Human beings have been making their own footwear for hundreds of thousands of years, and we felt that Buy Nothing Day (Nov. 25th) would be a great day to talk about footwear, minimalism, and how to make your own tire sandals.
Our hunter-gatherer ancestors embody the spirit of minimalism; they needed very little material goods or tools to survive. Everything they owned they had to carry with them on their nomadic journeying, so it made sense for them to have as little ‘stuff’ as possible. Instead they relied on knowledge, skill, and each other for survival. They learned how to use their immediate environment to make the things that they needed as they needed them. This skill and knowledge was passed along generation to generation constantly being refined and updated to the benefit of all.
In our culture today we are obviously very dependent on industrial consumerism, so it can be very rewarding and empowering to learn a little about the knowledge and skills needed to fulfill some of our needs and desires in a way that requires very little or no money. The history of running and footwear are two subjects we are very interested in and we feel there is a lot of value in the minimalist approach to them. I won’t go into much about that here but if you haven’t read the book Born To Run, we highly recommend it. ; )
Learning how to run with a form and style that allows your body not to be reliant on advanced technology to protect it from its own movement is a great way to free yourself of the ‘need’ for high-priced footwear. Learning to run barefoot is a great start.
But not all environments are conducive to being barefoot, and some protection for your foot can be useful. Looking at the traditions of hunter-gatherers around the world, most go/went barefoot in environments and conditions that were not too cold or rugged. As conditions get more rugged, hunter-gatherers make various types of footwear. Cultures around the world have made sandals for tens (probably hundreds) of thousands of years. With the advent of rubber, and in particular rubber tires, the tire sandal has also been a ubiquitous footwear staple of cultures all over the world. They can be very easy to make, very effective, and simple.
There are already a lot of good instructions on making tire sandals so instead of writing up complete new instructions here I will just go over the basics, share some links, and some tips and insights that we have gained from all the tire sandals that we have made ourselves.
The sandals that Manuel Luna made for Barefoot Ted as told in the book Born To Run. Tire Sandal Basic Instructions:
- Find suitable tires. Most modern tires have steel belted radials in them which are really hard to cut through, believe me. Some tires that might not have steel radials are trailer tires, ‘spare’ tires, motorcycle tires, or really old tires. The other option is to use the sidewall of a modern tire. Most tires don’t have steel radials in the sidewall. You can easily get used tires for free from tire shops. Most are happy to give one to you because it costs them money to dispose of them. If you are going to use the sidewall of a tire, pick a large truck tire with the flattest sidewall you can find. Basically just look for a tire with a sidewall that is big enough for your foot to fit on. Junk and salvage yards would be a better place to look for the types of tires that might not have steel radials in the tread.
- Cut a blank chunk of rubber out of the tire. Cutting tire rubber is a lot harder than cutting our rubber soling material. It can be done with a sharp knife or utility knife but it is much easier with some better tools. Get creative, what tools do you have? A reciprocating saw may be the easiest. A hand cross-cut saw will do it. Depending on the thickness of the tire you have some heavy duty snips or shears might do it.
- Trace your footprint
- Cut out your sandals. A scroll saw is probably the easiest. A hammer and chisel works well for really thick rubber. Multiple passes with a utility knife will probably do it for thinner rubbers. The Tarahumara of Mexico just do it with a knife. Again get creative and use what you got.
- Drill some holes. A drill or hole punch is best.
- Find laces and lace ‘em up! Shoe laces, leather, cord, webbing, ribbon, etc. There are lots of options out there.
Those are the basics. Here are some other resources:
- Luna Sandals DIY Instructions
- Tire Sandals: A Guide to Comfy Hand-Crafted Footwear
- Hollowtop Tire Sandals
- DIY Tire Sandals