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Ultralight sandals...?
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Andrew Schriner
(lettheguydance) - F

Locale: Midwest
Ultralight sandals...? on 07/17/2010 16:59:39 MDT Print View

I spent quite some time recently looking for a sufficiently light pair of sandals to wear around camp and for stream crossings. Previously I had used Vibram Fivefingers, which, though really comfortable, prevent the wearing of socks. Cold camp feet ensued outside of summer. I've seen some other options out there aiming at the same goal I was:

Both suffer from the same sock problem as my Fivefingers, although in the first link the creator also modified socks to wear with thong-style sandals. I guess that's one way to go, but I don't want a pair of specialty socks reserved for that purpose.

Since I found existing options lacking, I set about making my own camp/stream-crossing sandals. What I present here is my third version of sandals that I've been using for about 6 months now on various trips with good results. I figured that after milking these and other forums for MYOG ideas and techniques, it was time I put some of my knowledge out there for the greater good. Hopefully others find this design useful!

Here are the sandals on a professional foot model ( homemade ultralight sandals

They are made of 3/4" nylon webbing and a 1/2" thick closed cell EVA foam. The straps tighten down with velcro, and are sized to fit tightly on my bare foot (for stream crossings) at their smallest up to loosely over a sock for lounging at camp at their biggest. The left and right have different soles (I was testing two types). The right has a 1/64" sheet of plastic for stiffness and a 1/32" thick piece of rubber for traction glued to the bottom, and the left just has Shoe-Goo smeared across the bottom of the foam.
Rubber soleRubber sole on right sandal

The one with the rubber sole weighs 2.1oz, and the one without weighs 1.1oz. Note those weights are for one sandal, not a pair of that type.

One thing that I learned really helps in terms of fit and keeping the sandal on your foot is this heel strap. It attaches to the footbed around the middle of the foot and wraps around the heel, keep your foot in the sandal when you're walking up a hill. Having it attach to the footbed where it does is very important; if you just attach it to the other rear strap, as with some commercially available (heaving, stiffer) sandals, the whole thing shifts backwards when walking uphill and your foot slides off the back. Having the little loops on the main rear strap also helps keep the heel strap up high so it doesn't slide down under your foot.

To make these, I outlined my foot and added some extra around the edges, especially in the toes. You can always trim down later if you decide it's too big. I then cut that shape out of 1/2" foam, and the rubber, and plastic. I cut 6 small holes with an Xacto knife in the foam: 1 on each side of my heel, 1 on each side just short of the middle of my foot, and 1 on each side just behind my toes. They should be right up against, or even a little under, the edge of your foot for best fit. These holes are for threading the nylon webbing through.

I then took two pieces of nylon webbing, longer than I thought I needed so I could trim them down, and sewed the plastic loops into one end of each (for the part where the strap doubles back before the velcro). I then threaded these two straps, plus the plain one for the heel strap, through the holes in the foam. The way I made it I used only three sections of webbing per sandal; the webbing goes over the foot, through a hole in the footbed, under the foam, and back up through the opposite hole. You could probably use 5 pieces (two for the front two straps and one for the heel) and the sewing/fitting might be a bit easier, but you have to make sure they are well anchored under the foam. Next I marked the webbing where I wanted the velcro to go to achieve my fitting goals described above and sewed the velcro onto the straps. You should add the retaining loops on the main rear strap (the ones that hold up the heel strap) now. Then I smeared Shoe-Goo on the bottom of both, and for the right one I added the additional layers, and the left I just let cure. That's it!

If you'd like to set about making your own, I'd recommend McMaster Carr for the foam and rubber. They sell about one hundred million different types of foam and foam rubber. Here's what I used:
foam: part #86095K44
plastic: part #8652K71
rubber: part #8445K141
They sell most of these in various thicknesses, so you can make the whole package lighter by going with thinner materials if you want. If/when I make another pair of these, I think I will skip the plastic, but keep the rubber, and see if I can get a thinner rubber. Maybe a thinner, stiffer foam too.

I would be interested to hear if anyone else makes a pair of these, and what they used, and how well it works.

If it turns out that people are really interested in making these and want more detailed instructions, I would be happy to post that too.


Robert Dusing
(morob325) - F

Locale: texas
light myog sandals on 07/18/2010 11:38:18 MDT Print View

very interested in more details. How much grip do each of the soles provide? How long will the shoes last? What were rough costs?

