When I was at Mesa Verde and the Aztec Ruins National Monument, I took a look around their museums.
They had displays with sandal artifacts.
It’s clear that the Pueblo people of 1,000 years ago wore sandals, since they find them in archeological digs. From Mesa Verde, here are a few styles:
Obviously, there were different techniques to making these. As the display notes, while occasionally they were made of juniper bark, usually they were made from the yucca plant, which has strong and tough natural fibers.
There were even intricate designs:
It looks like a fair bit of work went into making that.
One thing that was distinctive was a period of scallop-toed sandals.
Now, maybe that was just “style”, but it rather looks to me as if it left the toes free to grab the earth or stone. And the Mesa Verde people did have quiet a few toeholds carved into their dwellings, just for access.
Here’s another one with the scalloped toe.
You’ll notice, just as in an earlier photo, the heel worn through. Obviously, that indicates that in their sandaled walking, that is where they put the most stress. And similarly, our heels can probably stand the most stress of any part of our feet.
This also shows that sandals were relatively expensive, in the sense that they were time-consuming to make. Hence, they would not be discarded lightly, and also probably that meant that they would only be used when actually necessary. Why wear down a perfectly good sandal by using it around the house? (Or cliff dwelling?)
After all, when I did the Mesa Verde tour, the dwellings were extremely barefoot-friendly.
So, when might they have used the sandals? Maybe for long trips, or, more likely, when doing the extensive labor of farming and harvesting on the less barefoot-friendly soils atop the mesas.
Which brings us to the dioramas of daily life displayed in the museums. I didn’t manage to take a picture, but they portrayed a pretty fair portion of the habitants as barefoot. Now, admittedly, the diorama is just a reconstruction—we have no eyewitnesses reporting to us that that is exactly the way things were. But it does make sense. (The dioramas may also have been influenced by what existing Pueblo peoples have done.)
I did manage to take a picture at Aztec, showing a barefoot homelife.
This was fairly typical in the museums. While we cannot be absolutely sure, I suspect the picture of widespread barefootedness is fairly accurate.