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FINALLY...A minimalist sandal that works!
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Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: chacos on 05/08/2013 20:24:15 MDT Print View

Am I the only one who never liked Chacos? Every one I have tried on the soles felt like boards.

Prior to the Unaweep soles Chaco soles were not so stiff, nor so immensely thick. I can't wear Chacos anymore because of the board-like feel they have now. They don't bend as easily as they used to. I begin to lose sensation in my toes.

Edited by butuki on 05/08/2013 20:27:15 MDT.

Ryan French
Re- feet feedback everyone, thanks. on 05/08/2013 21:55:43 MDT Print View

@Rusty - totally agree...this is the only reason why I didn't end up purchasing a pair and ended up making my own.

@Jim - I tried several different methods including baking in the oven, blow dryer and propane torch. I want the best method without destroying the rubber. The method that seems to work the best at the moment is the propane torch, only because the blow dryer takes too long and the oven doesn't allow me to localize the heat. I believe the best answer will likely be a heat gun with a custom mold.

@Luke - I have chacos too and stopped wearing them because they are bricks. Loved the concept but ended up wearing the keen waimeas the keen antiguas (both thong/ flip flops with molded toe protection). Only issue here is lateral support and staying on my feet when walking up and down hills and in the forest. Your idea is a good but i am trying to stay away from glue...but it led me to another idea to answer your question. See the image below...Molded strap retention
(This totally protects the side straps and really gives the feel of your foot being inside the sandal). Another one...Detail 2
So thanks again for the feedback...have been thinking about this design above and your comments on the straps reminded me of it. Only problem is I am totally out of material (after making my wife a pair).

@Spelt - I'll have to go back and take a look...but what you are saying about the combo is right on! I think if people are still interested in the classic huaraches between the toe, you should check out Bedrock Sandals. They look good.

So I am talking with my wife about possibly getting some material ordered to make some. Also, I am looking to make a couple small adjustments and test them this weekend by the campfire and all week next week through airports and on another continent. This will give me time to get the materials ordered and figure out the details.

Will keep the updates flowing. Thanks guys. This really is a great community with great feedback!


p.s. - I'll add one more photo below of a pair I made for my wife, his & hers :), notice how my pair on the left are molding to my feet after only a week of wearhis and hers

Edited by lifegearguy on 05/08/2013 21:59:57 MDT.

Karple T

Locale: Mid-Alantic
A minimalist sandal that works! on 05/09/2013 07:34:57 MDT Print View

Get a heat gun like this one.

It goes from 120 to 1200 degrees

Heat gun

Ryan French
Re: A minimalist sandal that works! on 05/09/2013 07:40:13 MDT Print View

@ Karple - I think that would be perfect! Thanks...

Michael Logan
Nice! on 05/09/2013 20:26:18 MDT Print View

These look great! I love my Chacos (and so do a number of my friends - I work for Outward Bound and sometimes I think I'm in a Chaco ad when we're all hanging out between courses) but I think they're way too heavy. Because of that I don't bring them backpacking and I always am so happy when I can get back to base and put them on. I like your thinner straps, too.

Nice work.

Ryan French
Re: Nice! on 05/10/2013 07:41:19 MDT Print View

Thanks, Michael.

I am sure the shoe/sandal companies will continue to come around but realistically, their whole business is based on foot support. It looks like New Balance is stepping out a bit (no pun intended) with their Minimus sandal line (thanks, Daniel) but working as an engineer/sales account manager in the a very dynamic environment (automotive), I can tell you first hand that suppliers & OEMs are VERY SLOW to change.

Let's see where this takes us. I am trying to reach out to some distributors & Vibram to see if I can get my hands on some other rubbers to try as well. The 6mm sport utility stuff I am using is good, but I don't want to be limited to one rubber if I don't have to.


Ryan French
Updated design... on 05/12/2013 14:21:36 MDT Print View

Well, working through some design details, I made an update on the side straps to improve two features...Sewn side strap

Two needed improvements..

1. Prevent the heel strap from slipping. This seemed to happen when running mostly but it keeps me from having to keep the straps really tight

2. To get height to prevent #1, I would have to do a double wrap on the side strap and after a full day of wearing them, I got a hot spot on the right foot, near the instep. I need to get better at using the sewing machine but I'll get there...

