The Reason Naruto Always Wears Sandals

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Written and illustrated by Masashi Kishimoto, "Naruto" is one of the most influential Japanese manga series in the world. Spanning 27 volumes, the manga has been adapted into an anime featuring over 500 episodes released between 2002-2017. 

Here's a brief description:

Twelve years ago, the Village Hidden in the Leaves was attacked by a fearsome threat. A nine-tailed fox spirit claimed the life of the village leader, the Hokage, and many others. Today, the village is at peace, and a troublemaking kid named Naruto is struggling to graduate from Ninja Academy. His goal may be to become Hokage, but his true destiny will be much more complicated. The adventure begins now!

The story is told in two parts — the first is set in Naruto's pre-teen years, and the second chronicles the ninja's adventures as a teenager. The anime series also divided the story as per Kishimoto's work, with "Naruto" and "Naruto: Shippuden" corresponding to Parts I and II of the manga.

Naruto is very easily recognizable, thanks to his spiky blonde hair and the iconic orange jumpsuit. The character also wears a headband with his village's symbol engraved on it, and sandals. You'd think a ninja (also known as shinobi) in training would wear combat boots of sorts, but the ninjas in "Naruto" are always seen wearing open sandals. So why would a ninja — who could easily get stabbed in the foot, wear sandals that don't shield their toes?

Masashi Kishimoto Loves Drawing Toes

"Naruto" fans have long wondered why the shinobi in the manga/anime wear open sandals instead of more protective footwear. There could be several reasons — maybe they wear sandals because they provide better room for ventilation. Maybe creator Masashi Kishimoto wanted to honor traditional Japanese culture by drawing shoes that resembled the Geta, Waraji, and Zori footwear, which were open-toed and looked similar to sandals. But no, the real reason is entirely different.

In 2007, Kishimoto published "Uzumaki: The Art of Naruto," in which he highlighted character designs of his bestselling manga series. The book revealed that the original plan for Naruto's footwear was for the ninja to wear boots.

The writer-illustrator eventually decided against drawing boots for the character because he realized he enjoyed drawing toes. This is how sandals became a hallmark of the Narutoverse, and the ninjas continued to wear them years later, even in the second part of the story.

Kishimoto adores drawing feet so much, almost every character in "Naruto" wears open-toed sandals. But that's not the only reason — the creator also hoped to shatter stereotypes of what readers felt a ninja should wear or look like. For this reason, Kishimoto decided to draw rather colorful clothing for Naruto and other supporting characters, giving them the bright orange jumpsuits and vibrant flak jackets instead of the usual all-black attire associated with ninjas. 

The intricate costumes made it tedious to animate the characters, and Kishimoto once apologized to the team for his design decisions, which weighed heavily on the animation team.

Kishimoto's efforts and belief in his design choices have contributed to the manga's immense success, and the open-toed sandals have now become a symbol of the "Naruto" universe. Just ask anyone at Comic-Con, they'll tell you!