January 27, 2015

New Case Study: How to Customize Your Shoes to Make Your Feet Happy

What if I told you that even if you don’t consider your legs perfect, the right footwear design can make them look impeccable? The key is knowing how to tailor shoes to your specific needs!

 How to customize shoes

You can’t find the right shoes for yourself in the store, just because no one is thinking about what YOU need!
Stores and manufactures are always limit you to the standard proportions, no one thinking about how to customize shoes personally for you , obviously.  

This kind of universal “fit all” type! Is there such a thing? I know I’m not fit in this category, what about you?
No matter what type of legs you have, with the right design you can make your legs look beautiful.

In this Case study I will show you step by step, how I make my Not perfect legs, look perfect by using the right footwear design for me. I will let you Peek “Over My Shoulder” , in my decision making and my work flow.

– I will find the right design for my legs.

– I will choose the challenging way how to customize shoes

– I will show you how create this pattern and tweak it.

– Construction using Freehand Pattern Technique

– I will make the shoes!


You can use this Table of content to jump right to any chapter 

– How To Customize Shoes?
Conditions on how I’ll customize my shoes
Function VS Non functional elements: How to customize shoes in the ultimate way
How To Make Shoe Pattern
1.Basic Pattern
2.Basis Pattern of Ankle Boot
3. Paper Pattern
4.Ankle Boot with My Design
5. Construction of the Fold Using My Freehand Pattern Technique
6. New Basic Pattern of my Ankle Boot
7. Basic Pattern with All lines of Design
8. Upper Pattern Making
9. Checking the Pattern of Ankle Boot
Important Step on How To Customize Shoes Properly
10. Lining Pattern
11. Decorative Element Pattern
How can make this kind of pattern?
How I added this covered elastic to the decorative element
      Cutting Leather Patterns
      Assembling and sewing

Conclusion: How to Customize Your Shoes to Make Your Feet Happy



How To Customize Shoes?

Let’s get started.

First, to understand what kind of design you need to create, you need to identify the problem. In this scenario is the shape of your feet and more specifically, my feet! To exam what type of feet I have, I will be based on my “ How to know what type of shoes will suit you perfectly”  article. ( read this article to check what type of feet you have).

searching for perfect shoes
I have legs of a “Keyhole Type”,  a curve between knees and ankle when you are standing straight. Now, I know what type of footwear design I can wear and what will look good on me.

I love wearing a low heel, flat shoes but I can’t wear ballet flats as it will only emphasize the proportions that I want to hide. So, how to customize my shoes?  
The ideal footwear for this type of legs will be Ankle boots with free entrance.
Now, why it must be this design?

Ankle boot, with free entrance, will create a visual effect of a straight leg. That is exactly the reason why it will not work the same with just ordinary ankle boots. They will do us no good as they keep the exact proportion of our ankle. What I need is, a wider upper to create this effect.  
I need even more customization for my legs as it does not only have the keyhole type, they are also very thin in the ankle area. That is why I need to create extra volume on the outer side into my shoe design.


My Start Point

Conditions on how I’ll customize my shoes

I know the type of legs that I have. I know that I need to create ankle boot type with free entrance and it must be with extra volume on the outer side.
Do move forward with my design first I need to choose the shoe last that I will be working on. The natural and the easiest choose will be working with ankle boot last, but:


*  I like a good challenge.

*  I want to show you all the possibilities you have on how to customize shoes.

*  I love my ballet flat last.


Yes, I will be creating my happy ankle boots with pump flat last!


So this is my flat pump last


I found the design to my boots and the inspiration coming from the 80’s fashion with its vivid colors and geometrical patterns.

Let’s work.


To make ankle boot vamp you have few choices:
* Use a crimping board to make the central seam.
* Tongue shape
* Divide the vamp into few pieces. If you want to know more about differetn shoe parts, read this article:“How to make shoes-Shoe parts”

I personally don’t like the details mashup look and always prefer clean, one cut design.
I won’t be using cramping board nether for this case study, I’ll just use a simple magic.
Good footwear design is all about the illusion. I will make it look as a one-piece vamp using few details and hiding them with another detail.

Note: Sure, you can use any decorative element for it, but please don’t, it looks cheap and useless.     


To not use the crimping board I need to divide my pattern at least on two parts or more.


This is my first sketch of this design with the outer side volume extra, created with the fold. When we will open the fold it will allow our foot to slide in. We also have here the line in the middle of the instep that divides our vamp.


