How to Make Shoes: The Definitive Guide

How to
Make Shoes

The Definitive Guide

How to make shoes? If you plan to learn a craft of shoe making and to make your shoes, you must be wondering how shoes are made? Is it difficult to make shoes? Is shoe making for me?

I know that because many years ago I use to ask myself the same questions. The lack of knowledge and misunderstanding the process lids to fear and makes you pass on the idea of making your own shoes.

First thing that I do with my students in 1 Year shoemaking Program, is to show them the big picture, to show them the full process of how to make shoes. This is exactly what I will share with you in this post and a video. 

Before you start…


Shoe making is a complicated process, with many steps and details that ,obviously, I won't be able to show you  in this post. What I will do, I will give you the simplified version of how to make shoes.

Other important subjects that I will share in this post are the tools and materials used in shoe making.

There is a common misunderstanding about the shoe making tools, materials and machinery that you need to use to make shoes.

You watched YouTube videos on how to make shoes and you see shoemakers use many different tools, and you think that is what you need to get started making your shoes.



The truth is, for you as a beginner in shoe making, you only need to have minimum set of tools to make your shoes.  Only when you will get the experience and skills in this craft  you will add those tools to your arsenal.

Let’s begin

Foot Measurement

First step in shoe making is always taking your foot measurements.

In bespoke  shoe making we take the foot measurements to create a shoe last or customize the shoe lasts. 

If you are not making your last, you need these measurements to know what size of a shoe last you need to purchase (same shoe lasts size have different widths).

You can check how to measure your feet correctly in this post : Foot measurement :Order the right lasts

and you are welcome to watch the YouTube tutorial that I made.

Simple Method How to Measure Your Feet Easy & Fast

 Customize your shoe last

Vegtable tanned leather covered shoe last

Another good option for you to make shoes is, to take the standard last and customize it according to your feet measurements as many shoemakers do.

Pattern making

I personally think that pattern making is a core in shoe making because, if you want to learn how to make shoes, not only beautiful but comfortable as well, you need to master pattern making first.

That's why I focus a lot on the pattern making in all my 19 courses to give to the beginners in shoemaking this super important knowledge to succeed in their shoe making craft.

Cover the last with masking tape


This is the first step in pattern making, as we will be applying our shoe design on top.

I created a full, step by step guide on how to cover your shoe last with masking tape like a pro. 

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Apply the design


When you were thinking about how to make shoes, you had imagined a certain footwear, a certain design, but how do we get it?

For us, to make the pattern of the footwear that we want, we first must draw the design on the shoe last (on masking tape).

I am not talking about pretty drawings, this is a technical drawing on the shoe last according to the rules of the specific footwear construction.

Making the basic pattern


The basic pattern is the pattern that contains all lines of your shoe design and the lines of the shoe last. You will use this pattern later to develop the upper and lining patterns.

Why basic pattern is so important pattern in shoe making you can learn in this post

Tools and materials: cardboard, compass, utility knife

Checking the basic pattern


You will use this basic pattern to develop the patterns of upper and lining, that is why the basic pattern must be correct.

The best way to check your basic pattern is, to use simple A4 paper. I will not go into details here because I wrote the full article on the subject and you can read it here.

Save your money on leather, make shoes working with paper patterns

Tools and materials: paper A4, nails, cutting board

Upper and Lining pattern making

lining and upper making

The upper and lining patterns are more detailed patterns that include seam allowance and marks. 

Tools and materials: cardboard,compasses, utility knife, cutting board



cutting leather

We use the upper and lining cardboard patterns in shoe making to cut leather parts (or any other materials). 

Tools and materials: leather, silver pen, utility knife, cutting board


Assembling shoe pattern

Before you will sew the upper and lining together  you need to attach all parts of the upper and lining. During this shoe making step you will skive some of the upper and lining parts, and will reinforce specific places of your upper with different reinforcement tapes.

In the making of every shoe type there is a certain order of assembling.

Tools and materials: shoemaking knife, shoemaking hammer, reinforcement tape 4mm and 16 mm


sewing the upper of shoes

We sew all parts together: upper with lining. At this stage of work we get the complete upper, meaning the top of our shoe. 

Tools and materials: sewing machine, shoemaking hammer

Insole making


Insole is an inner part of the shoe that basically connects top part of the shoe (upper) with bottom part (sole, heel).

There are insoles from cardboard (mostly used in the the mass shoe production) and from vegetable tanned leather (in bespoke shoe making).

In bespoke shoe making shoemakers use the leather insoles because of the welted construction. The leather insoles will allow you to sew the upper to the insoles.

