The Untold History of Huaraches

Written by Suleth Villeda - June 22, 2020

 

How is it that indigenous societies all throughout Mexico, such as the Tarahumara Tribe, are able to run long, rough distances along multiple forms of terrain? Let alone, how are they able to navigate these turbulent courses wearing Mexican sandals? Of course it requires incredible skill to accomplish this, but also a great pair of shoes.

 

  • This Mexican sandal, known as the Huarache, has been part of Mexican culture predating the European colonization of the country. These handmade shoes predominantly originated in the states of Jalisco, Michoacán, and Yucatan. 
  • The word “huarache” comes from the term “kwarachi” from Tarascan, a language spoken by the Purépecha people native to Michoacán.  
  • The Mexican sandals are primarily associated with farmworkers in rural areas and native tribes due to the accessible nature of the materials.

 

Behind every great shoe is a great shoe designer.

 

Huarache Maker

 

The families belonging to these groups astutely designed and handmade these shoes in order to withstand long journeys, as various tribes were nomadic, and worked for long hours. The complex, yet simple design of the sandal provided a breathable and durable shoe perfect for the hot weather. The industry of shoe making has continued today throughout generations of hardworking Mexican families. As early as a child has the capacity to help their relatives with the making of huaraches, they embark in this ancient tradition. Materials continue to evolve, but the traditional design remains. Huaraches were originally made by weaving leather into -intricate designs, later models have included woven string, wooden, or recycled tire soles. To create this Mexican sandal, the artisans begin with cutting leather into strings and forms after it has been seemed and mounted on the shoes lasts. Once they have been mounted, they are brought to the artisans’ home. Here, the tejedoras delicately braid the huaraches into their final shape. Once the sandals are braided, they are brought back to the workshop where they are perfectly smoothed and polished. After eight hours of hard work, a pair of huaraches is ready to be worn.

 

Huaraches Nowadays

 

Modern versions of the Mexican sandal were popularized in the United States during the 1960s by the hippies and surfers, appearing in songs like the 1963 hit, “Surfin’ U.S.A” by the Beach Boys. Since then, companies have shaped the huarache into a more commercialized product. However, since these designs have stranded significantly from the traditional style, as they look more like sneakers, many prefer the adequate representation of a Mexican sandal. The modern version of these handmade shoes are designed with a variety of colors fit for a fashionable everyday look. 


A huarache boasts about the shoemakers overflowing skill and Mexico’s beautiful culture. These handmade shoes are a way of sharing an extraordinary heritage and craftsmanship not known to many. Huaraches show the dedication, talent, and hardworking skills that categorize the Mexican people. This craftsmanship is an extraordinary way thousands of Mexican families continue to use to support their families, while honoring their ancestors and preserving the Mexican culture. The making of huaraches is a beautiful masterpiece! Although it has a pre-Colombian origin, it continues to be passed on through generations making this shoe one to acknowledge and appreciate. So next time you decide to buy your own pair of huaraches, remember its untold history.