For decades, countless cultures, from the Vietnamese to the Tarahumara in Mexico, have been recycling tires for shoes. It’s eco-friendly, durable and stylish! Whether you don’t want to shell out serious cash for expensive outdoor sandals or just want to do your part in reducing waste, these sandals should definitely be added to your gear list.

The first thing is to find a tire. Tires come in all shapes and sizes and so in theory, you can use whatever you find! The only setback is that modern tires are reinforced with steel radials; if you find a piece of blown out tire or any old tire it might cause you some grief in the cutting process. The way to get around this is to either use bicycle tires (if your feet are small enough), use an ancient tire that is not steel enforced or just put some serious elbow grease into it.


After finding a suitable tire, you will want to get some other tools. You will need a paint marker or chalk, drill, laces, and something to cut the tire with. We experimented with many different cutting tools–varying for whole or partial tire. Depending on your tire thickness etc., use whatever works for you. We experimented with jigsaws, handsaws, Exacto knives, and power saws.


First, trace your foot exactly. After you have outlined your entire foot, draw another line, creating the shape of your sandal.


Once you have the shape of your sandal, you are ready to start cutting! After cutting a rough shape, it is easier to go back with an Exacto knife to clean it up. After many trials and errors it seems that the best tool to cut tires is to find yourself a pair of tin scissors or metal scissors, whichever is available to you. These “scissors” can cut through almost anything, especially the steel belts. A personal tip–the steel belts on my edges were a little ragged so I sealed them with rubber cement, which you can find at most craft stores.


The next step is to cut the holes for your laces. This is the part where you can get creative. You can use either flat laces such as those seen in many outdoor sandals or some other laces. Other great options are hemp, leather and paracord. (Again this is something that is unique to everyone and whatever feels good to you.)



Put your foot onto your cut out sandal and draw three dots– one in between your toes, the second on the outside of your heel and the other at the bottom of your arch. If you braved the steel reinforcements, the best is to put the toe hole in between treads so the knot will wear out less.

If you are using paracord for your laces it is best to burn the ends to seal them, it is more secure and less bulky than knots.



To lace and tie your shoes are, again, up to personal interpretation. To lace your shoes, first pull the lace through the toe hole and tie it off (the knot will flatten as you wear them and become more comfortable) thread it down through the outside hole and hook it around to form a heel loop. Make one more pass down through the inside hole and pull through.

Here are a tying few styles to get you started:

The traditional Tarahumara tie:

Take the loose end and wrap the lace around your ankle the opposite way.


Once it is wrapped all the way around pass the lace under the first strand.


Pass the lace under itself again.


Tie a slip knot to keep it in place and your sandals will be kept secure for miles!


The Slip-On version:

Pass the loose strand under the first and follow your lace back along the tie.

Again, tie a slip knot and this style will stay secure while also being able to slip your foot in and out quickly.


The Flowered tie:

Pass the loose strand under the first.


Pass the loose strand over and under the other strands of the lace.


Continue to pass over and under until you reach the edge of your lace, tuck it under the “rose” and this tie is complete.


Enjoy your sandals on your next hike, run or for everyday summer wear.


Profile photo of Alyssa Rivas

Written by Alyssa Rivas

Californian, runner, tree climbing expert

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