The Unsolicited Endorsement: Huaraches

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by Daniel Wirtheim

When my girlfriend visited her family in Acapulco in the winter, I knew it was my opportunity to get a pair of authentic huaraches.

I had first heard of these traditional Mexican sandals while reading Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. I remember him complaining that they were the worst shoes to be wearing in the rain in New York. I think he changed shoes at some point, but that image of tattered leather wouldn’t leave my mind.

Where my girlfriend’s family lives, wearing huaraches is like wearing a Viking helmet. They’re a ridiculous image of what people might have worn in tribal villages centuries ago. So she had to sneak off by herself one day to the market where an old man was stretching leather around used-tire soles.

I got my huaraches in the middle of winter, so I had to let them sit under my bed until summer came around. I pulled them out a few times since then, only to try them out around the house. But now that I’ve actually put some mileage on these pups, I’m pretty sure they could be the ultimate summer shoe.

Huaraches beat flip-flops simply because they protect the toes. There’s no threat of the front part folding under your foot and they look way cooler than strips of plastic around feet.

They do squeak a little while walking, but the straps around the ankles keep them snug. The recycled-tire soles are not only a great way to use an often-wasted material, but they are quite literally made for the road.

I wouldn’t take huaraches on the Appalachian Trail, but I would take them to any vintage store in town, if not just to boast about acquiring the perfect mix of thrift-store culture and Mesoamerican style.

When winter comes around, the huaraches are going back in storage. But for now, they’re the best footwear out there.