How to Make a Pair of Ho Chi Minh Sandals

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Ho Chi Minh Sandals, indicating proper thong placement
Ho Chi Minh Sandals, indicating proper thong placement

Deriving their popular name from American encounters with them during the Vietnam War, the so-called "Ho Chi Minh sandal" is the ultimate in expedient footwear. They are among the simplest shoes to make, yet at the same time most durable footwear in the world. At home in the wealthy West, making a pair of these sandals could be of interest to historians and re-enactors, costume departments and anyone interested in a bit of penny-pinching.

Things You'll Need

  • Buck knife or rubber cutting knife
  • Heavy leather gloves
  • Wire clippers (optional)
  • Marker pen that will stand out against black rubber
  • Leather thongs
  • Stitching, staples, or cobbler's hobnails (a light hammer may be needed for the latter two)
  • Old tire

Take an old tire and measure the sole of your Ho Chi Minh sandal using the outline of your foot. Remember that the sole should be larger than your foot, as you will need space to thread your thongs and also a buffer for protecting the foot from stubbing. Do this on the inside of the tire, since the smooth inside will serve as the inside sole. One tire should be enough to make multiple sandals.

Cut your soles from the tire using the knife. Modern radials have wires running through them, and if your tire is one of these, it may prove hard to cut with your knife, so use wire cutters.

Take measurements to determine where you wish to thread your thongs and how long the thongs should be. You will be running a pair to secure the forward bridge of the foot and a pair to secure the ankle. Please refer to the illustration for an example of thong placement. As these are custom made sandals, use your own foot to determine thong length.

Ho Chi Minh Sandals, indicating proper thong placement
Ho Chi Minh Sandals, indicating proper thong placement

Cut the thongs to appropriate length for a good fit. Keep in mind how you intend to secure the thongs when doing this.

Cut small holes through the rubber sole with your knife and thread your thongs through them.

Attach thongs to the undersole. This can be done by stitching the thong to the undersole, hobnailing them into place, stapling them into place, or stitching thong ends together across the undersole. The latter method is the most prone to wearing out early.

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