Best Huaraches Reviewed & Rated
Huaraches are traditional sandals worn by indigenous North Americans, mainly Mexicans, during the Pre-Columbian era. (The time before Spaniards and other Europeans sailed in, conquered the lands, and nearly wiped everyone out.) Prior to this term, they used to go by their earlier names; Warachi and Kwarachi (roughly meaning “sandals” in their original Pure’pecha language).
Huaraches are only considered true and authentic if they’re “home-made” (as opposed to being manufactured and mass-produced). They’re flat-heeled, have uppers with leather strips, and are usually open-toed. And they’re made mainly of leather for their soles and straps. During the introduction of automobiles in the 1930s, the leather soles were replaced by synthetic rubber from recycled tires; thereby giving them that “tread” look.
- Plaka Palm Leaf
- Braided Rope
- Accentuates Foot Shape
- Naturalizer Wendy
- Great comfort
- Freebird By Steven Gulf
- Calf Hair
- Earthy Feel
Typically worn by farmers in countryside communities, they would eventually gain in popularity among some religious orders like the Catholic Church’s Franciscan Friars, and also in the 1960s with hippies and the baby boomer generation. Some huarache wearers saw them last for 10 to 20 years. It can difficult to find a pair that would fit properly since they were handmade without standard sizing. Even now, it takes a while to get a handmade pair to work around your foot but often well worth the effort. (A good tip is to massage the leather with your hand. Another is to wet them and walk around in them for a day.)
10 Best Huaraches
1. Plaka Palm Leaf
The charm of the Plaka Palm Leaf sandal lies with the beautifully crafted and interwoven rope straps. Criss crossing patterns of braids help keep you in the sandal, and accentuate the natural beauty of the foot. Ropes have some stretch to them for a bit of adjustability. The Palm Leaf is available in so many amazing colors and color combinations that you are certain to find one you can fall in love with!
Along with its open air feel and design, this huarache style sandal is made of materials that help make it waterproof, making it a great option for beaches, pools, vacation spots, or water activities in general. A grippy rubber sole adds to the traction at the base of the flat, and some comfort is found in the cushy footbed.
Cost and Value
By no means expensive compared to other models of shoes, the Plaka Palm Leaf huarache is a beautifully constructed, high quality sandal that is sure to win compliments. Braided rope strap adorn the foot in a decorative fashion, while grip is found in the rubber sole for slippery surfaces. Perfect for sandal lovers, or those looking for something with a bohemian flair in their footwear.
Can Cause Sweat
2. Naturalizer Wendy
Any pair of shoes with the word "huarache" in it should be made of leather. That's one of the main criteria for the shoes to be considered true huaraches. The leather straps are on the Wendys are elaborately woven throughout the sandals and have a nice decorative front on them.
Several Luxurious Colors
The leather also comes in several decorative colors; giving you a choice of what to match your "clothing style of the day" with. There are even several different shades of brown; one of them with blue, yellow, and red straps if you want to be more Earthy or "natural."
Cost And Value
They are not as pricey as other shoes in the list, falling in the low-range. These sandals will be worth every penny if what you want are closest to true huaraches. They are elaborately woven and stylish and will become a favorite sandal.
- Leather huaraches
- Choice of colors
- Synthetic rubber soles
- Elaborately woven
- Adjustable backstrap
- Material may tear
- Sole may peel
3. Freebird by Steven Gulf
The Freebird by Steven Gulf keeps an open toe, with a strap that crosses the forefoot at the base of the metatarsals. A wide t-strap connects the toe strap to the ankle, allowing for a snug fit, while buckle closure along the ankle helps add adjustability for comfort. Woven detail is seen on the t-strap to add a beautiful earthy element to the sandal.
The Gulf also maintains a very simplistic design about it, making this huarache true to its name. Leather sole is stitched with care, and has minimal padding, giving it a nearly barefoot feel that minimalist footwear enthusiasts will love. Calf hair uppers give it a soft feel and contribute to its earthy appeal. With a couple color options, you can choose from orange or tan to compliment your style tastes.
