Understanding the Importance of Shoe Lasts for a Perfect FitEnter your text here...
How to measure your feet size, to make best fitting shoes for you, should be your first priority in shoemaking. Customizing your shoe last begins with measuring your feet size correctly. In this shoe making post I will explain why you are wearing the wrong shoe size all your life and how to measure your feet size correctly.
There are great shoemakers and last makers that devote years to perfect these skills, and they definitely have more parameters to their foot measurement calculations.
I am talking about bespoke shoe making.
But today we are going to focus on a basic way to measure your feet size to order the right shoe last for customizing your shoes.
99% of my new students that are total beginners in shoemaking are always surprised to discover what their real shoe size is and what shoe size they need to get to make bespoke shoes.
Now, let’s talk more about it because this, for sure, what awaits you to discover as well.
So that’s why let’s start from the beginning of the process of making shoes, let’s start from the shoe lasts.
The Standard Shoe Last: What It Is and Why It Matters
To make shoes professionally we need to use shoe lasts. It is a copy of the human feet made in most of the cases from plastic and there are different shoe last types with thousands of different shapes.
To learn more about shoe lasts types you can read this post “Shoe Last Types & What is a Shoe Last! [Definitive Guide]”
Shoe lasts have different components that serve for the different purposes in shoemaking and you can learn more about it in this post “What you need to know about shoe last Part 1 : Shoe lasts components”
Shoe lasts have different measurement and there are two, the most important that we will talk about in this post. They are the length and width.
Measuring Length and Width for the Ideal Shoe Last
The length will define the shoe last size and the width will define its volume. So when you buy shoes with a certain size, these shoes were made using the same shoe last size.
What is important here to understand that each shoe last size has a different width. This is what you and most beginners in shoemaking have missed out in shoemaking.
For example, the shoe last size 38 has different widths. In other words, it can be thinner or wider, but the size ( the length) is the same.
In general, there are 8 most common widths starting from super narrow until super wide. That means that each shoe size may have 8 different widths.
Why shoe lasts have different widths?
Because human feet have different widths. Somebody has wide feet and somebody has narrow feet, but they both have the same length, meaning the same shoe size.
So, as an ideal option, all footwear manufacturers, footwear brands must produce shoes with all existing widths (for example, from width 1 to 8) but in reality, it is very expensive. Just imagine that they need to produce such a big amount of shoes where each shoe size needs to be produced 8 times multiplied by the number of pairs that each brand needs to have in their stores!
So they decided to use only one width of the shoe lasts (some orthopedic shoe brands have few) that is something in the middle between narrow and wide widths.
It is some average width and the shoe last with this average width we call the standard shoe last.
It has all possible sizes for example, from size 36 to 42 for women, but the width is only one.
All footwear brands have their own standard last and it is usually the shoe last with the width 5.
That is the reason why you can buy at some shoe brand shoe size 37 and at another size 38.
More than this, from the experience, I am pretty sure that most of you wear the wrong shoe size.
The Consequences of Incorrect Feet Measurements
We all are different and have different feet, but for each of you, the major shoe brands offer shoes with the same width. Now you know why it happens but does that mean that the shoe size you usually buy is the correct shoe size for your feet?
In 99% it’s not.
As I already explained to you, the length of the shoe last defines the size. The same thing is with the length of your feet.
According to the length of your feet, you will know what shoe size you need.
So if for example, the length of your feet is 24 cm, you will need size 37.5.
The problem here is with the width of your feet. If the width of your feet is 6 but almost every footwear you can find in the stores has a width of 4 or 5, the shoe size 37.5 will be small for you.
That’s why you probably will buy shoe size 38 or 39 but your real size according to the length of your feet is 37.5.
This is what happens almost with all of you, dear friends! That’s why many new students of mine when they start making bespoke shoes they choose the shoe size that they are used to wearing, but when they measure their feet according to my instructions, they get surprised to find out what their real size is.
So if you want to have shoes that will fit you perfectly, you need to make customizing shoes.
Why Custom Shoes are the Solution to Your Footwear Woes
Why do you need to customize shoes and not just measure your feet and find the shoe last with the correct size? It is because most of the shoe last manufacturers produce also standard shoe lasts.
To have really comfortable shoes with the right length and width you need to make custom shoes.
What does it mean to make custom shoes?
