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Shoes and Craft

A shoemaker's blog about shoemaking

Monthly Archives: May 2015

Long story short – as this customer doesn’t need a long introduction –  a new pair, made with hundreds of krystals and care. The design, material choice was 100% my decision. Some might say that it is not my style – which seems like a good assumption as I am a traditional maker, although the customer’s style matter. Here it is: Miss J. Alexander’s new shoes!
photo:  Kyle Adams


and finally a video – how he presented it on the stage:

Now let’s talk about the terminology a bit.

1. Toe spring. The conversation about the toe spring is pretty old. It depends on schools and personal tastes. Bespoke makers rarely do high toe springs as it doesn’t count to be very attractive, shoe factories a lot. It is a fact that low toe springs has some disadvantages, but quite honestly it doesn’t affect the walking, even the lowest toe spring is very comfy (and if you have doubts – just check the sandals or flip flops – they have nothing). The other concern is the toe area, which might wear off faster. True, but it depends a lot more from the walking style. Shuffling doesn’t help a lot in any toe springs and in the worst case there are great quality toe tip metal plates. Anyway it is a question of taste.

2 toe spring

Let’s talk about comfort! Comfort is pretty much the room in the shoe, in case of a welted shoe (means: we will not talking about the relation between the of the constructions and the comfort.)

When we talk about old fashion fitting for normal feet, we measure the girth at certain points. (if you are not an orthopedic expert, please, please do not take orthopedic orders – you might hurt people and as a bad consequence: lose all of your money, house, etc in a lawsuit).

The most important point: ball, waist, instep, low heel measurement. these suppose to be enough for a good shoe, but an expert eye is necessary. I am not going to teach you how to measure a foot. That would be an illusion to think that you can learn it online, although I can share a few thoughts about it.

upper girth

2. The widths on the bottom. Fee are different. The same ball girth can indicate two identical foot, but nothing is farther from truth that this – a narrow, but higher foot can have the same girth than a wide and relatively flat. You don’t want them to squeezed into the same shoes. So the width is measured on the bottom, like this. It is a little bit more than 1/3 of the girth at the ball point. (again: this is average. We don’t deal with average at custom shoes)

5 toe width

9 shank width

3. Top girth. This is where the rest  of the girth goes. In case of the heel measurement – short heel, long heel, there is nothing going to the bottom, but everything on the top.

upper girth

4. Toe box. This is one of the parameter, what is possible to measure, although impossible to tell how the customer will perceive it. Just because it comfortably cover the toes, a static measurement will not say anything how much he moves his toes inside. Some people doesn’t have the urge to exercise his toes, some will have a panic attach if they can’t. Just consider primitive tribes when they try shoes on the first time. They will feel claustrophobic and get rid of the footwear as soon as they can (I did not make these experiments and I apologize that I can’t insert any links here – if someone finds something, please do not hesitate to share it). What do we expect from the toe box? Nowadays we try to keep it lower, although the elongated toes give a great chance to hide a bigger one. Some models intentionally designed to make it big, especially for special footwear like hiking boots. Bigger toe box, bigger comfort. How we can measure the REAL necessary toe box we need? We don’t, but we can try… This is why we make test shoes.

6 toe box

5. Top length. This will greatly affect the length of the topline, meaning: will it be easy to take the shoe on and will the laces be closed or not?

8 top length


to be continued…


ps. And again: thanks for DELCAM for these pictures!





When you step out from your first shoemaking course, fresh and inexperienced, you have no idea what you can expect. First of all: you teacher is not holding your hand anymore, when you need something – even a simple nail for lasting or a pretty basic tool – now it is your time to solve the problems. One of these problems – the last. Last is something you can’t get in the first hardware stores, neither the next town (except if you live in a town next to a last factory – in that case you probably don’t live in the US). Anyway – eventually you will find a factory and if you are persistent enough they will answer your mails, something like: “of course we can do ANYTHING!). Now you just have to find a toe shape and heel height and shoot the order! Genius!

Unfortunately it is a bit more complicated. Beside these two parameters are a ton more, which will define if you had the right one or something from the late 70’s, with some ridiculous toe spring and toe box… So let’s talk about these terms and understand the last characteristics.

1. Stick length. This is not the size of the last, but a few millimeters more – let’s say if you use your last to keep your elevator door open – this is how big the gap will be. Long story short – the curve in the back is added to the length. (although I hope you liked the elevator story too).



3 length

2. The bottom length. Now one would believe that this is the size… Well, not yet. As a matter of fact it can be a lot bigger. We will get there…

4 bottom length

3. Size. You can find a number in the side of your last probably – that is the SLL – the standard length. That is a size in a certain measurement (read this blogpost!). This is the standard size for a regular, rounded toe last, with a “normal extra” – around 2 cm. Why is that? Let’s just say we don’t want to wear potato shaped shoes – just think about flip flops. That would be a shape of that one. Sometimes even this 2 cm is not enough to create a certain style, that is when we add a “style extra”. The style extra can be literally anything, just think about krakows.

4. The size of the foot. When you were size 43 or US 9 or whatever, that is not your actual foot size, but way shorter. foot in the shoe

This illustrates pretty well this – the huge style extra will make the toe longer and still gives enough room for the foot. Why do we need extra room for our feet? Simple: because we walk and our feet works pretty hard. It is like when you work out and your T-shirt stretches around your muscles – the foot practically does the same. Our longitudinal arches stretch back an forth so we need extra toe room. If you ever tried a shoe in a store only sitting, then next day when you tried to walk, it gave you hell – then you know what I mean. ALWAYS try your shoes sitting, standing and walking.

To be continued.

ps. I made the images with Delcam Lastmaker – thanks Delcam!