The emergence of drug-resistant bacteria has compromised the use of many conventional antibiotics, leading to heightened interest in a variety of antimicrobial peptides. Although these peptides have attractive potential as antibiotics, their size, stability, tissue distribution, and toxicity have hampered attempts to harness these capabilities. To address such issues, we have developed small (molecular mass <1,000 Da) arylamide foldamers that mimic antimicrobial peptides. Hydrogen-bonded restraints in the arylamide template rigidify the conformation via hydrogen bond formation and increase activity toward Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli. The designed foldamers are highly active against S. aureus in an animal model. These results demonstrate the application of foldamer templates as therapeutics.