Pre-Columbian in origin, the sandals are believed related to the cactle or cactli, of Náhuatl origin. The name "Huarache" is derived from the Purépecha language term kwarachi, and directly translates into English as sandal.
Early forms have been found in and traced to the countryside farming communities of Jalisco, Michoacan, Guanajuato and Yucatan. Originally of all-leather construction, the thong structure around the main foot is still traditionally made with hand-woven braided leather straps.
After originating in the peasant communities, they were adopted by some religious orders, such as the Franciscan friars. In the 1930s, wider variations began to appear, with soles derived from used rubber car tires—hence the modern "tread" form of sole. After the Second World War, veterans started to travel deeper into Mexico; they gained popularity in North America thanks to their adoption as part of the 1960s hippie lifestyle. By the end of the 20th century they were to be found all over North and South America.
Traditional huarache designs vary greatly, but are always very simple. Originally made of all-leather, later early designs included woven string soles and occasionally thin wooden soles. Later more elaborate upper designs were created by saddlers and leather workers.
The modern huarache developed from the adoption in the 1930s of rubber soles developed from used rubber car-tires. Modern designs vary in style from a simplistic sandal to a more complex shoe, using both traditional leather as well as more modern synthetic materials.
Huaraches are mentioned in the lyrics of the Beach Boys songs "Surfin' U.S.A." and "Noble Surfer"; and in the novel Ask the Dust, written by John Fante (the Camilla Lopez's shoes) also in the novel On the Road, written by Jack Kerouac. Skeeter Phelan wears a pair of the shoes, which her traditionalist Southern mother hates, in the Kathryn Stockett novel The Help. Doc Sportello, the detective from Thomas Pynchon's Inherent Vice, wears a pair of huaraches. He eventually loses one shoe and finishes the adventure using only the other one.
- "Free Translation and Professional Translation Services from SDL". Freetranslation.com. 2011-01-20. Retrieved 2012-01-19.
- "Huaraches.com | Information > Huarache History". Web.archive.org. 2010-12-07. Archived from the original on December 7, 2010. Retrieved 2012-01-19.