Cost and Value
Another relatively average priced huarache style sandal, the Freebird by Steven Gulf is perfect for minimalist enthusiasts. Its leather sole gives nearly a barefoot feel, while woven detail and calf hair construction add an earthy soulful element to the design. A beautifully thought out design sure to flatter your attire!
4. Brand X Pachuco
Done in Mexico, this process is a natural and non-chemical process that gives the leather vibrant colors and keeps the moisture off. It also helps the leather to comfortably mold to the shape of your feet.
Dual Density Cushion Midsoles
Being able to walk comfortably in these huaraches is also important. The color of these midsoles match beautifully with the leather straps and the rest of the huaraches.
Cost And Value
Since they're hand-crafted and sold in a small shop (instead of being mass-produced and sold at a big-box store), you would expect a high price tag. However, these huaraches are at the low end of the price range. You won’t regret the purchase at such a reasonable price.
5. Earth Origins Nellie
This easy slip on style sandal has a plush footbed with perforations, which will help to not only keep your feet cool, but help pad them in plush cushion with every step. Cushioned arch support also provides some structural stability, great for those with flat arches, or prefer added support. Airy and lightweight, this breathable sandal will have you walking the extra mile out on the town!
Interwoven straps that make the Earth Origins Nellie, and mad from burnished calf leather, but also keep and adjustable and firm fit with the elastic goring found along the sides. A small toe cap provides some protection against debris getting into the shoe, or from the occasional toe stubs. Rubber outsole is texture for proper traction, even on slippery surfaces.
Cost and Value
Similar to other brands and models on out top ten list, the Earth Origins Nellie is relatively budget friendly for a quality pair of comfortable sandals. Cushioned footbed and arch support help add structure and comfort to the sandal, while strappy leather interweaves to form stylish uppers. A great option for those who like a bit of a simpler design in their huarache style sandals, and some added footbed cushion.
Comfort and Cushion
6. Volcom Kali
Most any huarache style sandal you encounter has some sort of strappy leather styling to it, and the Volcom Kali maintains that in the form of a slip on thong sandal. Five straps interweave the uppers with one in braided detail for some flair and texture. A buckle closure on one of these helps strap you down to the sandal for the best fit, and allows some adjustability should you prefer.
The Volcom Kali also keeps comfort in their sandal with support, cushion, and traction. A rubber textured sole allows for grip on slippery surfaces and in the rain, while a supportive arch can be found within the footbed to give structure and padding. Spongey footsteps await you when wearing the Vocom Kali, and with options for basic black or brown, you can find one to pair with many kinds of outfits.
Cost and Value
One of the best bangs for your dollar, the Volcom Kali is extremely budget friendly. It’s strappy faux leather thong style makes it comfortable and easy to wear, while braided embellishment adds a pop of texture. Great for those keeping tight tabs on their wallet, but still in search of a huarache sandal.
The Deer Stags Bamboo 2 is available in black and brown hues, or a mix of the two, interwoven and keeps a rich shiny look. Buffalo leather uppers are woven in and out to make a full coverage upper and include a protective toe cap to help against stubs and debris. Heel cup consists of a solid leather along with woven detail, demonstrating the quality construction of this shoe.
As a versatile shoe, it’s also quite comfortable, and can be worn at the office for business events or on the go customer meetings, as well as weekend casual stroll along the avenue. A textured rubber sole allows for grip and traction, so you can walk confidently without worrying about slippage. Adjustable fit is found with the side hook and loop closure that wraps across the top of the foot, letting you get the perfect strap in feel you need. Breathable with its woven design, it’s a great all-around shoe for summertime.
Cost and Value
Slightly more expensive than some on our list, it’s worth the investment to consider if you’re in search of a huarache shoe that resembles a shoe rather than a sandal. Its beautifully woven design creates the uppers and wraps the heel in rich buffalo leather, and can be suitable for work or casual events. A great huarache slip on that will surely get compliments.
Business and Casual Appropriate
8. SoftSpots Tatianna
SoftSpots' patented insole technology allows for comfortable walking from the moment you put on your shoes to the end of the day when you take them off. The distribution of cushioning allows for comfort where and when it is needed.
