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Making your own sandals is a fun way to add individuality to your look. After teaching sandal-making classes for several years, Skillshare instructor Rachel Corry is confident that anyone can learn to make sandals as long as they have some patience, the right leather, and basic sandal-making tools. 

Read on to learn how to make leather sandals yourself.

How Are Sandals Made?

soles of shoes
Student work by Elke Bergeron for Sandal-Making 101.

DIY sandals require a few tools and materials, but no advanced skills or techniques. After creating patterns from paper, you’ll cut pieces from leather and rubber and glue them together.

Learning how to make sandals is a good entry-point for learning more about shoe making in general—they’re more straightforward than other shoe designs but still use many of the same techniques. You might be inspired to learn how to make barefoot sandals, how to make rope sandals, or how to make gladiator sandals.

How to Make Your Own Sandals

leather sandals
Learn how to make leather sandals.

These instructions for how to make your own sandals are beginner-level, but if you have experience with fashion design or leather working, you’ll be more familiar with the tools and steps required. If you want to learn how to make sandals for babies or kids rather than for yourself, follow the same process on a smaller scale.

How to Make Sandals From Scratch

DIY LeatherCrafting: Make Your Own Leather Sandals

Step 1: Gather Your Materials

Some of the tools needed to make your own sandals.

To make your own sandals, you’ll need:

  • 4-6 feet of vegetable tanned leather in a medium weight (about 4/5oz) for the upper straps
  • 3 square feet of vegetable tanned leather in a heavier weight (6/7oz or 8/9oz) for the top soles
  • Laces
  • About 3 square feet of foam rubber soling material
  • Pencil and fine tip marker pen
  • Paper
  • Fabric scissors
  • ­Utility knife
  • Scratch awl
  • Leather hole punch
  • ­Ruler
  • Ball-peen hammer
  • Shoe glue
  • ­Cutting mat
  • Tape, such as masking tape.

Step 2: Make a Pattern for Your Sandal

drawings of sandals
Designs for DIY sandals.

Start by figuring out the design of the sandal you’d like to make. 

Step 3: Make Paper Patterns

foot on piece of leather
Play around with paper patterns before cutting leather.

Make some patterns by playing around with paper. Cut the shapes and widths that you like and see how they look against your foot. Trace the sole of a sandal you already own to get the right size.

Step 4: Trace the Patterns Onto Leather and Rubber

cut out piece of paper
Trace the sole and other pattern pieces onto leather and rubber.

Using a marker pen, trace the patterns onto your rubber sole material and the leather. For the sole pieces, draw on both the rubber and the leather, because you’ll be sticking them together later. With the rubber soles, leave about half an inch extra around the edge, which you’ll trim later.

Step 5: Cut the Leather

piece of leather
Cut the leather with a utility knife.

Placing the leather on the cutting mat, cut around the outlines you’ve drawn. On the thinner leather, you can use sharp fabric scissors.

Step 6: Drape the Leather Pieces on Your Foot

foot with leather
Figure out the best position of the straps by playing around with the pieces.

Using your foot as a guide, play around with the template pieces and find the position you like best. Keep in mind how the finished sandal will feel as well as how it will look. 

Once you’ve found the right positions for your straps, mark that position on the leather with dots, using the awl tool.

Step 7: Punch Holes in the Leather

hole punch leather
Punch holes with the leather hole punch.

Taking the leather hole punch, punch holes in the sole leather in the places you marked.

Step 8: Cut Slots Where the Upper Straps Should Go 

cut slots
Cut slots for the upper straps. 

Using the utility knife, cut slots between the two holes on the sole nearest the front of the sandal. This will make a space for the straps to be inserted. Repeat this process for the back straps, too.

Step 9: Fit the Straps

strap and heel
Fit the straps to your feet.

Now, fit the straps to the sole of the sandal against your foot. Fix the straps down with tape to make sure everything is in the right place.

Step 10: Glue the Strap Tabs Down

scratch before gluing
Scratch the leather before gluing.

In preparation for gluing the undersides of the straps down, scratch the leather that will be glued with the awl. Creating this texture will make the straps stick better.

apply glue
Apply glue outside.

When gluing, work outside because leather glue has strong fumes that aren’t healthy to breathe in. Dab glue on both sides of the area that is to be stuck together and then leave it for 5-10 minutes (up to an hour is fine). 

press together
Press together the areas that have been glued.

Then, press the areas that had glue applied to them together—they should adhere together quite easily—then tap with a curved hammer to reinforce the bond. 

Step 11: Skive the Underside of the Sole

remove bumps
Skive the edges to remove lumps and bumps.

Place the sandal on your foot and feel for any uncomfortable bumps under your sole. In this step you’ll be trimming the tabs that you’ve just glued down so that you don’t feel them when you’re wearing the sandal. This process is called skiving.

Take your utility knife and push the blade out by about four tabs and secure. Bend the sandal and then shave off the edges that you’ve identified. The best test of whether you’ve removed enough from the right places is to try the sandal on and see how it feels.

Step 12: Glue and Join the Soles

left and right soles
Glue the soles together.

As in step 10, scratch the sole with cross-hatched marks to create texture for the gluing process.

Again working outside, spread glue on the rubber soles and on the underside of your leather uppers. Don’t forget to glue right up to the edges so your finished sandals don’t come apart when you’re wearing them.

put the shoe together
Stick the two parts of the soles together.

After you’ve left the glued pieces for up to an hour, fix them together. Press down firmly or hammer around the edges to really secure them together well.

Step 13: Trim the Edges of the Rubber Soles

trim the edge
Trim the edges of the rubber sole.

As the rubber soles were cut a bit larger than you need them, trim them with the utility knife so they align with the edges of the leather upper.

Step 14: Add Laces

add laces
Finally, add laces.

The final step in making your sandals wearable is adding laces. Punch holes for the laces, thread them through, and you’re done!

After mastering how to make leather sandals, you might be inspired to learn how to make barefoot sandals, how to make rope sandals, or how to make gladiator sandals, which all use different but related techniques. Have fun!

How to Make Sandals for Babies

DIY Leather Crafting: How to Make Leather Baby Shoes By Hand