Sunday, September 19, 2010

Homemade hiking sandals

homemade hiking sandalI've been wearing my modified tire sandals around and they seem secure and comfortable. After such a success, I decided to make some new hiking sandals from other materials.

I sent away for a pair of Vibram boot soles, a pair that did not include a raised heel. The smallest size they had was a mens 8. They were awful big but I thought they might work out okay in the end. I also ordered some Barge cement to glue them together.

My original plan was to glue some leather tops to the soles. But the soles were very thin. So I went to Rite-Aid and bought some cheap flip-flops. I wanted cheap flip-flops because I didn't want a raised heel or any fancy shaping. Just a flat piece of foam and hopefully a sole without any ridges. I found a pair of sandals that met these criteria. There was a very light pattern on the sole, but I thought I should be able to glue it to the boot soles without a problem.

I cut off the flip-flop straps and glued the flip-flop soles to the boot soles. I put heavy things on top and waited a few hours for the glue to harden. Then I cut away the excess boot sole from around the edge of the flip-flops.

Then I cut leather for the side tabs and the back heel area. I decided I would try a two-tab sandal first, rather than a four-tab like my tire sandals. Instead of holes cut through the tabs like my tire sandals, I cut slits. Two slits so that I could thread the lacing through. Hopefully this would rub less against my skin.

Once the glue was dry, I nailed the tabs to the soles. I tried them on and moved some of the placement around until they seemed to fit right. Then I loosened the nails and applied glue. After letting the glue dry for 20 minutes, I pressed the pieces together and put in all the rest of the nails to hold the glue together.

You might wonder why I nail the pieces to the edges rather than cut holes and thread them through, or glue the tabs between the foam and the sole. There are three reasons. One is that hammering the pieces to the sides turned out to be the easiest way. The other is that my feet are wide and this gives me a lot more room for my toes. Gluing the leather between the foam and the sole leaves little raised areas and honestly I couldn't figure out how to do the heel. Nailing the heel on was much easier.

Why have that big heel thing? I tried all kinds of different lacing methods and my feel would always slide out the back. The big heel area holds my foot in securely and feels the most comfortable.

The only problem I can foresee with these sandals is they are a little long in front. I might have to cut off some of the front. I hope I don't have to because it might ruin the (relative) perfection of the boot sole on the bottom.

The sandals turned out really comfortable even if they aren't the prettiest. I have to try them on some trails to see if I can actually hike in them. I'll try them out walking around town first.

It is relatively easy to make clothes. Making shoes is a lot more difficult. I feel pretty good that I was able to make shoes even if I had to use shoes to make them. It was relatively inexpensive (if you don't count all my trial and error), compared to buying new hiking sandals. The boot soles were about $10, the flip-flops $2.50, the leather was about $6, the laces were $12, the glue was about $5. I could have found cheaper laces but I didn't know where to find them at first.

Maybe someday I will get better at this and my homemade shoes won't look so obviously homemade. But for now, it's kind of cool that they look homemade because it's fun when people ask me if I made my own sandals. I was asked that about the tire sandals and the person who asked me thought that was really great to make your own sandals. Making stuff is fun so I like to inspire people to do things like that if I can.

I can't wait to fully test these. Hopefully I'll have a good contribution for the Make Your Own Gear forum on

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