The elaborate weaving and design of the leather straps are reminiscent of ancient huaraches. The Tatianna also features a closed-toe design for that is appropriate for work.
Cost And Value
These stylish, heeled huaraches are in the low-range of prices relative to this list. They are a value for a stylish and comfortable heeled shoe that you can wear every day, all summer, while you work. These are also fairly closely loyal to the design of handmade, Mexican huaraches.
- Made with leather
- Choice of colors
- Polyurethane outsole
- Suede-lined footbed
- 1.5"-high steel shank
- Straps may tear
9. SoftSpots Tela
Leather's durability and ease in use like weaving is the reason that most huarache-inspired footwear use this material. The Tela shows off its intriguing design with the weaving of leather straps and the pattern at the center.
Being able to walk comfortably in today's open-air huaraches is, without doubt, the most important trait. SoftSpots continues to emphasize comfort on the Tela.
Cost And Value
These cute sandals are in the mid-range price-wise. For the price, you will be getting a comfortable, fashionable little sandal that will go well with many outfits in your closet and will suit many different occasions.
- Flexible sole
- Choice of colors
- Open toe
- All day comfort
- Straps may break
10. Mordenmiss Casual
Inspired by traditional huarache sandals, the Mordenmiss keeps the functional toe wrap around front of the sandal to help prevent damage to the toes, and keep some debris out of the sandal. Toe loop and thick upper cross strap help to promote natural walk gait without worrying about the sandal falling off your foot. Heel tab helps to cradle the heel slightly, and helps with the overall anatomical design.
Soft cowhide leather creates the soft uppers, giving a great in shoe feel and little irritation. Layers of leather have been carefully stitched together to great a well-padded footbed, making it durable, and also able to conform to your unique foot shape over time. Padding inside the footbed adds cushion to your steps, while a rubber sole bases the Mordenmiss Casual to help give traction and keep the sandals integrity.
Cost and Value
Another slightly more expensive option from our list, the Mordenmiss Casual is a sandal for those who love unique styling, minimalistic design that creates an artistic look, or those who are simply curious to try a pair out! It’s well worth the investment with handcrafted quality and soft calfskin leather, and will certainly cause for second glances from those you pass!
The 10 huaraches in our list are varied and each is great in its own way, from fashion sandals, to casual, to business wear. You will find something that suits every taste and sensibility. You can’t go wrong with the shoes on this list.
Read more below about the criteria we used to develop our list and further, questions and answers that people have posed relating to this updated from traditional style shoe.
Criteria Used to Evaluate the Best Huaraches
Interpretation of the Original
When we looked to create a list of the best huaraches, we felt it was important that each of the shoes we picked for the list met the following criteria in terms of their style:
- Loyal – Are the shoes loyal to the original huarache designs, material, and manufacture? How closely do they resemble traditional Mexican patterns? Are they leather strapped and rubber-soled? Are they handmade?
- Modern update – If they are not loyal to the original design, are they a modern update? For example, is the rubber hardened? Is the sole a better material than vulcanized rubber? Are the straps synthetic leather or other material? Has the pattern been updated while still resembling the original design? Are they sewn rather than cemented?
- Creative interpretation – Some of the shoes we chose are creative interpretations of the original, like the Nike Huarache, and the Keen H2 sandal varieties. They no longer look at all like the original but they retain some elements in a nod to the original craftsmen and their innovative shoe.
Shoes that went too far from the original or could not be said to be a creative interpretation of the original, were nixed as there were no elements which could rightfully be attributed to the building of the original shoe.
Quality of the Material
Setting aside the aesthetic design of the shoe for a moment, our next criteria deals with the quality of the material used. The original huaraches used leather soles and leather strapping that were later updated to vulcanized rubber soles and leather strapping, we’ll start therefore with leather and rubber:
- Leather – leather is a very strong and soft material that does not usually cause irritation to or biting of the skin. Cheaper, thinner leather straps can break and leather that is hardened too much can rub and irritate skin. Where a shoe has leather we looked to determine whether it would suffer these faults.
