Breaking-in Your Sandals


I'll begin by taking responsibility for the design and my fitting of the arch straps, the usual suspects, to your feet.  Those broad straps are the toughest part of my design to get right, since the thick bridle cowhide I use for it has to stretch and form to your feet, but not become too loose over the life of the sandals.

The hide of an animal has to function differently, according to its location around the muscle and organs: the belly has to stretch to accommodate growth & changes in eating patterns throughout the days and life of the animal.  The back skin must be the most firm, least-stretchy part of the hide, called upon to carry the weight and support the structure of the cow.

Likewise, the shoulder and rump are different in makeup and function, serving the specific needs of their location.  In addition to these many variations, similar to woven cloth, leather has a complex "bias", governing the direction and amount of the                                                                                               required “give” or stretch.


When I cut the long, slim strap, it is from the back, and neck-to-rump, because my LOTR design will stretch that part the most.  The broader arch strap, cut further down the side of the hide from the back, is stretched by the foot at every step, but its width minimizes the stress put upon it by distributing it over a wider area - hence, I fit it more snugly and assume it will stretch-to-fit.

That part of the design has always been the Achilles Heel of the LOTR.  A satisfied customer is one who need not return for adjustments after the initial breaking-in period (whatever that turns out to be), and that's not because I don't want to see the sandals again, it is for the convenience of the wearer.  Often my sandals go on trips and wind up far away from me - probably half of orders leave the island permanently.

So I'm tasked with building-in my best guess as to how much the particular section of a strap cut from a particular location on the hide will stretch, and that is also of course influenced by the stature of the wearer - the reason I ask for height and weight.  I have no formula for this, rather decisions are based upon seat-of-the-pants intuition/guesses, a result of 50 years of observing my old sandals, feedback on the design, and the amount of complaint or praise.

Hybrid 2017 sideHybrid 2017

The prizewinning sandals I showed at the 2017 Pender Fall Fair and here were a test bed. 

I purposely chose the leather for the arch strap from an area closer to the belly, so it is looser and more stretchy by definition.  The same with the 4 layers of sole leather.  Some of this would normally have been discarded or used for other purposes.  But I wanted to see how those choices would work in the real world, and perhaps not hew so closely to my traditional choices, knowing that they are harder to break in (coming from a tougher, more firm part of the hide).  Too much stretch, and the sandals fit sloppily, and that makes running and climbing more dangerous.  This design fits comfortably, after a typical few weeks of occasional wear to stretch the straps.

I warn new wearers not to try and dominate in a contest to assert their will over the stretching process, but I gave you a lot of information at the fitting, so the importance to breaking them in may not have been apparent.  It may help to be reminded that you should be able to slip two fingers between your foot and all parts of the straps, once they are broken-in.  The long, slim strap will stretch over the years and can be carefully tightened in small increments.  Cut the tail off so that it doesn’t drag under your foot. Always leave about 1¼” so that the sheet bend knot doesn’t loosen and come apart.

I don't make sandals for profit; they will always be mine as well as yours, and I have a responsibility to you to make them fit and be comfortable, as I do to my reputation as a craftsman and designer.  My 10 year guarantee is real, and just that: I'll satisfy you or refund your cost.

In extreme cases I offer to replace the arch straps with either a looser-fit or more stretchy leather.  If they then stretch too much over the years, I can always pull out the brass clincher nails and take some slack out of them.  

I made your sandals and I can re-make any part of them, so take heart and soldier-on!

Prime oak-tanned bridle cowhide straps & midsole
Soletech Soleflex rubber half-sole and heel

An unprecedented 10 year guarantee for fit & finish
You pay only for replacement soles and heels

begun 9.29.2017