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Leather Sandals Tutorial

Aren’t they gorgeous? :) I wish I had a better foot model.

So maybe you’re not keen on actually going barefoot. Perhaps because it’s not always socially acceptable, or even legal. Perhaps because your feet have been protected for so long they’re just too sensitive. Maybe you just don’t like the way your feet look. :) But if you understand that the mobility of your feet affects the stability of your whole frame, you do want to make some changes to your footwear (in addition to doing the corrective exercises to help your feet rehabilitate!).

There are, fortunately, a growing number of choices for folks interested in purchasing minimalist footwear, many of which are on this list.   On the same list are quite a few tutorials for shoes you can make (or refashion) yourself. All great options! This tutorial is just another idea to add to the list.

One bonus of using all natural materials is that you aren’t “insulating” yourself from the earth. There has been some research that shows we (humans) benefit from being in contact with our planet, and when you have rubber soles on you aren’t really in contact. So an all-leather shoe was my goal when I made these. This is where I got my leather, and I’ll be able to make many pairs of these sandals with one hide.

A word of caution about these lookers: the soles, in order to be easily sew-able, are fairly floppy. Probably not the best distance-walking shoes. I find that when I’m trying to move quickly, they are more of  a problem. When I’m ambling, strolling, or just taking the time to work on my gait mechanics a bit, they’re fine. And they won’t last forever, either. A thicker-soled version is on the horizon, but they will require a whole different construction technique. For now, I am enjoying using these.

So, getting on with the sandals…

Stand on each foot on a piece of paper or cardboard and trace around it. Make sure the pencil is pointing straight down and not angled in or out from your foot.


You might be thinking that looks a bit narrow for my foot. You’re right. These actually aren’t for me, it’s a tracing of someone without flat feet. :)

Smooth out the toe area and maybe the arch area a bit. Cut out both foot patterns.

Cut out all of your pieces. It might be a good idea to cut the lacing first, while your leather is at it’s largest- you’ll need two strips about 2/3″ to 1/2″ wide, 36-42″ long depending on the size of your foot. Then cut two of each foot pattern, and four narrower strips about 4″ long.

Next you need to mark where the lacing will go. Put your foot on one of the leather pieces and make about a 1/2″ mark at each place that’s marked on my foot.

These locations are approximate, but you will need three on the outside edge of the foot, four on the inside edge, and one between the big toe and the next toe. Just to be clear, you don’t need to mark your own foot. Just the leather, in these locations. :)

One side with the holes marked. Note the orientation of the toe mark, it goes parallel to the rest of the marks.

Using scissors or a craft knife, make a slit in the leather along each of your marks. The slit needs to be long enough for your lacing to fit comfortably through.

Take your short, narrow strips and fold them in half. Stick the cut ends of one strip through the bottommost slit in one sole. Repeat for each of the other strips. You are making a holder for the big strap, so it doesn’t drop off of your heel or ride up your ankle.

To the sewing machine! Stitch across the loose ends of your loops. I went back and forth a couple of times.

This is the view of the top, the side your foot will be touching.

Now you’re ready to lace up. Start by going down through the middle slit in the outside edge, and coming back up on the bottom middle slit on the inside edge.

Next go across and down through the top slit in the outside edge, and come back up through the upper middle slit in the inside edge.

Then go down through the between-the-toes slit and come back up through the top  slit on the inside edge.

Finally, bring the lace down (either over or under or woven through) across the other passes across, and feed it through the holder on the outside edge. The remaining lace will cross over and feed through the holder on the inside edge.

If you flip the sole over at this point it looks like this.

Now take the other piece of sole for that foot, line it up under the one with lacing, and stitch all the way around the outside edge, very close to the edge.

You can do more stitching on the sole to reinforce, and to make sure little pebbles and sand don’t get into the shoe through the lacing slits. However, be very sure you’ve adjusted the length of the lacing to your satisfaction before sewing over the lacing. I chose not to sew over the lacing, because my leather does stretch enough over time that I want to be able to tighten the strap to adjust its length.

Once you’ve gotten the lacing adjusted to be fairly snug around your foot, you can cut the lacing and sew the ends together. That’s simple and fast. You could (but I didn’t) find some little buckles and sew them on, and then the sandals would be better adjustable. I just cut mine and re-sew them when the laces stretch enough to be too loose.

Finished sandals, except these don’t have the ends attached (since they’re for someone else and I can’t fit them to her just yet). Go forth and walk.

A word about rain… I got caught in a downpour in these one day and then walked around in them soaking wet for an hour. They stretched quite a bit. I actually ended up re-stitching around the outside edge, and cutting off the original seam, to get them back down to my size. I also shortened the strap. Probably not the best shoes for rain.




  1. Cute!


  2. I am not the crafty type, but I wear a size 7 if anyone cares :0)


  3. That is so cooool! Thanks!


  4. Yes, I would wear them, I just don’t think they would hold up well to the rocky terrain here. I need something with tire treads :)The only barefoot walking I can do is inside.


  5. Terry, my kids and I wore T-Rex and suede-soled mocs all over West Texas and they seemed to have held up just fine–you might be okay with leather-soled shoes wherever you are. One day in West Texas I found a really cool rock and while picking it up, I stepped on a cactus. 😀 It hurt a little, but the spines didn’t puncture the leather–my food sprang up when I felt the pressure, and the leather was thick enough to give me time to rescue my foot. The same applies for sharp rocks–I find that the ground feel will cause me to adjust my gait and step lightly so I am not putting pressure on anything sharp. When I come back to Houston my feet feel really bored and unstimulated after spending time on a more varied terrain. :)


  6. Where do you get your leather?


    • Elisabeth, there’s a link in the post to, which is just one place I’ve found. It’s where I got this particular hide. I also got a really nice one for ten bucks at a thrift store!


  7. If you want to ad some traction and durability to the sandals you can buy placti-dip in spray form at the local hardware store. Spray a little bit on the bottom of the sandals and you’ve got some traction but you’ll still get the good ground feel.


    • That’s a great idea, Terral. And thanks for commenting, I’d never seen your shoes before! Those look amazing! Definitely going on my wish list!! :)


  8. Wow! Look like Wonder how you thought of this design. The Pulers have been hand making leather sandals since 1971.


    • I actually own a pair of Piper Sandals because they are made here in Texas! They come to many festivals and art shows to sell their shoes. They are a great sandal, and they definitely were one of several inspirations for my design. After wearing theirs for a couple of years, I wanted a much less substantial sole than what they offer, which is one reason I made my own. I can definitely recommend their shoes, though, for someone wanting a more traditional sandal. I even contacted them about making a shoe with no arch support and zero positive heel and they were happy to accommodate.


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