How to Wear Tabi

Tabi are the traditional split-toe footwear of Japan, and are worn by both men and women. They’re worn by themselves when indoors, and with a wide variety of footwear – such as geta, zori or setta sandals, or jikatabi boots – when outdoors. Plain tabi, in white, black or navy, are the most common but they also come in many different colorful patterns.

You can find a huge selection of all of these footwear items in our Japan Store.

Putting on tabi can seem a bit tricky until you get used to it. So we put together this quick visual guide to the easiest way to wear tabi. As you might spot from the photos, tabi fit more like socks than shoes so it’s important to get the right size. Basically the size you choose should be just a few millimeters longer than the length of your foot. See this page for more info on how to choose your tabi size.

The photos below are of a regular cotton tabi, but it works exactly the same way for jikatabi as well. When wearing medium or taller jikatabi, if you find they’re too tight around the ankle and/or calf, you can use our Hase Plus to give you an inch or more room and ensure a perfect fit!

And if your tabi or jikatabi are a little too loose, you can try wearing them with tabi socks or toe socks. Tabi insoles and insulating liners are another way to adjust the feel and fit of your jikatabi.

How to wear tabi1. Fold the tabi upper toward the toes until it is about 3-4cm behind the split between the toes (red line). The seam should line up with the split (purple line).

How to wear tabi2. Holding the point on both sides where the upper and the sole meet, slide your foot into the tabi, ensuring that your big toe and other toes fit into the split toe area separately.

How to wear tabi3. Raise your heel and pull both sides of the tabi upper where it meets the sole. Your toes should now be fitting snugly with little or no wrinkling of the tabi material.

How to wear tabi4. Sit and place your heel on the floor facing away from the opposite leg. Flex your ankle so that your toes point upward.

How to wear tabi5. Grasp the tabi around your ankle with the same hand (ie. for right foot use right hand) using your thumb to hold down the rear flap of the tabi containing the cotton hooks.

How to wear tabi6. With the opposite hand place the kohaze (metal tabs) into the correct cotton hooks. Start with the bottommost kohaze and work up. Most tabi have 4 or 5 kohaze. This is the trickiest part and will get easier with practice. It is important to get all the kohaze correctly fitted to ensure that the tabi will not easily come off.

How to wear tabi7. You’re done! If you’re wearing tabi for the first time, they may feel strange or even a little uncomfortable between the toes but you will quickly get used to this. Only tabi that are specifically “stretch tabi” are made of a material that will stretch somewhat like a sock. But even regular cotton tabi can be stretched slightly by pulling them diagonally both ways before wearing them. There will probably be some slight shrinkage when they are washed.