It means that you customize some standard shoe last according to your feet measurements and when you make shoes using this customized shoe last, you will get customized shoes.
The Benefits of Tailored Footwear for Comfort and Support
This is how my students customize shoes according to their feet measurements and make bespoke shoes. It is enough to customize your standard shoe last once and then working with these customized shoe last you can make a variety of different shoe types.
Working with this professional approach, each pair that you will make using customized shoe last you will have super comfortable shoes.
If you want to know more about how to customize shoes, read this post “Why You need Bespoke Shoes and Working With Veg Tanned Leather”.
In the process of customizing shoes can be involved also your stylistic, designing desires. You can change the shoe last shape how you wish.
For example, you have some shoe last with rounded toe shape but you want to make shoes with the pointed toe using this shoe last. So you can customize it according to your shoe design.
You can learn more about this aspect of custom shoes in this post “Shoemaking Techniques to Change The Shape of Your Shoe Last”.
Now, are you ready to discover what your real size is? Do you want to know what shoe last size you need and how to customize this shoe last to make bespoke shoes?
To know it, you should measure your feet, and then customize any standard last you will work with accordingly.
That’s why I prepared a step by step shoemaking tutorial with a simple approach on how to measure your feet correctly.
How to measure your feet [Beginners Guide 2020]
The edge of the paper must touch the wall
You should place your foot in the way where the heel of your foot touches the wall
Place a pencil at a 90-degree angle to the longest toe and mark a point. The distance between the edge of the paper that touches the wall and this mark is the length of your foot. Later you will measure it with the ruler.
It is the place where you have bones. The middle of the most extended place on the bones is your widest area. Mark points in this place on both sides of your foot.
Take a shoemaker’s tape and place it under your foot in the place where you have marks of your widest foot area. Overlap with the tape this place on your foot. Don’t pull it too much and don’t leave it loose. Measure the girth and write down the measurement.
Write down the measurement you got.
Now you know the length and the width of your foot. Measure the second foot and use the measurement of your biggest foot to choose the right shoe last size.
I made a video tutorial on how to measure your feet. So make sure to watch it, because at the end of this shoemaking tutorial I will tell you what to do with these measurements.
Thanks for the info, it’s a great help.
Thank you Pete, I appreciate it.
If i understand correctly, each people have very different foot size when it comes to combination of length and width. Moreover, when we consider that there 3 kind of foot shape.
So, let’s say if i want to make footwear brand and sell it to worlwide customer. What is the perfect combination of length and width that usually being used by famous brand. Since it seems that there should not be perfect balance between length and width, at least following the size used by more established brand seems to be the safest bet.
What do you think Sveta?
Yes, you are absolutely right. The safest way is, to do what the big brands do. But what I was writing here is, bespoke footwear that will perfectly fit you.The big brands or any brand, can’t fit all. It’s cost too much to fit every size,length and width. So they usually choose some middle range, you can call it universal size. Another interesting thing to consider, is that in different countries you have different standards. For example, in Italian market the standard is width 5 , in Netherlands is 7, so you need to do research for every market. You can’t do one for all.
Dear Sveta. It seems Pete wants to meet the international market without first knowing to satisfy his own needs- that is, to build a last to fit his own foot size. Shoe sizes are based on the size of the last and not on the foot length. If I understand it correctly, one can build a shoe without the matching last size. All that one has to do is to build the last to accommodate the measurements of the feet – length and width. The processes of last building and shoe making are poles apart. As you correctly intoned there are three different systems – the Metric, English, and Paris. And, none of the measurements of these systems correspond except in English Point 28, Paris Point 42 and Metric 28. Hope I’m of some sort of help. Anyway, I have problems logging into your site. When you started sending me emails I did submit my email address and name, but now I experience difficulty getting through to you. Whatever the existing problem I would surely like your intercession. Thanks.
George, thank you for your comment.
I believe it was William who asked that. Yes, Shoe sizes are based on the size of the last and not on the foot length, but he is more concerned about mass production and this is not possible to do in mass production. Regarding your log in: you can access lessons and courses only as a paid member. As I understand you signed up for my email list and not membership. Contacting me is simple as going to the contact page and writing me a message.
