If I were to count up all the pairs of flip-flops and sandals I’ve worn through over the years, I wouldn’t be surprised if it numbered over fifty. I swear I go through at least two pairs of cheap flip flops each summer. So when I got the chance to review a pair of Cordoba Leather’s handmade leather sandals, I was interested to see if they would stand the test. I received a pair of Ladies’ Hudsons, and my husband received a pair of Men’s Holidays.
Cordoba Leather is a one-man operation out of Lebanon, Ohio. David Somers, the owner, handcrafts each pair of sandals using high end materials and a keen eye for design. Here is a bit of his story, from the Cordoba Leather website:
On a vacation to Florida in September 2011 I met Dan Holiday, an adventurous man who has been making a diverse and impressive amount of leather items for 50 years. Mr. Holiday was very kind in taking me on as an apprentice. I feel very privileged to be able to say I have apprenticed under him. Mr Holiday is by far, most popular for his leather sandals, they are works of beauty. Sandals are what I learned from him first and sandal making is a unique art that I want to be a part of and carry on through the ages. I enjoy making a variety of different leather products but the prize of them all is leather sandals. The leather is thick and challenging to work with but the end result in a pair of sandals is splendiferous. Making something custom for someone that will last is kind of rare, but I enjoy making it a little less rare.
These sandals aren’t just something you stick in your “Shopping Cart” and buy on a whim. No, these are handcrafted and molded to each foot’s precise specifications, so you have to provide David with tracings of both feet. First you trace the outline of your feet, marking the space between your big toe and second toe. Then you trace underneath your inner arch so he can mold the sandals with the proper curvature. You then trace a quarter on the page as a size guide for when you scan and upload the tracings to the Cordoba Leather website. All in all, the process takes about five minutes from start to finish, and there’s even an instructional video. It’s not a hassle at all, especially once you feel the sandals on your feet. There’s also the option to remove the arch support, if you have fallen arches or prefer a flat sandal.
The sandals are made entirely with full-grain, vegetable tanned leather, sourced from the USA and Mexico. The sole is made of thick shoe leather, topped with a layer of flexible saddle leather. The arch is molded to the specifications sent in the foot tracing each customer uploads with their order. The loops for the straps are cut into the sole and fastened with solid brass rivets. The two pieces of the sole are glued together, then hammered with solid brass clinching nails. You can see pictures and explanations of the entire construction process here.
After the sandals are finished, they’re dipped in neatsfoot oil to help condition and preserve the leather. Neatsfoot oil is a yellowish oil that’s made by boiling the feet and lower leg bones of cattle. The oil is then skimmed off, pressed, and purified. Neatsfoot oil is great for conditioning, softening, and preserving leather. Now you don’t need to buy yourself a tub of neatsfoot oil, but I’d definitely recommend investing in a good leather conditioner for these sandals. They arrive soft and conditioned with the neatsfoot oil, but wearing them day after day will definitely dry them out, and you don’t want the leather to crack or become brittle. We’ve reviewed quite a few leather conditioners here at BestLeather, so be sure to browse through our Leather Care tag to see some of our recommendations, because you’ll want to keep these sandals beautiful for years to come.
When you receive the sandals, which came in a nice linen bag with a note from David, they’re still not quite ready to wear out the door. The strap still needs to be adjusted, tied, and cut to your size. He includes some instructions for doing so, which you can see below. This a simple process and easy to do with kitchen shears.
One I finished cutting the straps and walked around a bit in the sandals, I was absolutely amazed by how comfortable they were. They molded to my feet perfectly and the soft, perfectly-placed straps don’t rub anywhere. The toe strap curls comfortably around my big toe and keeps the sandal feeling snug. They don’t flop around or feel like they’re going to fall off. I’ve actually found that I can slip the ankle strap on and off without having to tie and untie it every time, which is nice for those who are lazy like me. All it takes is a little tightening now and then. I’ve walked long distances in these shoes and they’ve only gotten more comfortable as they form to my feet. Cordoba recommends getting them wet right off the bat to help them mold to your feet even faster.
The Men’s Holiday sandals don’t have a toe loop, and have a flip-flop style instead.My husband calls them his “Jesus Shoes” and raves about how comfortable they are. His sandals are in the “Vintage Brown” color, a beautiful deep brown. They also come in a slightly brighter “Brick Red” like my Ladies’ Hudsons.
If you’ve never worn shoes with a leather sole before, be prepared to slip around for a bit until the soles scuff up enough to provide traction. I’d recommend NOT wearing them for the first time on a slippery vinyl dock like I did! Just take a walk, scuff them up on the pavement a little, and you’ll be good to go!
I was extremely impressed with Cordoba Leather, from start to finish. David guided us through the selection and tracing process and ultimately created us two pairs of gorgeous sandals. For $177, you are getting all leather, handmade sandals made in the USA precisely to your foot’s specifications. It’s not often that you get to be so involved in the creation of a product. I think $177 is a steal for these sandals, especially considering how comfortable and sturdy they are. You and your Ladies’ Hudsons or Men’s Holidays will be taking long walks on the beach for years to come.