Huaraches – flat leather knot

As part of my exploration of minimalist footwear and the barefoot movement, I bought one of the huarache kits from Barefoot Ted. The kit I bought included 4mm Vibram Cherry rubber sole material and leather laces. The one thing I did not like about the standard huaraches is having a thick knot of leather in the front, right under the webbing of the first and second toe. As a much thinner alternative, I applied a different method. A leather dog lead we have has a twist in the connection of the handle loop. I applied a similar twist design to the front knot of the leather huaraches strap. The result was a flat leather “knot” that is almost the same thickness as the original leather strap. ┬áHere are a few pictures of this flat leather “knot.”

huarache - flat knot

huarache - flat knot

huarache - flat knot

Here are the instructions for making the flat leather knot:

  1. Cut the slit – Starting about an inch or so back from the end of the leather strap, make a very short slit in the very center of the strap. The slit needs to be as close to the center as possible for a couple of reasons. It avoids accidentally cutting out the side of the strap. It also lets each side of the slit be stronger and more uniform. The length of the slit should be just slightly longer than the width of the leather strap. It can always be lengthened if needed. But, once the slit is lengthened, it cannot be shortened. So, only cut as much as needed and make the slit longer only if and when necessary.
  2. Fold the end – Once the slit is cut, fold the end of the leather back towards the slit. The end of the leather should be about the middle of the slit. Lengthen the slit if needed and put the end of the strap through the slit.
  3. Pull the end – After the end is through the slit, pull on the end to make the strap almost flat again. This results in a single twist in the leather on each side of the slit. The rest of the leather remains flat.
  4. Repeat – Repeat the prior two steps to make a double twist in the leather on each side of the slit. When the end is pulled and tension is applied to the leather, the double twists effectively widens the slit into an ‘O’ shape. When tension is released, the leather tries to untwist. This results in the shape shown in the pictures.

Additional notes:

For the front hole in the sole material, I did not use a hole punch. Instead, I used a pointed center punch to make a very small hole and then used a drill bit held in my fingers to widen it just a very little bit. The drill bit was almost as thick as the leather. I then used the hooked end of the fingernail cleaner/file on my Leatherman Micra to push the leather through the hole, stretching the rubber as needed. I didn’t want something sharp as it could cut the leather end. This keeps the hole as small as possible with as much support as possible around the hole. The unsliced end has to be long enough so that it cannot easily fit back through the twisted slice. This helps to keep it from coming undone when in motion.

Make the slice as short as possible. The length needed may vary by width and/or thickness of the leather. When I did my first one, I made the slice too short and the end wouldn’t go through the second time. I extended the slice just enough so it could go through. Then, I extended it just a little more to allow pulling the end out flat. You can always make the slice longer, but you can’t make it shorter. Be careful you don’t angle the slice as it can get too close to the edge. This would weaken the ‘spring’ of the twist in the leather. That ‘spring’ in the twist helps hold the end flat against the sole. I angled the slice on my second one and had to trim off the end and start it over.

While the flat leather knot requires a knife to cut the slice, the minimal thickness of the result is much more comfortable than a multi-layered knot. This is especially true if you are not used to having a knot under your foot as I was. Once you get used to it, a knot with extra thickness may not be as uncomfortable as it was when first starting out with huaraches. Of course, if it ever breaks while out on the trail, a traditional knot can still be used to get you home again.