The past few days have been unseasonably warm in Wisconsin, and it looks like the warm temperatures are here to stay, at least for the remainder of the most recent 10-day-forecast. That means that the St. Patty’s Day Shamrock Shuffle you thought you’d still be bundled up in winter gear for is going to require you to break out the shorts and short-sleeve t-shirts this year! For minimalist shoe fans, it also means that huarache weather has finally arrived! For those of you who aren’t familiar, huaraches (minimalist running sandals) are one of the first minimalist shoes in existence and were made popular most recently by the the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. Steve and I got our first huaraches back in January and were a little disappointed that we would have to wait a few months before trying them out. Now that we’ve crossed above that magical 65-degree-line that screams “Sandal time!” to me about two months earlier than expected, I’ve been rocking huaraches all over town. We’ll be doing more thorough reviews of several different brands of huaraches later this spring, but, since huarache season snuck up on us so fast this year, I wanted to do a quick overview of several available options in case you are interested in picking up a pair of your own to enjoy right away!
The first huarache option I’d like to mention is made by Steven Sashen and friends over at Invisible Shoes. These huaraches can be custom made for you with either a 4-mm Connect or 6-mm Contact outsole (made by Vibram) and there are several different lace color options available. Custom pairs start at $39.95, making them one of the least expensive minimalist shoe options out there, and require that you send a tracing of your foot to Invisible Shoe. Alternatively, you can order a Connect or Contact Kit, which will allow you to try your own hand at making huaraches by trimming a standard-shaped sole to fit your foot and attaching the laces yourself. The Classic kit comes with only a square piece of rubber and lace material, providing you complete control over the cutting and lacing of your footbed. Custom kits range in price from $16.95-$34.95, and will require that you have a good pair of scissors to trim the soles, as well as a drill bit or leather punch to create the holes for the laces. One of our favorite features of Invisible Shoes so far is the customizability that the laces provide. There are multiple different tying styles that you can try, all with YouTube videos available to learn from, or you can try to invent your own tying style! Additionally, the laces lend themselves well to tying on charms or beads for decoration.
Another great huarache option comes from the team at Branca Barefoot. Brancas are available in a single style that features a 5-mm Vibram Newflex sole with an attached leather footbed. The lacing style is significantly less complex than that of the Invisible Shoe, and tying them up is as easy as cinching the laces to your desired level of tightness and tying the laces as you would with a regular laced shoe. They are priced at $74, with free shipping available in the United States. To order a pair, you must provide Branca with the length of the distance from your heel to the space between your first and second toes; this will determine where they place the hole to hold the laces. The shoes will then be delivered to you with the laces attached, but with a squared off front, leaving it up to you to trim the the sandals to fit the exact curve of the front of your foot. The lacing style of these shoes is a bit unusual-looking, but it makes the bottom of the shoe hug your foot a bit more than other styles, which, according to Steve, makes them very comfortable to run and walk in.
The third brand of huaraches I’ll discuss are made by Barefoot Ted (of Born to Run fame) and friends at Luna Sandals. These sandals are available in five different styles, with various sole thicknesses/treads (all made by Vibram), which range from 2-mm all the way up to 8-mm. The soles are available with an attached leather footbed, although you might want to stick with the “naked” rubber top if you plan to get them wet. Laces can be made from more traditional leather, soft braided hemp, or from a more modern, thicker, elasticized leather. A fourth lacing material called All Terrain Strapping (ATS) is available only on the “Leadville” style. The type of lacing and sole thickness/tread you choose depends on what your primary use will be for the shoes. Luna has a lot of great information on their site in the “Description” section that accompanies each huarache style to help you choose the option that is best for you. The sandals are available in standard sizes (men’s sizes 4 to 13), or can be custom cut for your foot at no additional cost. Unfortunately, with prices ranging from $50 to $140, they are the most expensive of the current huarache options. That being said, they are undoubtedly the most “professional-” (re: least homemade-) looking of the three brands mentioned in this post. Additionally, DIY kits from Luna start at only $25 and can save you a significant amount of money.
Finally, for those of you looking for more of a challenge, you can always collect all of the materials yourself and make your own huaraches from scratch! You’ll want to make sure you use durable materials for both the rubber soles (some people have used pieces of old tires!) and the laces so that you don’t wear through them too quickly. Invisible Shoes has a great guide for making your own huaraches, complete with helpful videos for cutting out the sole, placing the lace holes, and tying the laces.
All in all, huaraches are very comfortable to wear and fun to run in. I highly recommend them to all sandal fans out there, and to any minimalist runners looking to keep their feet a little cooler and less sweaty in the hot summer months. If you have any questions about huaraches or any of the options I mentioned above, feel free to ask in the comments![suffusion-widgets id=’1′]
Meagan is a geochemistry research lab manager, runner, Netflix binge-watcher, and Mom to a rescue dog, a bunny, and a human child. She started running in May 2011 and ran her first half marathon in October 2012, followed by her first marathon in October 2013. In July 2018, she joined the triathlon world and completed an Olympic-distance race. After an extended break (pregnancy/maternity leave), she is making a long-overdue return to running and is preparing for a high-elevation half marathon at Crater Lake National Park in August 2020.