Carre Duker wrote very informative post about making the leather insoles, and I encourage you to read it.

Tools and materials:taxon board, shankboard, shoemaking rasp or a drill dremel, shoe making knife, shoemaking hammer, contact glue


Lasting in shoemaking

In this shoe making step you will attach the edges of the upper and lining to the insoles.

When you will learn the process of how to make shoes, lasting is a magical milestone, when in the first time you will see your creation comes to life.

Many students of my 1 Year Program didn't think that one day they will be able to make their own shoes by themself and now they do.

The toe puffs and the counters

During lasting we must attach the toe puffs and counters. These are materials that hold the shape of the foot and protect the foot from damages.

We place them between the upper and lining of the toe area and in the heel area.

Tools and materials: pincers, nails, shoemaking rasp shoe making knife, contact glue, leather for stiffeners or non-woven chemical material

The sole making

sole making

In shoe making you can use different materials for soles. The easiest way is, to use ready-made rubber soles but if you want to learn how to make shoes with natural materials, you always need to use the vegetable tanned leather.

For women shoes we use the vegetable tanned leather with a thickness of 2-3.5 mm, for men shoes 4-5 mm.

One of the best tanneries in the world that produces vegetable tanned leather is JR-Leather.

Kirby Allison from Hanger project just posted a great video about the JR leather tannery and the entire process of making their product.

Tools and materials: vegetable tanned leather, cork, shoemaking rasp shoe making knife, contact glue

Heel making

Heel making

With the heels we also have options. You can use ready-made plastic or wooden heels, with one big but...

You can’t just buy any heel that can matches the height of your shoe last, but more importantly, the heel must match the shape of your last (the bottom).

Meaning, if you think about buying ready-made heels, make sure to purchase them together with the lasts.

Second option and, in my opinion, is the best option, to make your own heels from leather or wood.

So, if you want to learn how to make shoes with leather stacked heels, here is a great post about it.

Finishing and sock lining


At this step of shoe making we clean our soles ( made from leather) and heels using glass. We take off the top layer of leather to remove all marks and scratches left from the shoe making process. 

The cleaning of the shoe soles and heels can be a short or long process, depends on the quality you want to reach. 

You can continue to clean it with sandpaper, use wax, polish cream and dye color.

In finishing we must include the finishing of the upper as well (polish cream, wax).

Sock lining

This is the last step of the process of how to make shoes and here we will take off our shoes from the lasts, and place the sock lining inside. 

Sock lining is an inner part of the shoes that covers the insole. It can be with padding or without, and can be made from different materials.

That is it. Now, you have made your own shoes.

As I mentioned in the beginning of this post I simplified the shoe making process, cutting out many details and steps on the way, but right now you can understand how to make shoes and decide, if this is the adventure  you want to be a part of. 

I shared with you the process of how we make shoes, and hopefully it was usefull and informative for you.  To sum it up everything I shared in this post, I have created a step by step video. 


How to Make Shoes: The Definitive Guide

Now, what I want you to do, is to comment below

and let me know if this article inspired you to make shoes or maybe now you even have more questions.

Transcript of the video

[00:00] How to make shoes if you're a beginner, in shoemaking the process looks very complicated and difficult. So today in this shoe making video. I want to show you the entire process of making shoes, the full process on how to make shoes so you will decide if this craft is for you or not, so don't forget to subscribe and let's watch the video.

[00:40] This is very important for me to show you that shoe making process is not hard and you as a total beginner can understand everything and then you can make your own shoes and together with the shoe full to making process. I want to show you what tools to use in each step of shoe making and you will understand that you really don't need to have too much. You need to have only minimal set of tools, basic tools, and now you will learn what tools you need to have. So first, we will start from shoemaking process and I divided this full process on five steps. I divided it on pattern making, it is one of the most important steps in shoe making, first step that you will need to learn. Then when you to cut, and assembled, and sew your patents. You need to make sole and heels, also iinsoles and then lasting.

[01:42] Okay? And you, you understand it that I simplified the shoe making process to show you in the best way, so you will understand it. There are much more details in each step. But for you as a beginner, it's enough to understand the full process, to see the all steps together, to understand how shoes are made. And we'll start from the first step that is pattern making. I personally, love pattern making because from this step will depend all the other steps. First, we need to cover our last with masking tape. This is the first step in shoemaking. Here to cover your last with masking tape, you need to have last, obviously, and masking tape. I use simple masking tape that you actually can buy in your local store. Next step is to apply your shoe design on the last and here you need to know how to apply your shoe design correctly because there are different rules that you need to follow. And to apply it correctly on your last, you need to measure certain things and you need to measure it with measurement tape.