I'm really excited about these and am looking how to into how to adjust my materials choices(read: thicknesses) as well for when I make a pair of my own.

they look great

Colin Matthews
(litebrite) - F

Locale: Canadian Rockies
Thumbs Up on 07/18/2010 17:09:27 MDT Print View

Those are awesome! Great job. They look kind of like Chacos.
I'd be interested to hear what the durability is like on the pair without the rubber outsole.

Andrew Schriner
(lettheguydance) - F

Locale: Midwest
More detail! on 07/18/2010 20:01:40 MDT Print View

Glad you like them and may find the design useful!

The two different sole styles seem to provide about the same grip. That is, I've never noticed a difference between them while wearing them, but that's obviously a highly unscientific answer. I'm actually surprised that I've never had any issues with traction - I can't recall having ever slipped while wearing them. There's not really any "tread" to speak of, even on the rubber-soled one. It's just a lightly textured surface.

Here's the one that's just smeared with Shoe-Goo. I expect this one won't last as long as the rubber-soled one, as there are already a lot of cracks showing up and it's peeling in some places.
:Shoe-Goo sandal treadCracked Shoe-Goo sole

I can't say how long they will last, because I haven't worn out any of the current design yet. I can tell you the rubber-soled one is basically "like new", while the other one has cracks and peeling in the sole, and has an imprint from my foot in the foam. I guess the plastic and/or rubber layers help distribute pressure better so the foam doesn't wear out as quickly.

I think the cost came out around $25 if you were to make a pair with the plastic layer and rubber sole.
12"x12" piece of:
1/2" thick foam: ~$8
1/64" hard plastic: ~$5
1/32" rubber: ~$5

You also need velcro, webbing, and plastic loops. Probably about $5 for the small quantities you would need. Quest Outfitters sells all of those parts. Note their lightweight webbing would be great for these. I didn't use it because I had some other stuff around, but I bought some for another project, and it's quite nice.

As you go about choosing your materials, I can tell you about some other densities and thicknesses of foam from McMaster Carr that I have used for shoulder straps and hipbelt padding. A 1/8", denser EVA foam, (part# 8647K411), would probably work well for a really thin and light version. Unfortunately I didn't weigh it before cutting pieces out, so I don't know the exact density of it. If I get real ambitious I might try to make a good approximation of the area of the piece I have left and figure the density. They also sell the same thing I mentioned in the previous post in 3/8" and 1/4" thicknesses, which might work well too. Obviously it's a balance between weight, comfort, and durability, and I haven't tested enough foams out to say definitively what is the best. I think the ideal would be something like cheap commercial flip flops, but I've never been able to find exactly that. Another tidbit from testing though: I found with an earlier version which was just foam, no sole or Shoe-Goo, that when crossing a stream, moving water would fold the toe section way back under the foot. It was annoying at best, and perhaps dangerous at worst, because it made it a little harder to maneuver a foot through the stream.

Lastly - speaking of looks, another benefit: my ladyfriend thinks these make me look like a gladiator (...?). Next I will begin work on my ultralight sword and shield...

Chris Lucas
(ChemE) - F

Locale: SC
Cool Project! on 07/18/2010 21:47:09 MDT Print View

I'll be trying my own pair soon. I'm planning on using my Surefoot insert as a template. I found what would appear to be a lighter and more resilient foam compared to the parts you list (85175K77). Some 1/2" grosgrain and 1/2" velcro should make sure some very lightweight Chacos!

Edited to make the link handle McMaster's evil linking system.

Edited by ChemE on 07/18/2010 21:56:13 MDT.

Andrew Schriner
(lettheguydance) - F

Locale: Midwest
Lighter options on 07/19/2010 17:45:51 MDT Print View

I like the 1/2" web idea. If you go with grosgrain, you probably want to go the route of having 5 pieces of webbing, rather than 3, since the grosgain is probably not flexible enough to wrap smoothly around the necessary angles on the footbed. You can also work it out to be lighter with the 5-webbing route, since you eliminate the unnecessary webbing running under the footbed. Just make sure to anchor the ends solidly so they don't pull out.

I don't know if grosgrain would be that comfortable though, both because of the stiffness and the kind of "sharp" edge against your skin. If you go that way let us know how it works.

As for foam, I realized the product number above doesn't point to the denser foam I bought - try 8647K41 (the extra 1 was I think for 1 foot). That should bring it up. I did measure and weigh the piece of that that I have, and it comes in right about 10.0 lbs/cu ft (it is listed on the McMaster website as 7-11 lbs/cu ft).

