From Moccs to Muks
Take a break from the norm and invest in these soft, versatile and weather-resistant moccasins and mukluks.
LL Designs moccasins are 100% handmade to order with patience and love and are probably the comfiest boots you’ll ever wear. Each moccasin is lined with a pillowy insole and supple deerskin for added comfort (which means they’re best worn barefoot!).
And right now, LL Designs is offering Native Max Mag readers an exclusive deal! You can get 25% off plus free shipping until 12/21/17 with coupon code Moc25. Get your moccs for 25% today!
Product info: Louis Artisan Boot, sizes 5-9, $270-$299.99, lldesignsstore.com
Meet the Designer: Owner and artist Lloree Dickens (Arikara/Hidatsa/White Earth Chippewa) combines traditional techniques with contemporary color and designs when creating her moccasins.
Beki Elk Moccasins
Rebekah Elk, Ojibwe from Chippewas of the Thames First Nation, is an artist and co-owner of social enterprise clothing line AKA Cruz Andina who creates beaded moccasins. Although there’s not a selection to shop from, Rebekah makes them by hand in 3 weeks after the order is placed. She lets her customers pick the leather color along with the color scheme of the beads.
Product info: Leather, white or natural fur; $200, http://instagram.com/bekielk
Mukluks by Manitobah Mukluks
Manitobah Mukluks is an Indigenous-owned manufacture based in Canada. They make a variety of products such as mukluks, moccasins, gloves and more at their production facility in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Product info: Wool lace up mukluk; Manitobah Mukluks, $219.99, manitobahmukluks.com
Product info: Mocha Woven Buffalo Hide Moccasins, Jamie Gentry for B.Yellowtail, $300, https://www.byellowtail.com
Men's Cota - Whiskey Junction
I returned home from work travel today to find the box with my new moccasins. BEST SHOES EVER!! My feet love them...and I'll be reaching out to order this year's Christmas style. Thank you for your outstanding craftsmanship & Happy Thanksgiving! ... Read More
I LOVE my pair! I have been wearing them a lot. They fit great, are super-cute, and are so comfortable. I put them on my Instagram page and my old boss already wants to buy some. ... Read More
I received my moccasins and I love them. The craftsmanship is superb and I love the colors. I am sure I will be ordering more. ... Read More
My mocs came a few days ago. I love them. To have footwear that fits both feet, of very unequal size, is a luxury I never thought I would experience. Love the orange hide with the blue laces. I just don't ever want to take them off! ... Read More
Hello any potential customers out there. I want to tell you that I am so impressed with the service this company has given to me. If 5 stars were the highest rating, they would be a 10. A difficult foot to fit, the pair were too small, they were HAPPY to make me another pair, no charge at all. Got back to me quickly in emails, The owner is PAUL KIRKMAN. A gem. complete gem. ... Read More
The Itasca Company is a pleasure to work with and The Hatchie Moccasins are perfect - Thank You for Your Service - I will reccomend Your Products and Service as Superior Premium. ... Read More
Awesome toebox fit first try. I've tried two other custom fit moccasin companies and this is the best first pair fit. Very neat stitching, with a good stiffener in the seam. ... Read More
I want to talk about the amazing customer service, follow up and problem resolution from Sam, who is the manager of the retail store. She spent two hours trying to help with a shipping issue from a mail order I had made. Bottom line, Sam went far above what any other company would do to make sure the gift of moccasins arrived. Give her a raise or at least buy her lunch! ... Read More
I ordered a pair of men’s leitner Mocs last week. They came in the mail today. I needed to let people know just how amazing these shoe really are. I am a very picky individual. I absolutely hate the throw away society that we have become were inexpensive goods are the norm and cheap materials and craftsmanship is acceptable. I know these shoes are expensive however ...... Read More
The shoes are astounding. It is wonderful to see that American craftmanship is still alive. The fit is wonderful and ordering was easy. The stitching is excellent and far beyond what I expected! And talk about comfort! Many thanks to Sam for his attention to detail. This is a superb shoe in all aspects and I would give it an 11 on a scale of 1-10. The only thing I think ...... Read More
I Made My Own Buffalo and Elk Leather Moccasins
At one point, Chris was barely able to walk due to plantar fasciitis. Years of chronic pain led her to treat it at home successfully.