This design is much more comfortable and will be the way I keep them for my trip to South America this week.

My plan is to make sure there are no more design tweaks needed from feedback on the trip. If all goes well, I well I plan on seeing how many people are interested and ordering materials to make enough sandals to support those interested.

Let me know your thoughts...thanks.


Ryan French
One more photo.,. on 05/12/2013 14:43:14 MDT Print View

Just one more to show the height on the heel strap. I experimented with rubber but prefer the soft nylon for no hot spots/blisters...Heel strap sewn detail

Much better IMHO.


Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Re Updated Design on 05/12/2013 14:43:21 MDT Print View

I like it Ryan. My only suggestion would be to bring some extra strapping with you. Those seams on the side will be under a lot of stress. Now Chacos have the same design and they work so I'm not saying your design is bad, I really like it. I'm just saying that is probably the most likely failure point on these sandles. There might be some trial and error before you figure out the strongest way to sew them.

Have a good trip.

Ryan French
Re: Re Updated Design on 05/13/2013 07:39:55 MDT Print View

Thanks, Luke....good call.

I was a little hesitant to bust out the sewing machine as well so based on your feedback, I made another modification...Buckle adjusters on side

This not only accomplishes keeping the heel strap from slipping, it also allows for adjustment on both sides to really dial in the fit. Wore them like this last night after modding them, but will take a run with my wife today to see how they feel with varying terrain.

One more to add detail...
Side detail

Thanks again!

Edited by lifegearguy on 05/13/2013 07:41:10 MDT.

Gerald L
(Mtngeronimo) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: Re: chacos on 05/13/2013 09:18:29 MDT Print View

"Prior to the Unaweep soles Chaco soles were not so stiff, nor so immensely thick. I can't wear Chacos anymore because of the board-like feel they have now. They don't bend as easily as they used to. I begin to lose sensation in my toes."

+1. Didn't know the new soles were termed 'Unaweep' but they had me weeping after the $90+ purchase. Expensive door stops is what I have now. I miss my original pair. Should have resoled them.

Ryan, I would certainly consider a pair of these if/when you go into production mode.

Edited by Mtngeronimo on 05/13/2013 09:20:22 MDT.

Ryan French
Re: Re: Re: chacos on 05/13/2013 09:51:51 MDT Print View

@Gerald - thanks for the feedback. I am pretty serious about getting things rolling once I get back from my trip and with some more foot time on the sandals (to work out the kinks).

Thanks and I will keep everybody updated...


Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
buckles on 05/13/2013 10:04:54 MDT Print View

Nice idea on the buckles Ryan. Keep an eye on those buckles because I'd guess that joint there would be your most likely failure point whether you use a buckle or stitching. I noticed on my Chacos the buckle is really beefy. Those buckles may have trouble if they are twisted and pulled at odd angles.

I think your buckle idea would work but if you want to go back to sewing the x-box stitch should work well. Basically you sew a box with an X shape across it. That spreads out the stress. I doubt the webbing would rip, you'd have more to worry about from the thread tearing. Heavy duty thread should work and having multiple stiches is a good idea. You might see one unravel a bit if you make a mistake but it would be unlikely to totally fail before you could get to a sewing machine and fix it.

Oh one word on sandles if you haven't used them a lot. Expect to get some blisters. Its just the nature of the beast. I would normally rotate my sandles occasionally with running shoes so my feet gradually toughened up.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: chacos on 05/13/2013 10:11:41 MDT Print View

Keen has come out with the CNX sandals which are 12oz less per pair and added another $100 item to me gear lust list.

Agreed on the Chacos--- they could be used for riot control. Far too heavy and stiff for a sandal.

Jason Elsworth
(jephoto) - M

Locale: New Zealand
Teva Zilch on 05/13/2013 16:23:03 MDT Print View

The Teva Zilch are a pretty good minimalist sandal. I have been pleased with mine, but would prefer a little more ground feel. These look nice though.

Ryan French
Re: buckles on 05/13/2013 19:18:45 MDT Print View

@Luke - thanks...the good news with this method is the buckle s only there to add the height to keep the heel strapnfromslipping soothe straps are just a pass-through, not much load on these.


