I guess I have weird feet or something 'cause it has been a challenge finding the perfect pair of wet-weather sandals. I've even started playing around with making my own...
Sandals I've owned:
When I was a kid in the 90s I had a pair of Tevas. They were alright, but guess what: Velcro sucks when it gets wet. Despite the advent of those little rubber bands on the straps, I gave up on Teva.
After college I got my first pair of Chacos:
And then the strap started irritating a nerve on the side of my foot by my pinkie toe. Boo.
My second pair of Chacos:
Though, after some mods, it turned into a great sandal and gave me a few years of great times outdoor.
The sole started to delaminate (see it bubble there?) and the thong came unglued and pulled through the foot bed last year. Bummer. I threaded it through the bottom and knotted it to get to the end of summer.
Though, on closer inspection, my heel mod was tearing out the cross straps, so the sandal was nearly dead already. And since this is an imported Chaco, you can't replace the straps or resole it. And, I don't believe they make this exact model anymore. There's something similar, but the new model has elastic straps, and the thought of having to alter a new sandal again seems silly.
Luna Sandals (Mono (Monkey)):
From Barefoot Ted and Co up in Seattle: a cool-looking, minimalist sandal. Now, I don't give a flip about barefoot running or "ground feel" but these were appealing to me: simple, lightweight with Vibram soles.
I also have inward sloping ankles and I was having problems with my heels coming off the footbed and hitting the ground. This doesn't happen as much since the sandals have broken in and the heel area has cupped a bit.
How they do in water: For swimming around they are fine -- better than Chacos since they're so light. Walking in and against current is a bit unnerving since there are only three contact points and it feels like the thong might just pull though the sandal. It won't, but the water puts a lot of pressure on it. Also, I wouldn't get in moving water without the tech strap. They slide around more than Chacos, of course, so I recently gouged the bottom of my foot on a rock. Boo.
Looks like they're hinged. Kinda want to pop one apart and see how the webbing fits in there, but I shouldn't. Other minimalist sandals use a knot or injection-molded plugs.
So, Lunas: pretty nice for running around on flat, dry surfaces with normal-shaped feet. Just okay for water sports. (Though, they're not really marketed as such, so I can't really complain too much.)
For other minimalist sandals see also: Unshoe, Bedrock, Branca...
What I've come up with:
I like the DIY construction of the Lunas. The idea that you could take any appropriate sole material and poke some holes in it and make a pair of sandals is appealing to me. Though, I wanted them to be a little more secure. The idea that the tech strap on Lunas is an add-on -- almost an afterthought -- is annoying since they make the sandals so much better (for me).
As you can see, the straps aren't recessed into the sole like with the Lunas. We'll see how long they last.
The knot is formed by cutting the webbing down the middle and finishing with a square knot. I've threaded it through a male grommet to give it more structure. I ended up taking this out and flattening it down after it started poking my toes.
The hole is countersunk so the knot is decently flush.
Made another pair for Jenny's brother to try out:
Barefoot runners call their flavor of sandals huaraches. In Mexico, huaraches are any leather footwear (mostly sandals) that are woven with one continuous strip of leather. They're often soled with tire rubber. What American runners call huaraches are known as pata de gallo (cock's foot) huaraches down south.
Huarache Blog for an amazing wealth of ethnographic footwear information. Basically, what I learned from his blog: any strap configuration that you could dream of has probably been made already.
Waraji are traditional Japanese rope sandals. They're pretty sweet.
Print by Utagawa Kunikazu (1861).
I'll let you know if I come up with anything better. Happy trails.