Tools I Used
- Heavyweight (8 - 10 oz) bison leather
- Good leather-cutting shears
- Artificial sinew, waxed
- Extra beeswax
- Stabbing awl with round point (be sure to sharpen it if you're buying it new)
- Harness needle (has a blunt point)
- Life-Eye needle (a threaded hollow needle to pull thick lacing through holes)
- Leather hole punch
- Deerskin leather work gloves (invaluable to protect the hands)
Homemade Soft Sole Buffalo Hide Moccasins
These mid-top moccasins were not exactly easy to make, but they were easier than I thought they would be. Why did I make them? Because I had ordered some canoe mocs online and while I was waiting, I got impatient. I'll try to make some rough moccasins now in anticipation of the wonderful shoes to come, I said to myself. After all, we're in an economic depression (at least, I think we are) and do-it-yourself has become not just a fad, but a survival skill.
The First Pairs
So I made moccasins for my child. Not these—another pair, out of an old purse, after studying a pair of moccasins my husband owned. I just threw them together with some latigo lacing from my husband's toolbox, and while they were lacking in many ways—they turned out more like a slip-on slipper—I was amazed I could do it at all. So then I made another pair. This one was better—it had a heel that stayed up!
Then I made a pair for myself—similar to the moccasins I'd made for the kid, out of black suede buffalo leather I got off of eBay. The leather was nice, and the moccasins weren't bad, but they were pretty loose. They flopped around and didn't feel much different from slippers. I liked them, but I was seduced by phrases like "fits like a glove" and "molds to your feet" that I had read on forums, and knew I wouldn't be satisfied with anything less.
Besides, now I was hooked. I remembered that years ago, I had tried to get into leatherwork, but got discouraged by hand pain due to not having a decent cutting implement or awl (I used a scratch awl and regular household scissors—ouch). Now I have better tools—a pair of good shears and a whole box full of my husband's leatherworking stuff. There was nothing to stop me!
My First Triumph: Buffalo Side Seam Moccasins, Salish Style
So I made this pair of side seam moccasin ankle boots, using a pattern I found online. I was flabbergasted at how comfortable they are. "Fits like a glove" took on a new meaning for me. They were made from patterns I created by tracing the soles of my feet, which are two different sizes - a fact that means that all my life, at least one shoe hasn't fit well. In addition, I have a bunion on the larger foot that is often the deal breaker for new pairs of shoes. These moccasins don't hurt my feet at all.
These are totally custom made out of better leather than I've ever had. Tanned buffalo leather is middling stretchy - not as stretchy as elk, but more so than molded store-bought shoes - so soft and supple, and the moccasins have only gotten more comfortable the more I've worn them, even if I did size the larger foot too small initially. Within a few days, they stretched to fit me perfectly.
And what happened to the moccasins I ordered online? Well, they were expensive but magnificent—fantastic—I loved them. More exquisite than anything I could make. Except they didn't fit. I decided that if I was going to pay lots of money for a soft-soled shoe, they should fit exactly. I mean, they were made to order! I didn't blame the shoemakers. They would have had to charge three or four times the amount they charged if they didn't use standard sizing. I blamed myself. Moccasins were traditionally made by people who had access to the feet that were going to wear them. Thus, I should make them myself! So I continued on....
Poll: DIY Moccasins On the Rise?
My Homemade Elk Skin Moccasins
These were my third - or was it fourth - try at experimenting with new styles. My third try was a pair of center-seam moccasins that came out odd - the left one pinched the toes, while the right one was like a sack around my foot.
These are made of thin, medium-weight (4-5 oz) elk leather. They are soft and exquisite on the feet. I wear them both inside and outside. I haven't treated the leather in any way to make them water resistant (waterproofing is impossible), because I learned that water resistant leather actually takes longer to dry, and the climate I live in is positively dripping.
I also haven't done any decorating of this pair or any pair I made, beyond a bit of fringe here and there. I have lots of beads from the days when I was making jewelry, but am not up to doing anything conventional like traditional beadwork. I feel that would be both beyond my skill level and hypocritical of me (since I am not a sufficiently devoted craftsperson, but rather, more of a whimsical, stubborn homemaker type who doesn't have the patience, vision, or methodical discipline to do the kind of detailed traditional beadwork that I find so beautiful.)
