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My perfect homemade shoes
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Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
My perfect homemade shoes on 03/20/2011 15:33:32 MDT Print View

I finally achieved what I was hoping for. I made some comfortable hiking shoes that are functional, feel good and perform well.

I have been trying to make shoes that are wide enough for me so that I don't try and compensate for a lack of width in other ways. Doing that is part of the reason I had a lot of foot pain after hiking the PCT. I also thought I would try minimalist hiking shoes to try to build stronger feet. In the process I found a level of minimalism that actually feels better to me than standard trail running shoes.

The soles have simply one layer of thin leather (that the uppers are outstitched to) and a layer of 8mm Vibram Newflex soling sheet glued to the bottom. Additionally there is 1/8" of "Cloud" soling sheet on the inside as an insole. This is just enough to protect me from rocks without compromising flexibility. The purpose of the insole is to minimize slipping of my foot inside the shoe. Without it there is still a little slippage which is tiring on a long hike. The small amount of cushioning feels pretty good, too.

I added an ugly little thing on the front to hold my gaiters on. Next time I'll make that thing more decorative.

They are leather so have some of the drawbacks of leather. Honestly, leather performs pretty well despite its slow-drying and non-breathable qualities. These are not as bad as I thought they would be.

I'm really happy with these and once they wear out I will take them apart and make a pattern from them so I can make them again. I have used them on day hikes and short overnight backpack trips, on good trails and on bushwhacking adventures. I plan to do a longer backpack in them in the future.

The reason they look bad is they are dirty from being worn a lot and still drying from getting wet yesterday.

Perfect shoes with gaiters

Perfect shoes without gaiters

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: My perfect homemade shoes on 03/20/2011 15:40:32 MDT Print View

What kind of leather is it, and where do you buy it? Or, is it recycled?


Vick Hines
(vickrhines) - F

Locale: Central Texas
Re: My perfect homemade shoes on 03/20/2011 16:09:44 MDT Print View

Nice job. I like the minimalist approach and have been using 5-fingers and highly modified Nike Free Trails for strength building and therapy. I have not worked up the nerve to make any shoe from scratch. Now I'm inspired.

William Johnson
Foot Power! on 03/20/2011 17:49:05 MDT Print View


Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Re: My perfect homemade shoes on 03/20/2011 18:34:43 MDT Print View

The uppers were probably scrap upholstery leather. The leather they are stitched to were samples and had writing all over them. They are also lined with leather from a skirt I bought from the thrift store.

At first I thought these were a failure. I revised them last week by cutting them inward toward my arches to make them more form-fitting and removing a layer of cushioning and suddenly they felt perfect.

Removing the cushioning was counter-intuitive, but it was a huge improvement. The improvement in flexibility was the key. Suddenly I'm flying along the trails pain-free. My feet still hurt since my PCT hike in 2009 and I've been searching in vain for a solution.

In the future, if I purchase minimalist shoes the requirement for me will be no more than ~10mm of soling or else I won't bother with them. I may find a shoemaker who can make my shoes for me so I won't have to have such funny-looking shoes. But for now, this works.

Matthew Bishop
(mattsbishop) - F - M

Locale: Northern Frontrange, Colorado
Good job! on 03/22/2011 13:39:45 MDT Print View

Good job Piper! Every time I pop back in here you're making more progress. I've been having fun experimenting with different lacing patterns through plain soling sheets to make 'barefoot-style' sandals. I'd really like to make my own hiking shoes someday, since I have width issues myself (wide forefoot/narrow heel) and those show me that it just might work!

FWIW, those shoes look pretty cool to me :) You have inspired me and I am now going in search of books on cobbling.

Nick Larsen
(stingray4540) - F

Locale: South Bay
Nice kicks! on 03/24/2011 14:18:35 MDT Print View

Awesome! I've always wanted to try simple shoes like that. Where did you get the outer and inner soling? How did you figure out the pattern?

TIP: Treat them with beeswax! "Sno-Seal" and "montana pitch blend" are good pre-made, easy to find brands. Apply liberally, then melt in with hair dry, repeat until leather will no longer absorb the wax. You're leather shoes will be as waterproof as goretex...
I have some experience with leather, trust me and give it a try. DO NOT use silicone or spray on waterproofing, they are a waste of money.

T kawa
(kitsune) - F
Re: Nice kicks! on 03/24/2011 14:52:23 MDT Print View

Piper, awesome, I think they look great! when can I buy a pair=D

Nick, why not just neatsfoot oil?

Nick Larsen
(stingray4540) - F

Locale: South Bay
Re: Re: Nice kicks! on 03/24/2011 16:45:19 MDT Print View

Neatsfoot oil, and Mink oil are good for keeping the leather conditioned and soft, and is usually one of the main ingredients of wax based waterproofing.
However, by itself, it doesn't offer the same protection from water as the wax.

I personally prefer Montana Pitch Blend dressing, the addition of pine pitch really helps the water repelency, however, the wax itself probably doesn't need the help. I make something similar at home with beeswax, neatsfoot oil(mink is expensive), and pine pitch.
Here is a nice write up on the different ingredients:

also some links to the products:

If I get either of the above and they seems thin(oily) I will usually melt them down in a double boiler and add more beeswax which can be had at Michaels or any craft/candle store.

Oh, and here's a little write up I found on sno-seal:

Edited by stingray4540 on 03/24/2011 16:49:37 MDT.

James Winstead

Locale: CA
Awesome! on 03/30/2011 19:52:54 MDT Print View


Awesome!! These look great. Interesting about the removal of the padding actually making them more comfortable.

If you don't mind sharing, what is your source for the vibram sole?

Edited by James_W on 03/30/2011 19:54:04 MDT.