Here I didn’t like that line, so I changed the angle a little bit that still divides the vamp into 2 parts. Then I added one more element on top of it to hide this line and create the illusion of one cut vamp. As I said everything should be technical, so this part has a function too. It operates as a fastening for this piece and holds it using a button.


Note: If I will add to this element elastic bend, it will give even more flexibility and adjustment for any type of foot.


I want to develop this a little farther as I don’t like how the end of this element connects with the fold. It will just give not clean finishing of this end, especially with elastic.


That’s why I drew this line all the way to the upper.


It does give me the clean look, but I don’t like how it looks actually. This end located too close to the top of the fold.  So, I’ll try another design to check if it will look better with a small piece of leather that will cover the end of elastic.

 It does cover the elastic, but this small piece of leather doesn’t suit the entire design of our ankle boot.

customize-draw 6

That is why I will get back to the previous idea of my design and just change the location of the decorative end.


Now I like this design, it’s clean, nothing extra. The decorative element is central and is functional as well.  It covers cuts of the vamp.

Using the second end of this decorative element, I can divide the vamp into 3 pieces. If I you will divide the vamp for more details, it will have smoother instep line.

To keep this design clean, the seam will be only on the decorative element. That is why I decided to make this ankle boot without lining and lining be only in the back and in the front.  ( We need here lining to place our stiffeners)
Thick leather without the lining will keep well the shape of the fold and will naturally create the volume that I was searching for.

 Leather raw for shoes


That is why I will need to use thick leather for upper. This is my leather, calfskin, thickness 2mm.

This will be a challenge for me as well, to think how to customize shoes with this leather, I have never worked with such a thick leather for upper.  


As I draw my inspiration from 80’s fashion, I will want to make this element with a different color and even different type of leather.


Function VS Nonfunctional elements: How to customize shoes in an ultimate way


You will choose how to customize shoes in your own way, that fits your style and design. But try to look on your footwear elements and think if there is a function for them beside been cute or hiding seams, folds or anything else.  


There is a great power in the functionality of elements. Let’s try to compare your shoes with a top speed, million dollar cars. Every little element of their design is not just looking good but there is a reason why is it there. Everything is functional, there is nothing extra, and that is how I believe you need to think of your shoes.   
Automotive design


How To Make a Pattern


1. Basic Pattern

I made the basic pattern of my pump last.  See how we make a basic pattern

High Boots Course: We start with the basic pattern 001

 Basic pattern of pumps last

2.Basis Pattern of Ankle Boot

I created this pattern as we did in my Lesson 3: High boot course: Boots from almost any last -003.

As in my lesson I created this pattern using the basic pattern and on my pumps last. I checked it and made my corrections on the last. This is my start point.

Basic shoe pattern

3. Paper Pattern

Now, I will cut this ankle boot from a paper pattern, last it to draw my design on it.


4.Ankle Boot with My Design


On the inner side of the boot, I added one extra line, to hide the ends of the decorative element. It will keep the back of the ankle boot clean, like on the outer side.


5 Construction of the Fold Using My Freehand Pattern Technique


Using my Freehand pattern Technique, we will create this fold without any calculations, right away on the last, easy and fast.

To make it even easier,  I will be using transparent paper to construct this fold on the last, what will allow me to see the lines of the fold. This is one of my freehand pattern techniques.

 how to make fold on shoes
Fold with correct proportion is attached to the pattern. The beginning of the fold starts on the same spot where the zipper usually is on the boots.

As we will not have any usual fastening, this fold will allow smooth entrance of the foot. This why this fold start where zipper usually is. I teach how to make boots with zipper construction and when you know these rules of construction, you can change them according to your design preferences.


This is finished fold and this is how it will look together with the entire design of the ankle boot.


I took off the entire pattern, opened the fold and made a cut on the back.

 shoe pattern with open fold

As this fold can’t be made as a one cut with the entire upper, we need to cut in along this line. This line is in the middle of the fold and won’t be visible,  to create this one cut illusion.

 shoe-pattern-with-open-fold cuts.

6. New Basic Pattern of my Ankle Boot .
I copied my first basic pattern to the new cardboard and transferred the paper pattern details, front and back parts with the folds.

Footwear basic pattern of ankle boot


7. Basic Pattern with All lines of Design

Here I added the dividing lines of my vamp ( red lines). Those lines will be located under the decorative element and will not be visible.

I drew all lines of the inner and another side on one pattern, but of course, you can make two separate patterns so you will not get confused ( but I prefer one pattern).