The problem I have with my last and my foot measurements is that while my foot’s total girth (circumference around the joint line points) is the same as my last, my foot is much flatter and wider that the shape of the last. I’ve built up the sides of my last somewhat to reflect the extra width but it’s still pretty far off, but I didn’t want to add too much to the last width. Is there a good method to ensure a balance –adding width to the last without distorting the last shape too much?
Jenny, my question is, before you added extra width to your last, have you tried to make a prototype? It can be, that because of the higher instep it will fit you.
Sveta, good information. I think the a lot of the big name shoe makers do not make their shoes wide enough. That does seem to be the biggest complaint from customer reviews I read about their products . I do understand That you can’t please everybody, but they try to fit the majority , and some don’t offer half sizes, but will say their shoes run bigger, smaller, or are true to size. I have often wondered what is the best approach to this problem, and which way to go is the shoe makers preforance. Just wondering , what is the best way to go? What do you do when you make shoes for other people?
Hi, Sveta, thank you for this post! I have often been stumped on how one selects a last. I have learned so much from you and your lessons. You are a treasure!
Lisa thank you very much for your kind words, it’s great to read comments like your, I appreciate it.
My wife purchased a gold membership for me this last Christmas and I have to say that I am very impressed with the content in your lessons. I have taken two courses previously to this, one in Men’s Dress Shoes and one in Women’s Fashion Pumps, and so was familiar with a certain amount of the content but I am pleased to say that I have learned a tremendous amount more from you and am looking forward to what else I can get from the lessons I have downloaded for offline review.
There are things that you covered in the basics in addition to what I already knew that have made the beginning steps much easier and I can’t wait to apply the more advanced things on the projects I have in the works. You are brilliant and extremely knowledgeable and, if I may say so, strikingly beautiful as well.
I wish you great success with your teaching.
Thank you Merlyn very much for your comment!
Sveta, I am excited to sign up for your ballet flats course. I’m finding ordering the shoe last a little tricky. I measured the girth of my foot, but the company that sells the lasts lists the widths as 1 through 8 and A through H, for the Paris system and the English system respectively. I don’t see anywhere that I can translate the girth measurement to either a number or a letter. Thanks in advance for your help.
I have downloaded the lessons, but haven’t started working yet! I really want to find a last that is like the type of shoes I wear.
I used to wear Danskos, but I have switched to Alegria Mary Jane type shoes. They are much easier on my legs. I broke my leg (badly) when I was 3 years old, and have had trouble with wearing shoes that are: completely flat, as my right ankle doesn’t beand more than 90 degrees; higher than about an inch, as I walk with a slight limp, and the height throws me off — I ache all night!
I know that a last can be changed, but is there one that is closer to the style I’m seeking? I wear 40/41 size. Longer feet, shorter toes.
Sveta, some companies sell shoes with different widths, they asign a letter.
Is there a table where you can find the standard grith for each size?
Is there a rule that standardize the different griths on each shoe size: For example on a size 41 the griths for a thin feet to a very Wide one?
Hi. I liked your video
my length is 28.3 cm and width is 26.2 cm. Last size?
I am looking for my last size in order to finish registering for the course. Thank you
Length: 24 cm
Width; 23 cm
Hello! Loved your video! I was hoping you can help me figure out the correct shoe last size I would need for these measurements. 27 cm wide and 18 cm long. I would like to use a boot last? The width is my primary concern as maybe you can see? Lol, Thank you!
I am just beginning to make a pair of sandals. My foot measures 10.5” long according to your method. Should I have a last that is exactly 10.5” long? I heard once to go shorter on the sandal last because you add up to 1-1 1/2 cm when cutting the sole. I was confused by that.
Also, do you sell lasts to the US? I live in California
I'm looking to order the kit for the course and would be grateful for your assistance in advising which round toe shoe last to order so that I may take advantage of the kit offer. My measurements are 24.3cm length and 23cm wide. I look forward to hearing from you.
What if the widest part of the foot is not where the bones are.?
In a very flat foot the widest part can be where the arch usually is. The mid foot bulges out and often sticks out further than the fore foot.
pretty cool, thanks for the great info.
Hello am onyeka, i really learnt something important through your teaching on foot measurement. Thank you so much😘
My foot measurements are 24 cm for length and 25 cm for width.
Hi Lori, just sent you the size
I have followed the presentation and I have enjoyed my desire is to start making shoes.