There are Huaraches north of old Mexico.
As a craftsman of sorts, I understand that making a “one-off” of something does not imply expertise and replication builds a real understanding of the object being produced. However, this is certainly not my first leather working or shoemaking project but a major improvement on a theme. The lasts I purchased earlier in the year on Ebay have finally been used to actually make a shoe so I documented the process as it came along last week; mistakes and changes included in the process. While searching for huarache construction, I have only been able to find the simplest tire sandal designs and many links to “barefoot” running sandals. I recently found the Huarache Blog and scoured it for inspiration and design secrets from real huaracheros in old Mexico.
Sole cut out, punched for strapping and nailed to the last.
The lasts shown here seem to fit me well but are an Oxford dress shoe style, I think, meaning they run a little long in the toe. New lasts are pricey (ca. 50 euros/70 US), but I think it will pay in the long run to invest in a better design for myself and those people I might make shoes for.
Wetting out the first strap.
I didn’t show the strap cutting process as there is little to be learned about that. My fancy new Osbourne strap cutter can be seen in the upper right of this photo
Since this project was experimental, I used scrap leather, meaning I could only get about three foot (one meter) straps. In future, I’ll probably use 6 foot or longer pieces (2+ meters).
Nailing the strap to the last.
Pre-punched holes in the mid-sole and away we go. A little tallow on the straps helps cut the friction of the leather but ended up being not worth the trouble.
Placing the twining thong.
This is a signature of the style I chose. The vamp or tongue-like piece was later removed as I didn’t like the way it looked. I’ll experiment more with that later.
Lacing and twining.
Unlike normal, I completely finished the first shoe and removed it from the last to check size and shape to determine any major changes that would need to be made.
Heel added and lacing up the back. I think this step shows the evolution of the strap sandal to the modern huarache.
The straps running under the mid-sole look like a problem here but are ultimately skived down, wetted, and hammered flat.
Straps ends as added in. Longer straps would lessen the ends here.
I used simple wire nails to attach the soles but sewing would work too.
Ends to be trimmed and skived, and a finished sole.
Pulled from the last, they actually matched. I don’t know why I was surprised but that made me happy.
Preparing to nail the sole.
This method is fast and efficient, and I suspect rather tough. The nails are pressed through the leather and rubber into a thick leather scrap below. Otherwise, you would need to pry it up from the work board.
Nailing the sole.
Bending the nails in preparation for clinching.
The nails are bent over (inward) to prepare to “clinch” them. There are no photos of this part of the process but this was done by setting the shoe back upright on a small anvil and hammering the nails down tight with a punch. The pre-bending causes the nail to curl inward and back up into the sole. Voila! The Huaraches below have about five miles of hiking on them now and they’re beginning to have some character.
Huaraches you say? Do tough guys wear such things? In an era of cheap, slave-made garments, its easy to forget how self-reliant our ancestors were for such things as raiment. I include this excellent photo of Capitan Alcantar I found on the Huarache Blog as a great historical image of a man of action wearing his huaraches and ready for war.
Click the image for more historic photos like this.