Saturday, October 20, 2012

How to Make Luna Sandal Huaraches

A few years ago, I read Born to Run, the book that helped launch the modern minimalist running movement.  One of the people it talked about was a guy called "Barefoot Ted," who enjoyed running barefoot, or with minimalist footwear.  He also liked running in the traditional sandals of the Raramuri Native Americans of Northwestern Mexico.  The book talks about the benefits of endurance and less injury among people who wear this kind of minimal footwear.  Running to get from place to place is a part of every day life for the Raramuri.  50 miles doesn't seem like much to them and they don't seem to complain about aching knees or achilles tendons.   They wear these sandals, or huaraches, and have done so for many, many years.  The soles are often made out of old tires and the laces out of a strip of leather.
I had been dealing with some issues with pain in my feet so that I wasn't able to run anymore, so I figured I'd try out these huaraches, and the whole minimalist idea, but with walking.  I grew up barefoot or in rubber slippers in Hawai'i, so I feel like my feet are just made for this kind of thing.  These sandals and some Soft Star moccasin shoes are the only shoes I can wear without my feet hurting.  They have been a great blessing to me and I think I'll be wearing these kinds of shoes for a very long time.  I bought my first pair of Luna Sandal brand huaraches.  They are made by Barefoot Ted and some friends in nearby Seattle, so it was a bonus to have a very local source for shoes.    My sandals have lasted me about 2 years, and are getting a little thin in the heal.

For my brother's wedding, I ordered the Luna Sandal DIY kit and set out to make my own.  I used the Luna Sandal website instructions, but documented my own journey to offer another perspective to anyone trying to make these sandals.  Please use their website as your primary resource on building these shoes.  Enjoy!

Step on a piece of paper, trace your feet,  keeping the pen straight up and down.  While you're doing this, you will make a dot between your big toe and second toe.  This is where the lacing will go through.  You should be able to see all of these markings when you're standing with your foot relaxed You will draw a line for one of the side holes for the laces right beneath your outside ankle bone.  You'll do the same thing for the opposite foot.  Later, you will make a sandal shaped outline around the food outline. You will give yourself a few mm of extra space beyond the exact outline of your feet.  See below for the step by step pictures.

My pen is straight up and down as I trace.  
I put my pen straight down to make the dot between my toes.  I am just pointing it out here.
See me marking the  big line right below my outside ankle bone?

This is why we're doing all these crazy markings.  This tracing becomes your template for cutting out your sandals.  The toe hole is where the lacing begins, curving over the foot to the right,  going into the top of the sole, then curving around the outside of the sole and back through the lacing to go around the heel.  Now is the time to trace the shape of the sole of your shoe around the exact shape of your foot, leaving a few mm of space.  You will just be smoothing all the lines: curving in a little near the arches, smoothing the line of the outer edge a bit.  Please refer to the actual Luna Sandal website for specifics on this process.
The outside hole is 3/8 inch in from the edge of the sandal.  

The outside hole is 3/4 inch above the mark made below the ankle bone.  The inside hole is directly across from it, also 3/8 inch in.  
This is what your tracing should look like when you're done.

Cut out your template.  Make another one for your other foot, especially if your feet are different sizes.

I put my templates on the vibram soling, with the words "vibram" as the part that touches the ground and the textured inside touching my feet.  

I traced with white pencil

I cut with utility shears.  
I pressed in hard with a pencil to mark through the paper where the toe hole would go.  Same with the other holes.

You can see the 6 dots I made.  For the side holes, I just connected two holes to make the long slits.

I used a 3/16" drill bit to make the holes between the toes.  I put cardboard beneath.  Other people use a leather punch of the same size.

I used the drill to begin the side holes.  

I used a utility knife to cut the slits

Here's how I laced them.  You make an overhand knot at the end of the lacing, hammering it flat before you pull the lacing through to the top of the sole.  The lacing enters the outside of the sole from the top, curving around them looping through itself to go around the heel, then into the top of the sole. 
The lacing then wraps around the outside of the soling and loops back through the heel loop.
I put my foot in, wrapping the lacing clockwise around my ankle in a relaxed tension, so that it doesn't restrain my foot at all.  I like to be standing  or sitting with my leg relatively straight and foot flat when I do this so that my ankles aren't overly flexed. This way the lacing doesn't constrict the ankles, but moves with them. 

When you come to the end of the lacing, you will bring it under the strap extends to the outside of your foot.  
You'll loop it around into a slip knot.

Pull the loop snug, so that the slip knot is tightly secured to the outside lace.
The knot beneath your big toe will eventually break off with wear and tear.  Just take off the sandals, pull a little lacing through and make a new knot!

And now you have your own homemade  Luna Sandal Huaraches, the best shoes ever!

**The sandals fit me perfectly, but I did have one problem.  The red lacing I bought from them wasn't quite stiff enough.  It always slipped loose and was very aggravating.  I tried everything and finally I had to exchange it for some 3/8" wax impregnated black leather laces.   So I guess my only caution in making your own huaraches, is that if the laces seem very soft and don't seem to stay put on your feet, you may have laces that just weren't made stiff enough.    These shoes are WORTH making, because they are the most comfortable thing I've ever worn, so please don't let this discourage you.  Instead, let it inform you.  
The difference between thick wax impregnated black lacing and the flimsier red lacing that by some fluke, wasn't impregnated with enough wax.  This is why it's probably a good idea to buy your lacing from Luna Sandal.  I did here, but the bad lacing was a fluke.  I have always received great sturdy laces from them until these.


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