Ryan French
some serious testing these past few weeks on 05/27/2013 22:21:24 MDT Print View

As promised, I wanted to provide an update as to where I'm at with the sandals....

First of all, I can say that after 3 weeks of wearing these I could not be more thrilled. Spending summer weekends and holidays in the upper peninsula of Michigan, I run into the same problem every year, the trade-off between heavy sandals that stay on your feet (Chacos, Keens) or lightweight flip-flops that tend to cause some (obvious) problems near (and in) the rivers, lakes and forest. I also have the very same issue traveling periodically for work as I want something that will stay on my feet and not look half bad wearing with jeans to dinner.

To test these out as much as possible over the past three weeks, and to see if I could make them fail in ways suggested by some of you, here is what I have put these through:

- week of travel through airports and various cities from Detroit to Sao Paulo, Brazil
- several miles running on uneven terrain in Detroit
- chasing four-year-olds around a field for my son's first t-ball practice (i am coaching this year for the first time)
- taming a wildfire
- running in and along the shores of Lake Superior and rivers and forests of the UP
- swimming in some of the rivers as well as Lake Superior IN the sandals (extremely cold this time of year, I was told around 40F in Lake Superior, 57F in the river near our cabin and it definitely felt like it),
- wading and walking in river mud just to get the sandals as messy and slimy as possible before taking a few jogs out of the rivers and up hills to see if my feet would slip
- chopping up deadwood to stock our wood pile to heat the cabin
- hiking through the thick forests of Upper Michigan, crossing over beaver dams, walking through sand dunes
- up and down logs, sand hills, rocks,

I am sure I missed a few things but as you can see, I basically put these things on in the morning and didn't take them off until night just to make sure I wasn't missing anything. I will say that other than an interesting tan line, I experienced no blisters, hot spots, bruises, cuts, etc. I have never been this satisfied with a pair of sandals and, at the very least, my search for the perfect spring, summer, fall shoe/sandal has come to an end. The strap design + molded footbed definitely locks in the foot for the second skin feel. Even swimming with the sandals on worked out quite well and I never once felt as though they were going to come off, either in the water or walking through the river bottom muck.

So...I tried to throw together a quick blog to at least show some photos and (not so great) video of some of the experiences I've had so far through this process. Instead of trying to post of all the photos here (and not being able to duplicate the videos), I will provide the link: This site is a work in progress but seems to handle photos well.

My plan is to start a new thread in an appropriate location on the forum early this week(gear deals? gear swap?) and see how many are interested in buying a pair (for a little above cost and shipping) to wear and provide feedback.

Let me know your thoughts...


Edited by lifegearguy on 05/27/2013 22:24:25 MDT.

Gerald L
(Mtngeronimo) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: some serious testing these past few weeks on 05/27/2013 23:51:25 MDT Print View

Ryan, Great report. I'm impressed that you had such great success with the early prototype. Certainly some rigorous testing thus far.

I was curious if the heel side ladder locks were going to cause hot spots (?).

Are you satisfied with the Vibram gumlite sole and are you still considering other materials?

I would definitely like to R&D a pair as soon as you have them available. There may be sandal life after my 1st gen. Chacos after all.

By the way, Exodus Sandals is a great name.


Ryan French
Re: Re: some serious testing these past few weeks on 05/28/2013 06:45:21 MDT Print View

Thanks for the interest and taking the time to reply...greatly appreciated.

Regarding the side ladder locks, no hot spots at all. And I have had sand from the lake caked in between (on purpose) without issue. Actually the reason for the side ladder locks is two-fold: 1) I wanted a way to add height & adjustment to the heel strap without sewing (potential fail point)...this prevents that strap from sliding down the back of your heel, 2) with a three point system, one on each side and one on the top, you can really dial in a perfect fit. Prior to this, I wrapped te strap around itself a couple times to get some height but experienced hot spots. Not any more :).

Regarding the material, I have ordered some other sample materials and in talks with a few people at Vibram to see if there is something better but I have no complaints this far. Plus, I need a durable rubber that is moldable without degradation in quality/durability, so far this is the best out of two I have tried. Another few samples are on the way.

Thanks again,

Daniel Fish

Locale: PDX
... on 05/28/2013 07:03:25 MDT Print View


Edited by on 06/08/2013 19:03:47 MDT.