- Rubber – rubber is a very durable material for soles and offers a great deal of traction and shock absorption. Where a shote had a rubber sole or a synthesized rubber sole, we looked to ensure it would provide familiar traction and whether it was sufficiently thick to be shock absorbing.
- EVA or Memory foam – EVA makes for a very comfortable insole or midsole so when it’s used in a relatively flat shoe like a huarache, we consider it a bonus. EVA will mold over time to your foot or can come molded to the natural lines of a foot, either way, you can expect comfort from EVA. Memory foam is also very cushioning and rare to find in most flats, so bonus points for this as well.
- Plastics – Some of the shoes have plastic straps, which can dig in, rub, stick and generally irritate. We read a lot of reviews to be sure these would not be a problem for the shoes you choose.
When choosing a huarache, or any shoes, you should look for the very best quality materials that you can afford – for comfort and for durability. Remember that the longer you can use them, the more value you achieve for your hard-earned money.
Traditional huaraches are a hard-working, long-lasting shoe. There’s no reason yours should not last as long as they can either. The longer your shoe lasts, the more value you achieve for your money as well. A number of factors determine how long a huarache will last, including how you care for them, the material quality, and build quality of the shoe. Here are some tips on what to look for and how to care for your huaraches:
- Good quality material – see our criteria above for material tips.
- Good quality builds – look for shoes that are sewn together with solid stitching preferably as these shoes tend to last longer and can be repaired more easily. Many will be cemented (glued) together so look for faults in the cementing. Read reviews to help you determine where the shoes wear most frequently and whether or not the straps come apart. People are great about telling you when and where shoes they’ve purchased are faulty.
- Forming leather straps – forming leather straps to your feet, like traditional huaraches, will help them fit better and last longer. Real leather straps can be formed by either wetting the shoe and then wearing them as they dry or massaging leather cream into the straps and then wearing them until they dry. These options work well for shoes that are slightly tight on your foot.
- Weatherproofing – leathers, canvas and other natural materials can be treated for water and stain resistance to help them live longer. Ensure you use a product that is recommended for your shoe and your type of leather and repeat the coating as appropriate with wear.
- Repair – if you’ve invested in a good pair and the straps have finally begun to give way after years of use, it may be worth repairing leather strapping that has worn through. Check with a cobber in your local area to determine whether and how strapping can be replaced. Plastic straps normally cannot be replaced or repaired.
- Avoid direct sunlight – your shoes can handle quite a bit of sun but leaving them exposed to UV radiation for long periods of time will dry out the leather straps too much, making them brittle and breakable. When you’re not wearing them, be sure to store them away from direct sunlight.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What does “huarache” mean?
A: “Huarache” comes from the Purépecha language term kwarachi, which means “sandals.” (Purépecha, also known as Tarascan, is a small language family spoken by a quarter million indigenous people in the Mexican state highlands of Michoacán.)
Q: How is “huarache” pronounced?
A: The correct pronunciation of the word is “Wa-Ra-Jei.” Not everybody is skilled in or familiar with the original South and Central American languages. So it’s also pronounced “Ha-Ra-Chei,” “Her-A-Gi,” or a mixture of the two quoted phrases.
Q: How and where did huaraches start?
A: Farmers and indigenous people wore this in the Pre-Columbian era of Mexico. Specifically the agricultural areas in Yucatan, Michoacan, Jalisco, and Guanajuato.
Q: Are they minimalist shoes or sandals?
A: There is a certain type created by the Tarahumara Indian tribe in the Mexican Copper Canyons, where straps made by leather or some other material were used to tie to the ankles; as opposed to using leather uppers. However; not all huaraches are made for running.
Q: What’s up with Nikes and their “huaraches?”
A: It seems like the people over at Nike had done some research on the name. Their Air Huarache running shoes are “known for their stability, and shape with tread for strenuous terrain.” Very much like the foot-hugging huaraches originally used in the outlying areas of Mexico.
Q: Are ones made from synthetic materias still huaraches?
A: Being hand-made, using leather (strapped) uppers, and using rubber outsoles; that’s the general rules behind what makes a pair authentic. However; the second general rule is to make sure that anything based on the original design is not poorly made.