Together I received 3 front parts. / Part1, Part2, Part 3/

 complete basic pattern of ankle boot

8. Upper Pattern Making   


Now, from this basic pattern, I will make patterns of all details to check it from the material.


Part 1

I copied part 1 from the basic pattern and added necessary seam allowance and marked the line of the decorative element on it.


Part 2

I copied part 2 from the basic pattern and added necessary seam allowance and marked the line of the decorative element on it.

 How to make a shoe pattern details part2

Part 3

I copied part 3 from the basic pattern and added necessary seam allowance and marked the line of the decorative element on it.

 How to make a shoe pattern details part3

See how all joined  3 parts of outer side look together.

 outer shoe pattern

See how all joined  3 parts of inner side look together.

 shoe inner side pattern

Note: When I created all 3 parts, I made the curved center line of the vamp straight. Meaning I just corrected the ends of each part with a straight line. I usually don’t do it this way, and this was kind of experiment for me.  

Usually, I transfer it as I teach in Onecut Oxford shoe course.


Back Pattern of Outer Side

Back outer side of a shoe pattern

Back Pattern of Inner Side

Back Pattern of Inner Side of a shoe

Decorative Element Pattern

It consists of two straps. Here I still didn’t add folding, because I want to check it first like this.


9. Checking the Pattern of Ankle Boot


Before we will make the actual boot I want to check how this fold will look from the material.


This check  I will make with a fabric material, and this is a good practice for you on how to consume less leather when you don’t have to.

The fabric is very dense and will keep the shape the same way as my leather will.


Here are all details cut from fabric  

 fabric of my shoes

Note: I added extra seam allowance right on the back, as it is made from fabric, like we do in my course: Flat Ballet Shoes form Fabric 


Important Step on How To Customize Shoes Properly
I assembled and sewn all details, last it with the actual midsole (insole) to check how it looks on the foot.
This is the right way to do it, if you make shoes for yourself or a client, you must make a prototype to see if everything fits correctly.

Note: You can avoid this step only if you made this exact shoes more than once.

Lasted shoe from fabric

I used here ordinary elastic for now. I will explain later the order of ambling.


Now, to understand if everything works how it should be we should test it on the foot.

 Shoes on my feet

Ok, what you say about that?!


Although it’s just a sample and it is made of fabric, you can already see the correction that it does to my leg. The ankle boot creates this imaginary line as it fills the space with inner and outer volume. ,  

Now, I have seen how it looks on my feet and I know now what corrections I must to in my pattern.


  1. The fold is too small, and I must increase it, 2 cm in total.
  2. The elastic band is too close to the fold. I will move it closer to the middle.

button on a shoe

  1. To create the illusion that our fold starts at the bottom, we will move the seam from there. That means I must change how I connect those two parts. I will make her inside out seam.

Inside out seam pattern

  1. As I will increase the fold (2 cm in total) and by this open up the entrance. To not make it too wide, I will cut from the back a little bit.  


Correcting our shoe basic pattern 

In this pic, you can see that I made all needed corrections on my basic pattern.

Now, I will correct all my upper patterns as well.


10.Lining Pattern


After I corrected all patterns all I left to do is lining pattern.


Front lining pattern I made from the Part1 of the upper

front lining shoe pattern

This is the back lining pattern, made from the basic pattern.

Back lining shoe pattern


11.  Decorative Element Pattern

As we move on, I must create the pattern for my decorative element, but before I’ll do that I need to decide which leather I’m gonna use here.

I have narrow it down to this two types.  
* White color leather
* Black patent leather
To make the choice I need to see how each of them look together with my primary leather (upper).

 choose leather for your shoes


Maybe it’s my taste but I picked the black patent leather.


Thinking process of choosing black leather

If I  would pick the white color, I would have to cover the elastic entirely, because it’s black and it would have ugly look. As I choose the black leather I actually don’t have to cover it up, but it looks good, so why not!


If the elastic will be covered, then I can make the elastic cover and the decorative element as a one-cut detail, just as I like it. Although it will be a challenging pattern making, I never cover this kind of elastic, so it will be interesting. This is how my Ankle boot design will look with one-cut decorative element.

My footwear design drawing



How can you make this kind of pattern?

First I will take a small piece of elastic and make its cover.
Then I will add it to the decorative elements.  So, let’s make a cover.

 Leather cover for elastic

I cut the small strap of the black patent strap.
Width; 2.5cm, it’s X5 bigger than the width of the elastic. Elastic diameter 5mm.

Length; 14 cm


To cover this elastic and to keep its functionality, I need to skive it very thin.

