Step 1: The part where you get the tire

Get the tire. This is as easy as going to any roadside auto body shop. They'd give you 200 if you wanted. Preferably the tire should be relatively thin and worn out. Put it in the trunk of car, and spend a moment feeling really cool. You're about to make the coolest pair of footware on the planet.

Step 2: The part where you cut the tire

Cut the tire, using a circular saw, hand saw, etc. Whatever cutting implement is available, although I would advise against attempting to get it done with a hacksaw or steak knife. First, cut it in half. Then cut the sides of the tire off, such that you have a strip making up the surface tread, the part that usually comes in contact with the roadway. This is the only part that's suitable for making shoes.

Then, take measurements of your foot, to make a stencil. I just traced my foot on a piece of cardboard. Feel free to be as elaborate as you feel is necessary. Put the stencil on the tire, lining the heel and toe up with the axis of the tire. Knock yourself out and cut to your heart's content.

Step 3:The part where you labor for hours and hours

Get some leather from a used clothing store. Material from leather jackets, old clothes, etc, work really well. Using a pair of pliers, start stitching at the toe, pressing the needle at each stroke through the leather and then at a 45 degree angle with the tire (sole). This is the easiest way I found to get around the problem of how to attach the leather to the shoe. Glue doesn't reliably work, at all.

The rest of the stitching needs to be done by eye. Use strong thread, for sure, and use the pair of shoes you're currently wearing as a model. (Note: ans has written up a model for an open sandle on this shell. I decided to go for the covered top, mostly as a challenge. It was very time consuming, but worth it. Do not fear, both types will yield the coolest pair of footware, ever.)

Step 4: Cool tag things

Make a tag inside the tongue of your shoe, saying who made it and what size it is. Your shoes could be size 1. Or size 7. Or size 0010011. Who's going to tell you what size they are? We have now discovered the coolest thing, ever, with the aid of a walkthrough about how to make shoes out of a rubber tire.

That gives you a rubber sole with what attached to it? The sibling writeup doesn't really explain the whole leather "upper" concept very well. If you're going to make a shoe out of tire rubber and leather you probably want an open toe / sandal design to avoid being the next big Stinky Feet experiment.

There's a great tutorial at http://www.hollowtop.com/sandals.htm that describes how to make a pair of sandals using the obligatory tire but only requiring some nylon strapping and a couple of plastic buckles (both of the sort you'd find on a backpack). It manages to avoid stitching leather to rubber with a pair of pliers - something that's probably a little above most readers here and conjures images of impaling fingers on broken needles... urrrgh!

I recommend you visit the site above for pictures and road-testing information - But for the purposes of instant gratification, here are the directions in full:


Making Your Tire Shoes

First, place either foot in the center of a large piece of paper, at least an 8 1/2 x 14. Trace around your foot, being careful at all times to keep the pencil straight up and down. Next make a mark on each side, directly down from the point on your ankles (A) (see pattern at the end of this web page). Also make a mark at the point along the inside of your foot, directly back from your big toe (B).

Remove your foot from the pattern. Now sketch a bigger outline around the tracing of your foot. Add about 3/8 inch for the toes and sides, but not to the back. Then use a ruler and bisect the pattern lengthwise, extending the line three inches past the heel. This serves as a guide to help you sketch the rear tab accurately. Now connect the marks you made by your ankles (A), extending a line three inches beyond each side of the pattern. These tabs will be sketched in front of this line. Also draw a line for the front tabs, extending from the single mark (B) across the pattern, perpendicular to the line that bisects the foot lengthwise.

The positioning of all these tabs is quite variable, and you can choose to move them forward or back, or at angles to one another, and all usually work, although the arrangement I have suggested may work more consistently. Problems usually arise with the front set of tabs. When at angles across the pattern they can twist a little and dig into your foot. If the tabs are moved forward or back then the edges can dig into that point (B) on the inside of your foot. That point is more pronounced on some people's feet than on others.

Now sketch in the five tabs, as shown on the pattern. These tabs are sized width-wise for 3/4 inch wide strapping, and should be made according to the approximate dimensions I've written in on the pattern, regardless of how big or small the foot. If anything you might make some adjustments length-wise, adjusting for particularly large or small feet. Finally, sketch in the holes that you will cut out to thread the strapping through. This just helps you remember to cut them the right direction when you get to that stage. Cut the pattern out, and it can be used for both shoes, assuming your feet are fairly similar to one another.