I did the same for the lighter, softer foam (mentioned in the first post and out of which my sandals are made), and it comes in at 2.4 lbs/ cu ft (listed at 2 lbs/cu ft).

Finally, if you're still looking for grams to shave, maybe try a different adhesive. The Shoe-Goo is pretty thick, and I ended up with a thicker-than-necessary layer. Maybe you can thin it down, or use thinned-down Seam Grip, or maybe some kind of contact cement even.

Chris Lucas
(ChemE) - F

Locale: SC
Thanks for the Feedback on 07/19/2010 18:44:49 MDT Print View

I appreciate your feedback since you've actually built these things and I'm just spit balling. I'm always looking for grams to shave. While I realize many would consider this item optional (and thus able to be shaved to 0) it seems a good bit of comfort for a tiny weight penalty.

Mark Emerson
(Quack) - F
toe socks on 07/22/2010 15:48:05 MDT Print View

You mentioned that you didn't want specialty socks but what when i run long distances in my VFF's or wear them hiking i wear Injinji brand socks. Work out just great.

There's another couple comparable brands but i haven't tried them.

Kyle Caminita
(giant_kyle) - F
possible soles on 08/13/2010 10:16:05 MDT Print View sells vibram soles. I realize they may not be the lightest...but you could make these last a long time with these soles on the bottom.

Andrew Schriner
(lettheguydance) - F

Locale: Midwest
Soles on 08/13/2010 10:26:15 MDT Print View

Cool find! Like you said, they won't make the lightest sandals, but if you wanted to make a more durable pair for everyday wear, that's the ticket.

Has anybody out there gotten around to making a pair of these yet? I'm quite curious to hear about results and modifications.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Ultralight sandals...? on 08/13/2010 12:56:56 MDT Print View

Wow you did a great job. The people on the huraches google group would be interested in your design.

Jason Knecht
(distortedaxis) - F

Locale: Earth
Cool. on 08/14/2010 10:10:15 MDT Print View

I like where you are going with this. Sure beats +1lbs Tevas.

I found these on eBay.

Supposedly 6 ounces per pair at size 13.

Edited by distortedaxis on 08/14/2010 10:11:42 MDT.

David Heath
(snowguy) - F

Locale: Boulder Colorado
Ultra lite camp shoes on 08/14/2010 14:52:34 MDT Print View

Along these same lines I wanted some camp shoes to wear at the end of the day that would keep my feet warm and dry. I assumed that my trail runners would be wet from afternoon showers or stream crossings. At camp I remove the insole from my day shoes and let them dry overnight. Meanwhile in camp I wear a fresh , dry pair of socks and tyvek booties with 3/8" closed cell foam (Camp pad foam) inserts for comfort. These are not adequate for walking very far or stream crossing but do keep my feet dry and warm in camp. Each bootie weighs about .75 ozTyvek/closed cell foam bootie
I also made some wicked ugly closed cell moccassins that weigh 1 oz per moc.Closed cell foam moccassins

Ben Crowell
(bcrowell) - F

Locale: Southern California
Re: Ultra lite camp shoes on 08/14/2010 17:52:48 MDT Print View

Cool ideas, David! Who are your suppliers for the tyvek booties and 3/8" foam?

Chris Lucas
(ChemE) - F

Locale: SC
Tyvek Booties on 08/14/2010 18:24:37 MDT Print View

Grainger sells Tyvek booties all day everyday. We buy them all the time for training courses where I work.


The only problem is they are way too expensive for MYOG.

Chris Lucas
(ChemE) - F

Locale: SC
Better Quantity/Price on 08/14/2010 18:27:03 MDT Print View

Uline Source

Better but 20 is probably still too many for MYOG.

EDIT: Single Pairs Available Here

Edited by ChemE on 08/14/2010 18:28:50 MDT.

David Heath
(snowguy) - F

Locale: Boulder Colorado
ultralite camp shoes on 08/15/2010 00:14:51 MDT Print View

I got the tyvek booties from They have a version with non slip vinyl soles for about $2-$3 a pair.
I cut up an old 3/8" foam camping pad for the insoles

EDIT Upon field use the tyvek punctured far to easily. I then glued the foam to the outside of the tyvek and added some no-slip self adhesive rubber (usually used on stair steps) to the foam soles. This change brings the weight up to 1.5 oz per shoe. Improved soles

Edited by snowguy on 08/24/2010 14:10:23 MDT.