Skiving leather

Tip: How to cover any elastic band, easy, fast and clean.
* Hold the leather strap at one end of the elastic with nails on your cutting board. (cover them first with a glue).
* Stretch the elastic

 Making strap cover

* Nail the second end of elastic to the board

Making strap cover step 2

* Cover one edge of the elastic with leather.

Making strap cover step 3

* Cut the extras of leather

 Making strap cover step 4

* Cover the elastic completely

Make shoes cover for elastic

This is how it looks in the end, plus I cutted off the elastic extras.

Make shoes cover for elastic done 


How I added this covered elastic to the decorative element

I will attach this covered elastic to my basic pattern and will create a loop.

Elastic loot for shoe fastening

Mark the middle of the loop and mark the end of elastic cover on the decorative element.

 Elastic loot for shoe fastening 2

We will cut on the middle of the loop, as it is symmetrical and one half will be enough.

Elastic loot for shoe fastening 3

Transfer this marked end to the actual decorative element.

Mark on decorative element

Now connect two parts of decorative element and elastic cover.


Now we will make a pattern of this one cut decorative element. 

On a new cardboard copy one strap of decorative element and leather cover.

Make-onecut-decorative-element 2

Mark the center line of decorative element (end of this leather cover) and add folding.

Transfer the ends ( A, B) of the leather cover to the second part of the cardboard. ( remember, we made only one half of cover).

Make-onecut-decorative-element 2

To A1, B1 add the second strap pattern of decorative element.

Make-onecut-decorative-element 5

Rotate the second strap, so it will create a smooth transaction between the leather cover and second strap of decorative element.  Add folding her too.

 Make-onecut-decorative-element 5

Ok, now we must make a pattern for elastic. Place a piece of elastic  (which we already used) add extra to hold it with nails and cut cardboard when it folded.

Pattern for your elastic


That is it! We finished the pattern of our decorative element.
Now we move on to cut the leather.

Cutting Leather Patterns

Let’s cut all patterns.


shoe leather upper

Lining and decorative element

shoe leather lining


  Assembling and sewing


Preparation of decorative element before assembling

Mark the beginning of the elastic on the inner side of the strap

inner side of strap

Skive it very thin, the quality of elastic depend on it. Thinner is better. Skive the edges as well, for folding.

Skived leather strap

Because we use a patent leather, we need to skive on the front side of the leather as well so it could attach better.

Skived leather strap cover

Here you will do the same process of covering your elastic just as I did before, just do it for the entire piece. The only difference here is that after I will attach the elastic, I need to make cuts on the leather cover where elastic ends.Then fold the decorative element

Skived leather strap cover finished


That is it, we done with our preparation for our decorative element.


Now it’s finally time to assemble and sew our upper.

Before we assemble all parts we must skive them as usual. With this type of leather that I’m using, I need to skive very thin, so my parts will connect smoothly.


Order of assembling and sewing

* Attach lining to the Part1 upper.

* Attach together Part 1, 2,3 and sew them together.

Shoe upper assembling

* Attach decorative element according to the marks and sew it.

* Attach inner heel and sew it.

* Make inside out seam with the back outer part and attach 2 parts of the fold.

Shoe upper assembling 2

To hold our fastening I will attach a button, and this is the kind that I think suits my design. Don’t sew it tightly to the upper to allow fastening. ( reinforce it from the inner site with leather.)

Attach button

Make a back seam.

Shoe upper back seam

Now, we need to attach the back lining and sew it to the upper. Then we need to cut the extras of lining allowance.

How to make shoe upper

As we have here an open seam at the top line, because we don’t have here lining, we must cover it with a thin leather strap.

How to make reinforcement for shoe topline

We are done with the upper.

How to make a boot upper


How to customize shoe last

I am working on the pump last as you remember. Usually, if you would make an ankle boot with pump last, you will need to add a piece of leather on the instep. This is what usually shoemakers do in custom-made shoes.

But, on the last that I am working on the instep is wide already, so what I will do here is I will add a piece of leather on the heel.
This will create the curve that I need to match the construction of my ankle boot pattern ( on the back). Especially because I need to add there stiffener and it needs to lay firmly on the last.

before lasting a shoe
The end of our shoemaking work includes as always, lasting, making heels and sole. I will not focus on how to customize heels or how to customize shoe sole. Although it have everything to do with shoemaking and footwear design, our case study is focused on how to customize shoes to make our legs look perfect.

After I did all my work as you do normally shoemaking, here are the boots that I got.

How to custumize a shoe pair


How to customize shoes to fit your legs form

How to Customize Your Shoes to Make Your Feet Happy


First, if you will look at the first peek of my boots, you could never tell that they are constructed on the pump last. We can’t create any other shoe type on the boot last except boots, but we can make boot on our pump last with few adjustments as you see in this case study.

All this shoemaking work, footwear design that I did in this case study was to check how to customize shoes so they will match perfectly your or your customer’s legs.
You can see what we did here, how my new boot changes how my legs look. The boot compliments the shape of my legs, creating the right proportion. It creates a straight inner line, filling the empty space and extra volume on the outer side hides my thin ankles.

This case study was to prove that with the right footwear design and your shoe making skills, especially smart pattern making you can achieve almost any form, any shape on any last to make shoes that will compliment any leg.
Shoemaking and footwear design, don’t stand alone as a visual art, it must create forms ( shoes) that goes along with your foot, legs. This is one of the ways how to customize shoes.  

Even if you are a beginner you can still use your shoemaking knowledge, with the help of creative footwear design and pattern making to create the shoes that you want.

That is it!
It was a very long case study, but I am very excited to share it with you. New articles and case studies are coming your way. My goal with those case studies is to improve your skills and maybe to trigger you to think outside of the box. If you’re passionate about crafting your own shoes but face challenges such as time constraints, unfamiliarity with shoemaking supplies, or budgetary concerns, I invite you to delve into this comprehensive shoemaking article: “How to Make Shoes”.


In the meantime, I have a question for you:
Was this case study helpful?  and even more important what case studies would you want to see here on this blog? What are you struggling with?

Submit your comment below and let me know.




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About the author 

Sveta Kletina

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  1. Ms Sveta, you are awesome! Thank you for this article. I made pump shoes in your course and will defiantly try to make this boots.

  2. Dear Sveta,
    I love your Case Studies and all the insight and details in the work you do. I have not taken a shoemaking course but plan to soon. Having you share all these wonderful and interesting design tips makes me so enthusiastic about making my own beautiful shoes and boots. Thank you Liz

  3. Hi Liz,
    Thank you . It gives me a lot of joy to know that it pushes you to want to make shoes. You can do it, and you always welcome at my courses.

  4. Hi Sveta,

    This case study is extremely helpful. It is important to create flattering shoes for customers. Your instructions are very clear and therefore motivating. Thank you,


  5. I love this case study. I’ve never thought that a shoe can compliment a leg. I never thought that far about shoes. I need to learn how to think out of the box. Thank you for your hard work.

    1. Thank you Tina, I appreciate the feedback.I think thinking out of the box, creativity it was generating a progress, so keep it up.

  6. I never knew about the different types of legs. That was helpful to learn. What I’d like to see as a case study is how to make midsole for people with weird feet. My right foot pinky toe side sticks out kind of far. I have a friend with hammer toes. How do I make shoes for us to wear comfortably? Thanks.

    1. Hi,
      You need to understand that it is little bit problematic as this is more of an orthopedic issue and require a lot of skills and knowledge that I am sure a case study can’t do. So I can only suggest but I can’t assure you it will work 100%, just because in orthopedic footwear they make a mold of your foot, and a last from it.
      To make these kind of midsoles you need first to change the shape of your last according to the shape of your feet, and then the midsole will have the right shape according to your feet. That mean that you need to customize your last. To change your last shape see the course “Change your last form”. As a reference to make right changes on the last make an outline of your feet and from this make your pattern.Then use this pattern to change your last as I teach in this course.If you need more help, let me know.

  7. Dear Sveta, I thank you for this helpful study, I have been working for private shoe factory in stiching shoe upper for 24 years. Now I intend to have my own job in making shoe and I am eager to know much about how to make shoe pattern, I hope your studys will help me more

    1. Great! Have you signed up already? In every course we go through pattern making process and yes, it’s super important.

  8. Hi Sveta, these are beautiful boots, and I really like your choice of stockings too, great look! My feet have a lot of issues and I need help in creating my own lasts for my problem feet. I’m conversing with a company that sells products that will allow you to make your own custom made resin lasts at an affordable price. In the mean time I liked your idea of using the fabric first so adjustments can be made before using the leather. Thank you so much for your helpful instructions. I can’t wait to get started, but am expanding my knowledge first by reading your instructions.

  9. Sveta, you are amazing, I have learnt so much already with your articles. I love shoes and really want to start making mine soon. You have really boost my interest. Thank you so much.

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