As for tires, I would recommend truck tires, rather than car tires. The "corner" of any tire, where the sidewalls and tread come together, is always much thicker than the rest. You can work with that thickness in the tabs of the shoes, but not in the sole itself. Pickup tires are typically wide enough to work with, and you can make about three pair of shoes from one tire.

Most importantly, always use tires that do not have steel cables running through them. All tires have some kind of fibrous reinforcement in them, typically nylon or rayon threads. Most of the newer tires also have a layer of steel cables, which is not workable at all. Still, there are a few billion of the older tires around without steel cables, so you should not have to look too far to find some. Just look on the sidewalls of the tire and it will be printed there how many plies of nylon, rayon, or steel are imbedded in the rubber.

We used simple utility knives to cut out our first shoes. Doing it this way you can trace around the pattern on the outside of the tire and start cutting. However, I must say this is very laborious and not much fun. It is hard work, and you could easily slip and cut yourself with the utility knife. Along the way I have discovered that it is much easier and more enjoyable to cut tires using sharp wood chisels or a bandsaw.

To do the chisel or bandsaw method you must first remove a section of tire. This allows you to run the piece through the bandsaw, or to put it on a wooden block, where you can chisel from the inside out.

A circular saw works fairly well for cutting tires, except that it creates a lot of blue-black smoke, and binds frequently. Cut out a piece that is at least a half inch longer than your pattern, and save as much of the sidewalls as you reasonably can. These are useful later for making the buckles. Do not try cutting through the inner edge of the tire, which has an imbedded steel band to fit the tire snug against the rim.

Now, trace the pattern on the inside of the tire, being certain that the pattern is centered and straight on the tire. Even a slight 1/2 inch angle along the length of a shoe can cause problems when you wear it.

I've done separate tests, cutting out the shoes with chisels and with a bandsaw, and the bandsaw method is only a little faster. A good set of wood chisels works just fine if you do not have the bandsaw.

I would suggest making only one shoe at a time, and completing it. Finish the one and try it on; you might think of some modifications to improve the next one. Few of my pairs of shoes are exactly identical, as I usually find some new idea to try on that second shoe.

The next step, after cutting out the shoe, is to thin the four side tabs. The tabs are generally cut from that "corner" on the tire, where there is a thick lump of tread. These are easiest to thin on a bandsaw. You can, however, do a crude but adequate job by cutting the lump down with some careful chiseling or with a sharp knife. Thin down as close as you can to the nylon/rayon plies, without actually cutting any of them. This step is not easy by any method I have found, and I typically leave 1/8 to 1/4 inch of rubber covering the plies, for a total thickness of up to half an inch. That is still quite thick, but thin enough to work.

Now, to make the tabs flex upward, take a razor blade and slice straight into the tread of the tire at the joint where the tab attaches. Slice in all the way until the plies inside are exposed. Be careful not to cut into those fibers.

Chisel out each of the eyelets, where the strapping will be threaded through. For this I use a 1 inch chisel and a 1/4 inch chisel. Be careful to not cut too close to the edge. If you break out the side of a tab, then you generally have to start all over. Also cut a set of buckles from the sidewalls of the tire. These are easy to do.

For strapping, I use a sort of a nylon harness strapping, available at farm and ranch supply stores. 3/4 inch wide strapping works well with the one inch slots. Cut pieces that are extra long, you can trim them off after you thread them through. Use a match, and melt the end of the nylon strap to secure the threads. To do the back strap, thread through the hole marked point (C) on the pattern and stitch an inch or so of the strap back on itself. Thread around through the other eyelets, through the buckle, through the other hole on the first tab, and once again through the buckle. The front strap should be threaded through the buckle, through both eyelets, and back through the buckle again. This system is a little hard to adjust, but once set, I find I can slip my foot in and out, without having to tighten or loosen them.

The finished shoes should be comfortable to wear, although you may need to do some fine-tuning to get them right. For any serious hiking you should wear a couple heavy pairs of socks, or moccasins, or bring along some moleskin.

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