Are Huaraches Basketball Shoes?

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The Nike Huarache was an unusual shoe that almost never went into production. It was a shoe made of a sock-like bootie encased in a supportive exoskeleton as the prototype model for Nike in the 1990s. 

Thanks to Nike’s legendary designer, Tinker Hatfield, the Huarache shoes became a top-seller globally. These were along with his other designs such as the Air Max and Jordan brand. 

The idea for the Huaraches came when Hatfield was water skiing. The neoprene booties he wore that day conformed to his foot and provided great stability. He got an idea and sketched out a shoe made of a bootie covered with an exoskeleton. 

Orange and black Nike Air Huarache thrown in the air

Are Huaraches Basketball Shoes?

Nike Huarache isn’t a basketball shoe. In fact, it wasn’t designed for a specific sport. It was made by the designer with the idea of a shoe that conforms to the foot and gives stability. 

The Nike Huarache has a number of conventional sneaker designs. The first design had no heel counter. They used the harness-like strap similar to the straps used in sandals. 

The name Huarache is derived from traditional sandals worn in Mexico. The Nike Huarache is a versatile shoe that can be used almost anywhere. 

The shoes aren’t exactly targeted for basketball. The design and technology used in the Huaraches do have some impact on basketball. 

Players like Andray Blatche and Amar’e Stoudemire use the Huarache in official basketball games so you can attest they do work as basketball shoes. Even Jerry Seinfield and Michael Johnson wore them on tv and popularized them.  

How Do You Wear Huaraches?

You really wouldn’t have a problem with wearing Huaraches in basketball courts. They fit right into your feet thanks to the neoprene that helps form your foot in the shoes. If you use the Huaraches for casual wear, then it’s a versatile shoe that can be worn with almost any type of clothing. 

These things pair nicely with the Huaraches:

  • Jeans
  • Shirts
  • Jackets
  • Sweatpants
  • Even sweaters

You can use them for gym sessions because of how good the snug fit is. 

History of Nike Huarache

The Nike Huarache was designed by famous Nike designer, Tinker Hatfield. The first model debuted in 1991 with the name Nike Air Huarache. According to its advertisement, the shoes were “stripped to the bare essentials.” The Nike Air Huarache used Swoosh coverage technology. The technology at one point almost didn’t make it to the public as it was halted for retail during production. 

The popular rumor going around was that Nike was hesitant to sell the model to the market. However, their decision was changed when a test run during the NYC Marathon had runners rushing to buy the model. This helped change the mind of Nike. 

This incident would catapult the Nike Huarache to popularity. It debuted in 1991 and was almost sold out in the running category. 

Other shoes like the Nike Air Mowabb and the Air Jordan VII copied the snug fit design of the Nike Air Huarache. 

The Huarache line followed suit with their 1992 model, Nike Air Flight Huarache which was targeted more for runners. 

The latest model from the line is the Nike Air Huarache Run DNA Ch. 1. It’s marketed for running and workout activities. The shoes reimagine the design from the first Nike Air Huarache. However, the shoes also add elements from another shoe in the form of the Air Max 1. 

The shoe features a stretchy inner sleeve, responsive cushioning, and a structured heel cage. The recent line of the Huarache pays tribute to 2 of the most ambitious designs of Nike.  

Why are Nike Huaraches Called Huaraches?

Nike HuaracheTraditional Huarache
Made for sportsMade for everyday use
Made with synthetic materialsHand-woven leather
Modern designStandard design

The first model of the Nike Huaraches looked like the traditional Mexican sandals called “Huarache.” 

The distinct feature that compares the Nike Huarache to traditional Huaraches is the harness-like strap. This is similar to traditional Huarache sandals. 

Woman wearing pink Nike Huarache

What are Nike Huaraches Used For?

The Huarache debuted in 1991 without being branded as a shoe designed for a specific activity. As it grew in popularity, it was mainly used for playing basketball and was used by professional basketball players in the NBA

Nowadays, Nike Huarache is a versatile shoe that can be worn casually and even used as a running shoe. It’s grown back in popularity since early 2015 

What are Huaraches Made of?

Depending on the model of the Huaraches, it may use different types of material. The first model was made of neoprene. Other models followed suit and some materials used include:

  • mesh
  • leather
  • croc
  • suede
  • and many others

One thing for sure that Huaraches never lose is its signature feature of having snug fit modeled after the neoprene sock-line. No matter what materials are used, Nike finds ways to properly incorporate this feature on the Nike Huaraches. 

Related Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about huaraches.

Who Wears Huaraches?

Huaraches were commonly worn by Mexican farmworkers. However, these kinds of shoes were popularized in the US during the 60s, when many young people started using them.

Now, these shoes have evolved and are used by both Americans and Mexicans.

Why Are Huaraches Popular?

Huaraches became popular in the US after the hippie culture started using them. Then, over the years, companies started producing different varieties of these shoes, making them even more popular.

However, although these modern huaraches are popular, they are not considered to be traditional. After all, traditional huaraches have a different design, are handmade, and have hand-woven leather.

Are Huaraches Meant to Be Tight?

Huaraches are meant to be a bit snug at first, however, if it is too tight on your toes, you will need a different size. The best advice is to never keep a shoe that is so tight that your toes bend at the top.


Although Huaraches aren’t basketball shoes, it doesn’t mean that you can’t wear one for playing basketball. Huaraches have features that can help with playing basketball. It’s even used by some NBA players. Basketball shoes are still better for basketball, but if you’re looking for an all-around shoe, the Huarache can be a great pickup for you. 

Tim Frechette is an avid athlete, having played sports like soccer and basketball his entire life. He brings a wealth of athletic knowledge to his writing.