Making rope soled sandals

Written by contributing writer
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You can make your own pair of shoes out of natural rope or fibres based on sandals that were worn centuries ago in the Southwest. These shoes continue still are popular today and show off the craftsmanship of the wearer. They are ultra-lightweight and make the wearer appear to be barefoot from a distance. In fact, some runners even wear these shoes, though the soles are replaced with modern materials.

Skill level:
Challenging

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Things you need

  • Hemp or yucca fibre

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Select the rope for your sandal. While cotton is soft and lightweight when dry, it holds moisture and wears out quickly. Recommended materials include hemp rope or even yucca fibre rope for durability and a natural look. To make durable rope out of natural fibres, they must be twisted together into a long line and then another line that is twisted in the opposite direction is combined with the first. The opposite twists of the two lines combine to oppose each other and to prevent the rope from coiling up on itself. Make sure the rope is thick enough to provide some padding for the foot and protection from road debris.

  2. 2

    Use the selected rope to make the sole so it covers the bottom of the foot where it will contact the ground. Weave the sole using a pattern like the one pictured and adjust the width and length according to your foot size. This pattern consists of several concentric loops joined by the fine thread that is used to weave the entire sole together in a perpendicular fashion.

    Making rope soled sandals
    Yucca sandal pattern from Montezuma Castle
  3. 3

    Weave a rope edge around the outer portion of the shoe to reinforce and protect the sole. An alternative pattern for making the yucca sandal is pictured here for reference. This pattern can be used with flatter rope and places the fibres diagonally.

    Making rope soled sandals
    Alternative yucca sandal pattern from Montezuma Castle
  4. 4

    Lace up the shoes. This is done several ways. The simplest method for attaching the shoe to the foot is pictured here and is similar to a favourite of veteran foot racer and blogger "Barefoot Ted," who favours indigenous footwear based on research that he has done. This specific photo, though slightly different, was found at Montezuma Castle near Flagstaff, Arizona. A rope is braided with a simple braid that would be done in hair, but that is knotted on the end. This knot is large enough that it does not pass through the woven sole of the shoe. Barefoot Ted suggests using a type of washer made from rubber or leather to keep this knot from slipping through. The rope then comes up between the big toe and its neighbour. it then fastens down below the ankle of the wearer.

  5. 5

    Crossing the lace in front of the leg where it meets the foot, wrap it around just above the ankle in an upward spiral that then is crossed by the lace coming back down. The lace then crosses again at the front before entering a hole at the opposite side under the ankle and then emerging around the outer edge of the sandal. This last bit is then tied to the section between the big toe and the outer ankle.

    Making rope soled sandals
    Lacing up yucca sandals from Montezuma Castle
  6. 6

    Customise your sandal by using different lacing patterns. Coat the bottom of the soles with Plasti-Dip or other rubber dip for coating tool handles available at the hardware store.

    Making rope soled sandals

Tips and warnings

  • Make sure that the sole of the sandal is woven loosely enough to provide cushioning but tightly enough so it does not lack integrity. The sole should separate from the road and hold up to any of the stresses placed upon it without losing shape or function.
  • Do not run in these shoes until your feet have "familiarized" themselves with the shoes. Have a spare pair of shoes handy until comfortable with the new shoes. Make sure that the sandals are sturdy and fit well. Be sure to first test shoes carefully. If they cause discomfort or pain, discontinue use.

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