The Barefoot FAQ


Q22: Is there such a thing as soleless footwear?

Bare Bottoms or soleless sandals

Yes! They are called "barefoot sandals," "soleless sandals" or simply "barebottoms." They are really just a leather strap worn to make it appear to a casual observer that you're wearing sandals even though your soles and toes remain naturally and comfortably bare.

Experience with them indicates that they do in fact fool people, the "No Bare Feet" crowd being the chief target. The theory is that an observer's brain doesn't notice anything unusual in peripheral vision, not enough to glance down. People who do glance down may feel too stupid asking a question even though they may realize that "something's wrong with this picture."

Several examples of barefoot sandals that can easily be constructed are shown below.


You used to be able to get them from American Science & Surplus in Skokie, IL; however, they're all sold out and no more are being made. The description:

A pair of 1/2" x 33" leather straps with a buckle on one end and a couple of small slits with brass studs along the way. The idea was to thread the strap around your big toe and arch passing through the slits on the way. Viola! Something that looked like a sandal but wasn't. Perfect to get into a "No shoes, No service" spot. Made in 1967 for the anti-establishment soleless folks.

and photo showing them being modeled:

should enable you to make your own or enable a local craftsperson to make you a pair.


Another version is made from the nylon utility straps commonly used by backpackers and others.

utility straps ... ... become barebottom sandals

This is a pair of pre-cut 42" x 3/4" accessory straps, complete with side-release buckles, purchased at a local outfitter's store (in this case, REI) for just $3.50. These seem to work just fine as-is, with no modifications whatsoever. The slits used in the leather BareBottoms seem to be completely unnecessary; in fact, I think that they're more free to adjust to different foot positions without them.

The visual effect (from above) is something like a Teva sandal. I didn't bother trimming off the extra length; I just used rubber bands to hold the folded-up free end fast to the strap behind the buckle. After all, they might be useful as accessory straps when not being worn on the feet :-).

They go on very quickly: Just hold the rubber-banded part against the outside of the ankle with one hand, with the free end of the strap coming out at your Achilles' tendon. With the other hand, wrap the strap over the ankle, across the top of the foot, across the sole, around the big toe, and finally clip it together.


A third variation has a slighty different constuction and wrapping pattern:

leather straps ... ... become barebottom sandals

The inventor, Kriss, writes:

I got my material from the Tandy Leather store. If there is no store near you, they have a website where it can be ordered. The leather strips are called "Natural Cowhide Strips, 3/4 inch" and are listed under "Belt Blanks without Snaps." I got the 50" lengths. They also carry 72" lengths.

First thing I did was dye the outside of the strips dark brown. Then at about the middle of each strip I placed it under my big toe, wrapped it around crossing on top, then down around my foot, crossing underneath my foot at about where my arch is, then back behind my heel crossing again, then around to the front of my ankle.

I found that due to the thickness and width of the material, the part going around the toe needs to be a lot narrower to look and feel right. I trimmed it so that it kind of tapers to roughly 1/4" around my toe at the bottom.

Initially, I just fastened the leather strips around my ankle with a heavy paper clip and wore them a while around the house. Then I decided that they needed more stability, so I sewed some stitches into the loop where it crosses my big toe at the top, also stitched where it crosses underneath my foot. Once I was satisfied that it all fit and worked OK, I made final trims on the ends of the strips and sewed on Velcro to keep them fastened around my ankles.

At first, they were just a little uncomfortable - they hurt around my toe, and they hurt a little underneath where the leather crossed under my arch. A little Vaseline helped a lot as I wore them around the house for several days. It didn't take very long until they began to feel fine. I have now worn them out in public for hours at a time without any problem or any discomfort.


Barefoot Gaiters

These are leather coverings for the tops of your feet and arches: the toes, balls, and heels of your feet remain bare. These are good for warmth. If you can't get these ready-made, a good leather crafter can make them for you inexpensively. Or, if you would like to make them yourself, there are detailed instructions on pp. 74-78 of The Barefoot Hiker.

Barefoot Sandals
These are an even more intricate design than Hawaiian Sno-Shoes in that there is a portion that wraps up your lower leg. A catalog of these may be obtained by contacting:
The River Studio, Inc.
1013 Azaleamum Drive
Three Rivers, MI 49093
(616) 273-2488
(616) 273-3310 (FAX)
Hawaiian Sno-Shoes
These are also a soleless sandal, but are more intricate than Bare Bottoms. They loop around your "index toe" and your ankle. A catalog of these, in various styles and colors, may be obtained by writing to:
Hawaiian Sno-Shoes
301 Moose Hill Road
Monroe, CT 06468

A graphic is available at: www.bhthom.org/hawaiian.htm

Nyoshoos
Another intricate soleless sandal similar to Hawaiian Sno-Shoes. An online catalog is available via Seaheart.

What do you wear when you
are forced to wear shoes?