When I travel for a few days I don’t usually1 bring any other shoe than the ones I’m wearing, plus some kind of slippers for use inside hotel / B&B rooms.
It’s good for not carrying useless weight, but it always leave me with a vague feeling of “what if my only shoes break”, followed by “on a Sunday, when the shops are closed”.
So I started to think in the general direction of hiking sandals, shoes that are designed to be worn when resting, and lightweight to carry, but are a passable substitute for regular shoes in case of an accident to the main ones, maybe with the help of an extra pair of socks2 (or when crossing fords, but that’s not really a usecase I have).
My requirements are easier than the ones for real hiking sandals, since I’m only going to be walking on paved streets (or at most easy unpaved ones), and the weight considerations are a thing, but not as strict as if I had to carry these on my back while hiking many hours in a day.
My first attempt was a pair of hiking sandals from things I already had in my stash, with vibram soles, neoprene padding and polyester webbing. After a couple fixes they sort of worked, but they had a few big issues.
- While comfortable when worn, the neoprene made the sandals hard to make, as it tended to deform while being assembled.
- Polyester webbing is slippery. Some strips of hot glue in strategical places helped, but they weren’t perfect and in time they are peeling off.
- Most importantly, to make the sandals stable enough to wear while walking I had to add a strap around the ankle that needs closing: this makes it a bit of a hassle to use the sandals, say, when waking up in the middle of the night for metabolic reasons.
And then, one day I made my linen slippers, and that lead me to think again about the problem: what if I made a pair of slippers with a rubber sole, technical materials and maybe uppers made of net, so that they would be lightweight, breathable and possibly even still suitable in case I ever need to cross a ford.
This was also readily attainable from the stash: some polycotton for the sole lining, elastic mesh for the uppers, EVA foam for padding and vibram soles.
I decided to assemble most of them by machine, and it was quick and painless (possibly also thanks to the elasticity of the mesh)
For the soles I may have gone a bit overboard with the vibram claw, but:
- I already had it in the stash;
- if I need to wear them on an unpaved road, they are going to be suitable;
- why not?
The soles were glued to the slippers rather than being sewn, as I don’t think there is a reasonable way to sew these soles; I hope it won’t cause durability issues later on (if it does, there will be an update)
As for the finished weight, at 235 g for the pair I thought I could do better, but apparently shoes are considered ultralight if they are around 500 g? Using just one layer of mesh rather than two would probably help, but it would have required a few changes to the pattern, and anyway I don’t really to carry them around all day.
I’ve also added a loop of fabric (polycotton) to the centre back to be able to hang the slippers to the backpack when wet or dirty; a bit of narrow webbing may have been better, but I didn’t have any in my stash.
The pattern is the same as that used for the linen slippers, and of course it’s released as #FreeSoftWear.
I’ve worn these for a few days around the home and they worked just fine, except for the fact that I had to re-glue the sole in a few places (but I suspect it was glued badly in the first place, since the other sole had no issues).
Right now I have no plans to travel, so I don’t know how much I will be able to test these in the next few months, but sooner or later I will (or I’ll keep wearing them at home after I’ve thoroughly tested the linen ones), and if there are issues I will post them here on the blog (and add a link to this post).
the exception would be when I’m also bringing some kind of costume, and even there it’s not always true.↩︎
and one should always carry an extra pair of clean socks, as they are useful for so many things, as Pratchett reminds us.↩︎