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Complete Guide to How To Make Shoes

Want to learn how to make shoes?
My in-depth guide, crafted by an experienced shoemaker, covers all the fundamentals you need to get started.

How shoes are made

To understand how to make shoes you need to understand the basic process of how shoes are made. 

Here's a concise breakdown of the shoe-making process: First, we design and apply a chosen shoe design onto the appropriate shoe last, creating an initial mock up. From this, we craft a foundational shoe template. This template helps us shape the patterns for both the shoe upper and lining. After cutting and sewing these patterns from leather, we assemble the complete shoe upper. This upper is then meticulously shaped around the shoe last, incorporating additional components. Following this, we affix the soles and heels, finalize with some finishing touches, insert the sockliner, and voilà, your shoe is born . 

While this process generally has consistent steps, there are nuances based on several factors: 

Shoe Construction: The method used in "making shoes" varies based on the construction type. Whether it's English welted shoes, Goodyear, cemented construction, moccasins, or stitched down construction, each demands a unique approach.

 Materials: The materials you choose also determine the "shoe making process". Working with leather for the shoe uppers is different from using fabric. Similarly, shoe soles made from EVA foam, wood, or leather each have distinct processes. 

Shoe Lasts: The shoe last (a mold in the shape of a foot) you select is crucial. Different shoes require different shoe lasts, like moccasin lasts or boot lasts. The shoe lasts' opening type can also influence the overall process of how to make a shoe. 

Shoe Types: There are various shoe types, and while each type within a group may have a similar construction, there's a marked difference between the groups. For instance, hiking boots have soles molded onto the uppers. In contrast, orthopedic shoes are personalized to the wearer's needs. VANS sneakers, for example, come with specialized shoe lasts, while original Cowboy boots employ unique lasts, thicker leather materials, and a hand-stitched process. 

So let's see the step-by-step process of how to make shoes, shoe making materials and tools to use,  shoe patterns and shoe designs and how beginners in shoemaking can start making shoes.

Shoe making process Handcrafted vs. Machine-Made

Shoemaking process can be broadly categorized into two main sections: factory-made shoes and those crafted by individual shoemakers. While the fundamental steps in the shoe making process remain consistent across both methods, the primary distinctions lie in the facilities used, the time taken, and the capacity to produce shoes in bulk. 

 Factory-based shoe construction relies heavily on a team of specialized professionals utilizing advanced technology and machinery. The process is segmented into various departments, including design, pattern making, clicking (or cutting the leather), sewing and assembling, lasting, and finally, finishing and packaging. A significant advantage of factories is their ability to produce shoe parts, such as shoe insoles, stiffeners, and shoe soles, in advance. These are tailored for each shoe last type the factory works with, ensuring swift production. Consequently, factories can make shoes in large quantities within short time frames, catering to seasonal demands.  

On the other hand, the shoemaking process by individual shoemakers is meticulous and time-consuming. A shoemaker typically handles every step, from creating shoe patterns and cutting leather pieces to assembling and sewing them. They also prepare shoe insoles, stiffeners, and soles, often crafting heels by hand. While some may use machinery, like sanding or skiving machines, the essence of their craft remains handmade. This approach is highly personalized, as they make custom shoes tailored to individual preferences. However, this level of customization restricts the number of shoes a shoemaker can produce.  

For those wondering how to make shoes, how to make your own shoes, it's worth noting that every beginner can try their hand at shoe construction and that is partially what you can expect from our Online Shoemaking Courses. 

For someone who wants to learn how to make shoes from most basic footwear constructions , we have tailored shoemaking courses and shoe making programs that will teach you how to make shoe step by step with a minimum set of shoe making tools and our dedicated support. 

If you already have experience with making shoes we have a more advanced shoe making course that will upgrade your skills to the next level.

If you're interested in understanding how shoes are crafted, here's another  excellent resource for you.

Make shoes step by step for beginners

Here is a pro approach for beginners to make shoes step by step at home. We offer comprehensive shoe making courses that teach the full process of making shoes. Starting from shoe design and shoe pattern making, we guide you until you have a finished pair of shoes. Our approach allows aspiring shoemakers to work with simple shoe making tools and materials, making it possible to create a shoe or even make your own shoes from the comfort of your home. The First thing you should know is  where to start (“How to make shoes – 100 % guarantee! [Where to start?!]”).

