Shoes are something we all wear every day, yet no one really gives them much thought other than ‘do they look good with this outfit.’ The shoemaking process is one that can be very complicated and requires a lot of skill. It is a process that takes a lot of time and requires a lot of specific science to ensure that your shoes look and fit correctly.

The shoemaking process will differ depending on the kind of shoes you choose to wear. Nonetheless, there are some steps that are absolutely crucial to shoemaking and remain present no matter what type of shoe you choose, which brand you purchase from or how much you pay for your shoes. We here at ShoeAdviser thought we would give you the low-down on how shoes are made.

Step One: Designing The Shoe

In most cases, the first step in the process of making shoes is the design. This is the step that will determine everything else that will happen during the shoemaking process. Depending on the size of the shoe company or brand, a team of artists and designers will decide what they want the finished shoe to look like.

This design team will create a series of sketches and computer-based images to show how the shoe will look. They will process these images until they come up with what is essentially a working pattern that can be used to create the shoe. The most important part of the design process is getting the basic appearance and look of the shoe organized.

During this part of the shoemaking process, sketches will be made onto the material, so the overall appearance of the shoe can be decided. The tools that are required to make the shoe will also be decided during this part of the process. The main purpose of the design process is to create a plan for how the rest of the shoemaking will go and determine what the final product will look like.

Step Two: Making A Last

There is a lot of jargon, and technical aspects of making a shoe and one of the most important is creating the last. The last is essentially the mold that is used to create the shoe. Materials will be stretched over and stitched around the last to create the shoe.

Different companies and manufacturers have their own unique set of lasts, which is why you may be a different shoe size each time you shop for shoes.

Before a shoe can be manufactured, the last needs to be made. In most cases, the last is made from either plastic or wood and will be used time and time again. The last will be used at both the beginning of the shoemaking process, to get the initial shape of the shoe, and at the end, to determine the quality and performance of the shoe.

Cobblers will make a range of lasts to provide a great range of shoe sizes during this process.

Step Three: Creating The Shoe Pattern

This is the step in the shoemaking process where the shoe will finally begin to take form. During the creation and cutting of the shoe pattern, specific parts of the shoe become identifiable. This includes the sole of the shoe, which is the base that you walk on, the insole which provides comfort and support, and the upper, which is the external parts of the shoe.

All parts of the shoe are made during this process, and each is typically made independently before being stitched together. This is a very precise process that can take a lot of time to perfect. The best quality shoes will have a team of specialists who cut the patterns for your shoe.

If there are any issues during this process, then the shoe will be made with a range of different problems. Not only will the shoe not look right, but the fit will not be accurate, and having an ill-cut pattern could also affect the quality of the shoe.

Step Four: Attaching Everything Together

After a lot of time has been spent designing, creating, and cutting the separate pieces of the shoe, it needs to be put together so it can be sold and worn. This whole process is known as ‘closing’ in the industry of shoemaking.

In order to make the shoe and attach everything together, the upper materials are pierced, punched, wedged, and ridged. These materials are then placed over a lining and sewn together, so the upper material of the shoe is complete.

There is an additional process that needs to happen to make the upper of the shoe, and this is known as stretching. This is where the finished upper fabric is stretched over the last, which is the mold of the shoe. This will help get the size and shape of the shoe right.

The stretching process can be quite challenging, depending on what materials are being used. For example, if a shoe is made from leather, the process of stretching the shoe can be quite difficult and may require a lot of strength.

This is also the part of the shoemaking process when the cobbler will attach the upper materials of the shoe to the sole. This is often done with a strong form of fabric glue or adhesive, but it can also use bolts, screws, or stitches. Shoes that use these kinds of closures will be more expensive but will be made to a higher quality.

Step Five: Finishing Touches

Depending on the kind of shoe you purchase, the shoemaking process isn’t over until the last finishing touches have been made. This is where the cobbler or shoemaker will take time cutting, trimming, cleaning, and generally maintaining the shoe, so it is high-quality.

High-quality formal shoes will have a longer finishing process than something more straightforward and inexpensive. This process will also differ depending on the brand and manufacturer of the shoe.

This is the part of the shoemaking process where any branding will be attached to the shoe, including the shoe box and packaging.

Handmade Vs. Machine Made Shoes

Most shoes that you purchase will have been made by a machine. Cobblers and shoemakers rely on machines and modern technology to create their shoes, as it is more efficient and allows them to create more products. Depending on which brand you purchase your shoes from, the entire shoemaking process may be done through machines.

Very few shoe manufacturers will make their products by hand, although this is still a refined skill. There are a select few brands that make their shoes by hand, and you can expect to pay a lot of money for handmade shoes, as they take more time to manufacture and may be made to a better quality.

Most shoemakers will use machines or technology at some point during the shoemaking process. Machines can really help with the more difficult parts of shoemaking, such as stretching the material over the last, precise cutting and attaching the sole to the upper.

Different Parts Of Shoes

The shoemaking process is a long process due to the fact that each part of the shoe needs to be made individually. In order to understand how shoes are made and how much work goes into this process, let’s look at the different parts of shoes.

The Upper

The upper of the shoe is the external parts of the shoe, and it can be made from a variety of different materials. The material that is used for the upper of the shoe will differ in thickness, texture, and colors.

The Insole

The insole of the shoe is the interior part of the shoe which sits directly under your foot. This is the part of the shoe that can determine how comfortable and supportive it will be to wear. You can also purchase additional insoles for your shoes that will provide more cushioning and support.

The Midsole

The midsole is the layer of the shoe that sits in between the insole and outsole. This is the part of the shoe that provides cushioning and support, such as shock absorption. This is not something that is present in all shoes, but it is common in athletic shoes such as sneakers.

The Outsole

This is the part of the shoe that directly touches the ground, meaning it needs to provide a lot of support and traction. This can be made from a variety of different materials, depending on the kind of shoe and what it will be worn for. It can be made from rubber, plastic, leather, natural or synthetic materials.

The Welt

The welt of the shoe is a strip of material, such as leather, plastic, or rubber, which is used to attach the upper section of the shoe to the sole.

There are other specific areas of shoes that need to be made, depending on which kind of shoe is being made. For example, laces may need to be made, tongue, heel support, and other features. Dress shoes will have different features that need to be made to those of sneakers.

All of these parts of the shoe need to be made independently and then stitched together to create a shoe that you can purchase and wear.

Taking Care Of Shoes

Now that you understand how much work has to go into creating a pair of shoes, you may be able to appreciate what you are buying a little more. When you consider that a whole team of people has worked to perfect the pair of sneakers, dress shoes or high heels that you have just picked off the shelf, you will want to take good care of them.

Make sure you store your shoes properly, wear them with the correct socks, and keep them clean to prolong the life of your shoes.

About the Author

Hey, I'm Lilly Harvey. If there's two things I'm passionate about in life, it's shoes and writing!

Combining both my passions with my Fashion Design degree, I've helped create Shoe Adviser to help readers choose the best shoes for them, enjoy!

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