What are Huaraches?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

When it comes to comfortable footwear, many people believe that there are few slip-on models that can compare with a good pair of huaraches. These sandals traditionally were made entirely of leather, although modern versions often have rubber soles and might be made of nylon or corded fabric. In Spanish, huarache means "sandal," which is the traditional form of footwear that bears this name, but the term also might be used to describe any type of low-rising footwear that closes with a strap.

Starting in the 1930s, huaraches made from recycled tires became popular.
Starting in the 1930s, huaraches made from recycled tires became popular.


Huaraches originated in Mexico hundreds of years ago. For much of their history, these sandals were made with handwoven leather strips across the tops, and they featured a leather sole. Many villagers and peasants favored huaraches because they were long-lasting, comfortable and relatively inexpensive to make. A good pair of these sandals could last for several years, even when worn daily.

Huaraches originated in Mexico hundreds of years ago.
Huaraches originated in Mexico hundreds of years ago.

Growth in Popularity

During the 1930s, a variation on the all-leather sandal construction began to appear. Instead of using leather for the sole of the sandal, the idea of using old rubber from recycled tires began to gain popularity. Used tires were less expensive than the leather that had been used for generations, so the new hybrid huaraches quickly caught on with many people in Mexico. By the 1950s, these sandals had gaining popularity elsewhere, including in the United States, where they were especially popular as beachwear.

Modern Variations

Modern huaraches tend to follow the pattern of a rubber sole paired with leather strips across the top of the sandal. The use of durable materials such as nylon and corded fabric instead of leather has become popular, however. This change has also spurred some variations in the sandals' appearance. Originally available only in natural leather shades, modern versions are available in a rainbow of colors.

The original slip-on design is still available, but huaraches that feature adjustable straps have become popular. Along with the strip design that fits comfortably over the top of the foot, there also are versions that use a weave design. Regardless of the design, these sandals have continued to be a popular choice for casual footwear that allows the foot to breathe on a hot day.


Shoe stores that feature selections for casual footwear often display several models of huaraches prominently throughout the year. Many beach stores carry these sandals as part of their beachwear lines. Just as they did centuries ago, huaraches continue to be comfortable, durable footwear that is available for a relatively small cost.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


I want an authentic pair so bad. My husband went to Mexico and brought me back a tire sole sandal made from beautiful leather, stitched beautifully and it lasted forever. That was ten years ago and I have been searching the internet for a find and have come up with fake wannabe Mexican sandals that look poorly made and no tire sole.

Can we get some really fine mexican products over here please? I'd pay $200 if someone can get me some.


@anon108581 Get over your "Mexicanness" and look up"Tarahumara" these are the natives of Northwestern Mexico, who happen to run hundreds of miles on huaraches, real huaraches. Not the T.J. inspired "hey let's make a shoe outta that" thing you've described. I've worn both types, and seen people running in both types, either from Federalés or in a race.


It's amazing how wrong people can be when describing something belonging to another culture. Having grown up among people who wore huaraches exclusively, I saw these tire-soled sandals for what they are and not for what an Americano has decided they are.

Essentially, a huarache is a sandal made from a car or truck rubber tire sole. Nothing more. Ninety-nine percent are used for walking and working with nary a thought about running. No strap runs between the large toe and the toe next to it. They are held on either by leather straps, inner-tube pieces or with cordage made from agave leaves. And that, folks, is a real huarache! Nothing more. They are simple, cheap and effective. But they are not for running.

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