To make these, I watched an instructional video twice describing how to make these pucker toe moccasins. It seemed so easy so I thought I'd try it. Using stretchy elk leather of 4-5 ounces (much easier to sew than the heavyweight buffalo hides I'd used before), and a sharp-pointed glover's needle instead of an awl, I made a simple version of these for myself and for my child without any uppers (see the photos). Making the puckers in the front was much easier than it looked - it used a simple running stitch - though they are admittedly askew. Did I mention they are unbelievably comfortable?
I noticed a version of the moccasins was also in the fabulous (and surprisingly hard to find) book that I had ordered, Craft Manual of North American Indian Footwear. The book has patterns that you need to copy yourself for many different styles of moccasins. It also is written in a super-concise way, which means you have to figure out a lot of things yourself, or get the accompanying DVD, which I haven't done. And there are some spelling errors and such. But - what a resource. Anyway, the instructions on page 47 for the "Simple Pucker Slipper Type" describe a very similar moccasin, but with a pointed heel.
Elk Skin Leather Moccasins I Made
My Newest Pair of Moccasins
I wanted to try to make moccasin boots, so I just finished some brown and gold moccasins. The experiment turned out pretty well, though my ambitions again exceeded my skills. One improvement: I made a longer heel tab so it acts as a heel stiffener and maybe won't slip under and become the sole like the other side seam pair. I did make the right foot a bit wider, and that worked out great. I also am in love with my jumbo sized Perma Lok needle, which makes lacing 1/4" 9 oz leather a breeze.
Buffalo and Elk Skin Knee High Moccasins
Best Book on How to Make Moccasins
Next Stop: Double Soles
I have a lot to learn, and a lot of projects I want to try. I'm determined to figure out how to add a sole onto a moccasin. The one-piece moccasins I've been making so far (one piece referring to the fact that the sole is from the same piece of leather as the upper part of the moccasin) will wear out quickly. I want to be able to add an outsole to any moccasin style, because when you do that, you only need to replace the sole over and over again, rather than recreate the moccasin each time.
How Are My Feet Doing in Moccasins?
My guess is that only people who have plantar fasciitis will be interested in this section, so I'm tacking it on at the end. I've been walking in soft-soled moccasins for a few weeks now. I'm walking on hard ground and on grassy, uneven terrain both. There is no arch support and the shoes are flexible, which is counter to some of the stuff I talk about in my article on treating plantar fasciitis.
If I had done this when my problem was acute - when I was still in pain - I am pretty sure I would have been hobbled. I needed arch support and stability to heal. But then gradually over the course of the year, it's gotten to the point that my feet have done so much better I've been wanting to build up to going barefoot. My frustration with shoes that don't fit my odd feet well has soared as I realize how much money I've spent on shoes. I learned that you actually can build up the arch muscles in your feet. So I've been wanting to try minimalist shoes.
So far, I don't know if they're helping, but they are not hurting. No return of heel pain. Nada. So it's looking good. I'll try to update as I learn more.
Update June 2015: Still wearing moccasins a lot, though not all the time. Still love them. Still not aggravating my plantar fasciitis. Keeping my fingers crossed!
Other Interesting Documents on Moccasin Making I've Found
Best Leather-Cutting Shears Ever
The author of this article would like to disclose that she is a writer by profession and has all the mercenary instincts for which such creatures are famous. Thus, she may earn commissions on Amazon.com and eBay purchases made through links on this page. Forgive her, readers, for while she has not sinned - in fact, she makes it a point not to promote any product falsely - she does confess to earning a living, and federal guidelines encourage her to share this fact with her readers (who may of course read this article for free, regardless).
Anyway, I hope you make some moccasins. Please tell me how it goes and what you think. As I learn more and make more, I hope to post more pictures on this page or in a separate article, if the length of this one gets too unwieldy.
Samuel on August 29, 2019:
Hi! Can you link me the patter you used for the Buffalo hide Moccasins? I would love to make a pair!
GreenMind Guides from USA on December 25, 2016:
Really sweet how-to hub! I like the way you write, and I like your DIY attitude.
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