Shoe design is actually a first step in the shoe making process and if you want to learn how to make shoes this is the first thing you need to learn

Shoe design

A shoe design is the initial phase in the shoe-making process, as has been mentioned. For those who aspire to make their own shoes, understanding the intricacies of shoe design is paramount. As every budding shoe designer knows, the initial design sets the tone for the final product. So, if you're keen on learning how to make shoes or want to make your own shoe, understanding shoe design is crucial when diving into the world of footwear creation

One essential aspect to grasp is that shoe design is intrinsically linked with shoe pattern making. Every line you sketch, whether you're drawing shoes or conceptualizing sneakers drawing, will influence the subsequent shoe pattern. Sometimes, what seems feasible in a shoe drawing might pose challenges during the pattern-making phase. Therefore, how to draw shoes and the process of pattern creation are two intertwined steps that dictate the final outcome of your shoe designs. Therefore I created a unique Footwear Design Course where I teach how to design shoes through shoe pattern making.

Also,for those eager to delve deeper into the art of shoe creator techniques, I've curated a list of valuable resources to further enhance your knowledge about shoe design.

This post is about a shoe design course that encompasses mastering various footwear types, understanding construction rules, simplifying the design process, and creating diverse shoe collections with limited resources. Notably, drawing skills aren't a prerequisite; the course emphasizes a hands-on, Freehand pattern technique. Dive into this transformative course to elevate any shoe-making journey

This guide delves into the art of choosing the perfect footwear based on leg shape. It categorizes legs into four types: Ideal, O-shape, Keyhole, and X-shape, offering tailored shoe design recommendations for each. The right shoe can accentuate the beauty of one's legs, hiding imperfections and emphasizing strengths. Whether buying, making, or selling shoes, understanding these nuances ensures satisfaction and boosts sales. The post emphasizes the importance of recognizing one's unique leg type and choosing footwear that complements it.

Creating a cohesive footwear collection requires a unifying theme, often achieved by repeating design elements across models. While simply copying and pasting elements is discouraged, a creative approach offers versatility. Techniques include integrating the design element within the shoe pattern, emphasizing specific details, using color differentiation, and experimenting with material combinations. This method streamlines the design process, enhances focus on the core idea, and maximizes creative potential

Footwear designers, like Chie Mihara, offer unique insights into shoe design. While some use traditional shoe drawing methods, Mihara experiments with magazine images and leather placements for inspiration. Embracing diverse approaches, from drawing shoes to hands-on experimentation, can lead to innovative shoe designs and aid budding shoe creators

Shoe designers often prioritize shoemaking skills over drawing shoes. While shoe drawing is valuable, understanding the technicalities of shoe design and production is crucial. This knowledge aids in creating practical and innovative shoe designs. Whether aiming to be a professional shoe creator or pursuing it as a hobby, mastering shoemaking techniques enhances the design process

Shoe design is more than just sketches; it's the foundation of the shoe-making process. Many aspiring shoemakers struggle with the technicalities of designing shoes, often due to a lack of knowledge. This post introduces the Freehand Pattern Technique, a unique approach to shoe design without the need for sketching or expensive software. It emphasizes understanding shoe construction, how shoes are made, and how to skive and manipulate materials. The technique offers a hands-on approach to making shoes, allowing designers to visualize and adjust designs in real-time.

Shoe last

In the realm of shoemaking, the shoe last is very important. Directly linked to shoe design, it's essential to understand its role in the shoe making process. Each shoe type, be it sandals or boots, requires a specific shoe last. For instance, a sandal design won't align with boot or pump shoe lasts; it demands a specialized last. So, if you're venturing into making various shoe types, do you need distinct lasts for each? Not always. For beginners, there are resources highlighting the best shoe lasts to start with (Perfect Shoe Last To Learn Shoemaking [1 Shoe Last = 10 Shoe Types]).

 Dive into the world of shoemaking, understand shoe construction, and embark on crafting your very own shoes.

Shoe Pattern and Templates

After designing your shoe and choosing the right shoe last, the next step is creating a shoe pattern, the heart of shoemaking. This pattern is vital for the comfort and aesthetics of the footwear. Understanding the shoe making process is very important for those eager to learn how shoes are made. The process starts with a basic shoe pattern, followed by developing the upper and lining patterns. Different shoe types have varied pattern constructions, but the steps remain consistent. This journey also includes making patterns for inner parts like stiffeners.
Here are some resources to provide a deeper understanding of shoe pattern construction:

For a complete list of articles covering various steps of shoe pattern making, please visit my Shoe Pattern Directory

Upper and lining leather cutting

After completing the full shoe construction pattern, the next step in the shoe making process is to cut the leather using the upper and lining patterns you've developed. If you're curious about how shoes are made, this step is essential. Simply place your cardboard templates on the leather surface and cut them out using a basic utility knife. In professional shoe construction terms, this process is known as "clicking" and typically involves a special clicking knife. However, as highlighted, we're focusing on using simple tools that are easily available. For those looking to make a shoe or learn more about how to make your own shoes, this is a valuable resource where you can learn how to cut leather with straightforward tools.

Shoemaking involves crucial steps, including cutting shoe leather. Two methods exist: "Copy and then cut" (CC) using scissors after marking with a silver pen, and "Cut right away" (CRA) using a knife directly on patterns. CRA offers precision and professionalism in shoemaking.

Assembling and sewing of upper and lining parts

In the shoe making process, assembling and sewing the upper and lining parts is a key stage in how shoes are made. While each shoe type has its specific order, the general approach for shoemakers begins with assembling all leather components, including tasks like how to skive and how to fold. Once this is done, it's important to combine the sewn upper with the sewn lining and stitch them together. For those looking to make their own shoe, understanding this shoe construction step is very important and here are few tutorials where you can learn step of making shoes:

If you would like to learn on how to make leather straps for you sandals, here is great shoe making tutorial about it:

Lasting of the shoe upper

In the shoe making process, this is the stage where your shoe design comes to life in real leather. It's where the sewn shoe upper is placed on the shoe last, edges are pulled using specialized shoemaking pincers, and then attached to the insole using shoe adhesive. This construction phase includes creating an insole and preparing stiffeners before the actual lasting. While there are various methods shoemakers employ in lasting, a common approach is to first position the back part (including counters) of the upper correctly, then set the front part, including the toe puff. Properly sealing the edges to the insole is key. For those wanting to learn more about this step, here are few  tutorials devoted to lasting process:

If you want to make a leather insoles for sandals, here is great shoe making tutorial:

Shoe sole construction

Shoe making is a detailed craft, with the shoe sole construction being a key step in the shoe making process. The design and construction of the sole depend on various factors: the materials you choose, the type of construction technique, and the tools available, especially if you're aiming to make your own shoe at home. 

 There are several widely used shoe sole constructions. These include cemented sole, welted sole, stitch-down sole, and opanka sole constructions. Depending on the construction method, you'll need a shoe sole pattern. Once you have this pattern, you'll cut out the chosen material and either attach or sew it to the shoe bottom.  Materials also play a significant role. For instance, if you choose vegetable-tanned leather, the possibilities for how shoes are made expand greatly. Such a material allows for a variety of finishing touches and designs.  For enthusiasts looking to understand more about how to make your own shoes, there are numerous shoemaking tutorials that explain different shoe sole constructions.

Whether you wish to make a shoe from scratch or understand the process, these resources are beneficial.

Making heels

When it comes to the shoe making process, a significant step involves heel attachment. You have two choices: either attach ready-made heels or learn to craft your own. Within my shoe-making courses, I offer detailed courses on how to make your own shoes, focusing on heel construction. Discover diverse shoe construction techniques using varied materials, including vegetable-tanned leather, wood, EVA, and cork. Before starting this process, whether you opt for pre-made heels or design your own, it's important to measure the heel height of your shoe accurately. 

Explore the intricacies of how shoes are made with my courses that teach the heel-making process using different materials:

Finishing of making shoes