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How to make hippie sandals

Old hippies fondly remember those virtually indestructible and eminently comfortable homemade sandals everyone was making back in the 1960s and 70s. Of course, cotton- and fibreglass-reinforced tyres were much more common, so we didn’t have the problem of cutting steel-belted radials that sandal makers have today. If you can locate a non-steel reinforced tyre, however, making a pair of very comfortable sandals is quite simple. This version of the tyre sole sandal features Huarache lacing.

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  1. Draw the outline of the sole inside the tyre running lengthwise. Use your foot or an old shoe as a pattern. Draw 2.5 to 3.7 cm (1 to 1 1/2 inch) square tabs, two forward along the sides just behind the toes, and two on either side just in front of the heel, even with the front of the ankle. For the Huarache lacing called for here, do not make a tab at the heel as some drawings of tyre-soled sandals call for. The tabs on the sides should be made of the thinner sidewall material that curls up naturally. This will depend on the width of the tyre and your foot, of course. Either way, the tabs form a four-point anchor for the lacing.

  2. Cut out the sole and side tabs with your saw. Do not let the blade bind. Use a wooden wedge or screwdriver to pry apart the cut behind the blade as you cut to prevent the rubber from closing back up around the blade and causing it to jam.

  3. Drill a clean round hole in each of the 4 side tabs. Use a round file to clean and smooth the inside of the hole and edges.

  4. Loop a long piece of leather lace -- about 90 cm (3 feet) around the right rear tab. Cut a small slit near the end of the lace, pass the free end through the tab and back out through the slit you made in the end to fasten it in place.

  5. Put your foot on top of the sole to use as a guide for lacing the shoe. Bring the free end of the lace across your foot and run it through the left front tab, inside to out.

  6. Bring the free end of the lacing over the top of the foot and down through the right front tab lace hole going from outside to inside.

  7. Pull the lace back up over the foot and run the end through the left rear tab from inside to out. The laces will make a big "X" pattern on top of your foot.

  8. Pull the free end of the lace behind your heel and through the right rear tab lace hole going from outside to inside. Tie off the end.

  9. Tip

    Try to find a tyre close to the width of your foot so that the side tabs are cut from the thinner sidewalls. You can get two to three pairs of shoes from a single car, motorcycle or truck tyre. Bicycle tyres make good kids' sandals. Older tyres are more likely not to have steel belts or reinforcement.


    Do not cut through the bead of the tyre while cutting out the soles. The bead, where the tyre meets the wheel, is made with a centre of heavy steel cable and can destroy your cutting tool if you try to cut through it. To remove the bead and simplify cutting, cut inside the bead all the way around and remove it in one piece, like a big hoop. Avoid steel-reinforced tyres. They will ruin your saw blade, and the steel would make the edges sharp, which could cut your hands and feet. Bicycle, motorcycle, garden tractor, mower or trailer tyres and older tyres are more likely to be cloth- or fibreglass-reinforced and make better sandals.

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Things You'll Need

  • Non-steel belted car, trailer, motorcycle, truck or bike tyre
  • Sabre saw, reciprocating saw or band saw with fine teeth
  • Drill with hole saw, 1.2 and 1.8 cm (1/2 and 3/4 inch)
  • Round file
  • Knife
  • Heavy leather lacing, 1 to 1.2 cm (3/8 to 1/2 inch)

About the Author

Tom King published his first paid story in 1976. His book, "Going for the Green: An Insider's Guide to Raising Money With Charity Golf," was published in 2008. He received gold awards for screenwriting at the 1994 Worldfest Charleston and 1995 Worldfest Houston International Film Festivals. King holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Southwestern Adventist College.

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