. BlueWater makes some great accessory cord for around 20 cents per foot, and their “Niteline” at 33 cents per foot adds reflective stands for nighttime visibility. Go with the 3mm cord. Anything thicker adds unnecessary bulk and weight. For a less expensive alternative, you can try parachute cord. It is a bit a softer against the skin and comes in a variety of colors and patterns. It isn’t as durable as the more expensive BlueWater cord, but you can’t beat the price at less than 10 cents per foot. For most lacing methods, you’ll need six foot of lacing per sandal. You can use regular shoe laces too, but they won’t be as durable. I’ve used these boot laces with success.


I’ve run in a half dozen organized races in the last year and have yet to encounter a huarache wearer. I’m still hopeful!

I hope I’ve opened your mind a bit toward the idea of huaraches. These inexpensive, easy-to-make sandals have completely changed my life and the lives of many who have also tried them. I’d love to hear from other huarache makers so please share with us any tips and tricks you know in the comments.

By James

James's life was changed forever when he tried running in Vibram Five Fingers in July 2010. He'll occasionally go barefoot, but he primarily runs in his homemade huarache sandals. He loves to experiment with different types of minimalist footwear and has previously reviewed huaraches (homemade, Invisible Shoe, and Luna Sandals), the Teva Zilch, and the VIVOBAREFOOT Achilles running sandals.

22 replies on “Huaraches – Review of the Original Minimalist/Barefoot Sandals”

That’s definitely the most barefoot type shoe with protection from sharp objects or dangerous microorganisms. It seems like the lacing around the Achilles tendon would hurt. Has anyone tried the branca sandal at Anyway, the whole huarache idea is a very economical and good for those that want to try minimalist running.

I’ve been experimenting with hand rolled Huaraches for walking. Being strapped for cash, I went straight to the homemade option, picking up a sheet of Cherry Rubber from a local leather and shoemaking supply company. $30 got me enough to make 3 pairs. Then I used some paracord I already had for this pair, I’ll have to pick up some more before any future experiments…

So far I’m loving them, I use the slip on tying method as described on the Invisible Shoe video. After going through several iterations it just works the best for ease of entry and exit while still holding the sole firmly to my foot.

I highly recommend everyone interested in minimalist footwear making a pair to add to their quiver. Even if you’re not that handy, just use the Invisible Shoe videos and this post as tutorials and go for it!

@Branca – I have had no issues with the lacing at the heel, but I do prefer the strap on the Branca sandals. I’ve been running with Brancas for a few weeks now and plan to share my thoughts on them soon.

I bought some Equus huaraches from Luna Sandals a few weeks ago and love them. It definitely takes a little work to figure out just the best way to tie them and how tight to make them. Once you do, they are awesome.

One thing you may want to look at are the elastic leather laces from Luna. They are soft like leather (duh), but also have enough give that once you get your tie correct, you never have to tighten or change them again. They made it much easier for me to have them be both comfortable and secure it at the same time.

I have a bit of a conundrum about huaraches. I have a pair of original Invisible Shoes, but because my feet are on the long side (size 12), the 4mm Vibram Cherry is floppy, and I feel like I will trip over it. Basically, I can’t run in them. Also, I find the lacing of the Invisible shoes to be frustrating. Something so simple shouldn’t be so hard to get just right.

Unshoes has a what looks to be a great design with the Feather, but a) nobody has yet written a good review and b) they look like they might end up being floppy as well. I love the idea of a wider strap vs. a string for securing the sandal to my foot. The Unshoes Feather strap design also looks super simple and user friendly.

Now, the folks at Invisible Shoes have released what looks to be the best huarache sole yet. It is curved and has a bit of toe spring that will supposedly hold it to the foot better, but they only use strings for securing. I wrote to Steven to see if he has any ideas.

What I really want to try is the new Invisible Shoes sole but with a strap/buckle fastening system ala Unshoes. Buying a DIY kit from Invisible Shoes and then buying strap material is an option. I’d love to get the Equus laces from Luna, but they are waaaay too expensive to justify the purchase (I imagine that’s a big reason why the Luna Equus sandals are so expensive).

Anybody have any ideas or leads on a good source for the strap material?

Also, when building my Invisible Shoes, I found it pretty hard to push the laces through the holes I punched. I can imagine that strap material is exponentially harder to get through a small hole. Any ideas with that issue?

I’ve had huaraches for about a year now and I absolutely love them. I wear them all the time and they are extremely comfortable to run in. I have those and a pair of VFF Bikila’s and I like the huaraches a lot better, and for the price they can’t be beat.

So, since my last post, I corresponded with Steven at Invisible Shoes who gave me some new minimalist lacing suggestions that worked like a charm. I was able to secure my 4mm Invisible Shoes to my feet and get out for a good run. It really was as close to running barefoot as I have experienced. Of course, I over did it (2 miles) and had some pain between my toes, but that’s no big deal. I also ordered a new 6mm FeelTrue huarache kit. I can’t wait to try them out.

Where do you buy the rubber sheets for the soles? Also, what would you recommend for a first timer for lacing?

I’ve been running in Vibrams for over a year now, but would like to have a cheaper, home-made alternative and these look like they fit the bill.

@Sam: I purchase my rubber sheet from Nordshoe on eBay. I recommend going with the slip-on lacing method first, but it is easy to experiment.

I agree. Huaraches are the best shoes out there, if you can call them shoes. We made a pair and love them! We can’t even wear normal flip flops anymore. It just doesn’t feel natural. Working on a nicer pair to see if we can get away with it at work!

I had a similar experience to Aaron regarding the floppy toe problem. My issue turned out to be that I cut the vibram a little too long. Once I trimmed it up, they where much better, but not yet 100%. I’ll have to check out the other tying options. I do enjoy running in them. I regularly switch off between these, my NB Minamilist Trail shoes and just going barefoot.

Came upon this site when I decided to research toe shoes, and I’m impressed by the depth of your reviews (I’m so used to seeing blogger sites only talk about one brand). I consider myself super thrifty and that’s been the reason I haven’t picked any up yet, but upon reading this I’m super stoked in trying to make my own pair. Thanks for all your hard work, you make my research into this topic much easier.

Huaraches are awesome! I have had a pair since June 2011 and this site was really helpful. I have had injury issues with the cord biting in between my toes, but this really explains that. I had tried to find information on Invisible Shoes website and emailed Steven, but this was much better!

For more information on barefooting, especially with huaraches go to

I have information on my story from beginning barefoot with everything one needs to know about transitioning and picking out your first barefoot shoes!

the front of these huaraches will obviously catch and make you trip. not good. and dont call them huaraches. thats the name of those beautiful woven leather sandals.

How does it feel to have a knot on the bottom of the Huarache under your feet? Is it annoying? Does the knot become perfectly flat eventually?

I just ran a half-marathon in Mount Maunganui, New Zealand and saw a fellow Invisible Shoe wearer! Hope you have better luck finding someone in a marathon wearing a pair James!

Thank you for writing a review on HOME-MADE Huaraches… last week I attempted to make my first pair for myself, and after a successful prototype I went on to make a functional pair from a 26″ mountain bike tire. The curve of the tire provides some toe spring, so I was able to make a pair that’s really nice to run in .. I have written about them on my site, … What I was not prepared for was the amazing sense of satisfaction I got from making my own running sandal… and the attention they get from other runners…

James, do you think you can make homemade huaraches by adding a back strap to a pair of minimalist flip-flops? Thanks! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *