Monday, March 23, 2009

The making of a shoe.... more complicated than you think!

More than 100 operations go into the construction of a shoe. The first and most important step is the creation of the last, a hand crafted wood or plastic replica of the human foot. It determines the contour of the arch and how evenly the wearers weight will be distributed throughout the foot, both of which are critical in establishing comfort.

A different last is required for each shoe style, whether the shoes is handmade or mass produced. After recording as many as 35 measurements from a footprint, the make judges the symmetry of the toes, calculates the girth of the instep and ball of the foot and calculates the height of the big toe and contour of the instep. He also estimates how the foot will move inside the shoe.

The challenge is to address all these without compromising the architectural beauty of the shoe. For a heeled shoe, he/she visualises the heel height them determines the size of the throat. Next the appropriate height of the shoes quarter is established. Then using the last as guide, the patternmaker cuts out the shoes upper and lining bevels the edges to ensure a good fit and sews the pieces together. Next he constructs a toe box, adds the counter and soaks the leather so it will easily conform to the lines of the last. A master craftsman carefully positions the upper on the last, tautly stretching it before nailing it tightly into place. The upper dries on the last for 2 weeks before the sole and heel can be attached.

In the final steps, finishers trim the welt, pare the heel, burnish the sole and add the insole lining. Last but not least, the shoe is polished and buffed and ready for wear.

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