[03:04] So in this step you need to have measurement tape. Next, after you will apply your design on the last, you need to cut out this masking tape to make basic pattern, and after you will cut masking tape pattern, you need to attach it to the cardboard and that's why in this step you need to have cardboard. I use duplex. It's 120 grams. It's very, very comfortable. cardboard to work with, but if you don't have this cardboard, you can use any other cardboard. It must be flexible enough but thick enough as well. And to make this patterns, for example, to add lasting allowance to your basic pattern, you need to have compasses, ordinary compasses that you also can buy in your local store. So after you will make this basic pattern, this is the pattern that includes all lines of your shoe design. It's very important pattern because from this pattern you will develop all other parts of your shoes, but before you will develop it, you need to check your pattern.

[04:24] And I teach in my courses and I also work in this way. I check my partners from paper. It is the best way to check your partners because if you will check it from leather, you will not see the mistake, if you have them, because leather stretches. And even if you have a mistake, you will not see it. But we're working with ordinary paper. You will see if you have mistake because if you have mistake, the paper pattern will not fit perfectly your last you. You'll see that your paper pattern does not lay good on the last. Okay. And in this step of work, you need to have ordinary paper A4 and here also you may use nails. The length of these nails is about one millimeter. But if you don't have nails, you can work with masking tape to attach your paper pattern to the bottom of the last. Okay? After you will check your pattern, next is to make other parts of your pattern, lining and upper. And here you also need to work with cardboard, and compasses, and also in pattern making

[05:44] you also need to have the cutting board. Okay? Because, if you will not have something to protect your table, you will scratch the surface of your table. So if you don't have special cutting board, you can use some piece of plastic to work with. Okay? The main reason to have it, is to protect your table from scratching. Okay? So we're finished with the pattern making. After, you will make a pattern of your upper in lining, we need to move on to the next step: to the cutting, assembling and sewing. Hear you need to cut your leather, and here you see, for example, this is one of the screenshots from one of my courses. Now, you will understand why we need those card boards for patents, because we need to use them to cut leather. So you see, this is the vamp of the moccasin, and using this cardboard you will cut leather. And to cut leather you, you don't need to have a special knife, you can work with ordinary utility knife. What you need to have here is good blade. I used blade BD 100, and also here in this step, you need to use pen, silver pen. This is special erasable pen to mark certain points, and mark's according those marks, you will assemble different parts of your pattern. This is erasable pen for leather. After you finish your work, you will erase those marks. Next is, to assemble all parts together.

[07:36] Before you will assemble all parts you need to skive certain places on your pattern. For example, to fold top line, you need to skive. If you will, not scuff, you'll have very thick edge and it will be very difficult to sew together the upper and lining because of this thick edge or skive places where you need to attach parts together. So in the step of assembling you need to skive, that's why you need to have shoemaking knife to skive edges. Then you need to have hammer, because before you will sew those parts you need to attach those parts together using contact glue and to hit with the hammer to touch them well. Also you need to reinforce certain seams. And for this reason you need to have two types of reinforcement tapes: the wide allowance tape with width of 16 or 15 millimeters and narrow reinforcement tape with width of 4 millimeters. Using this narrow reinforcement tape, you will the folding, very easy and beautiful. And also will reinforce the top line, for example, using this reinforcement tape. After you will assemble all parts together or during assembling

[09:09] you will need to sew different pats. You know, there are footwear types where you need to assemble one part and then sew it or there is a footwear types where you to assemble all parts and only when you need to sew all parts together. So here you need to have sewing machine and during work use sometimes folding hammer. But here I placed not folding hammer. I placed shoemaking hammer. Why? Because you actually don't need to have special folding knife. And also here in assembling, I showed you the simple shoemaking hammer, not the folding hammer, because you can work with this hammer in the same way as you will work with special folding hammer. It's good enough to make this assembling and to flat the seems after you will sew all parts together. Okay, so here you need to have some machine and you can work with shoemaking hammer to flat seems to attach well, different parts also in assembly. After you will

[10:22] sew all parts together, you need to make insoles, because this is the inner part on which you will attach all parts of your shoes. You will attach the edges of the upper to the insole, you will attach sole to the insole and heels. So this part is very important and you can make your insoles from different materials. In my courses I explained how to work with cardboards and how to work with vegetable tan leather. What is important here is to make pattern. First you need to make pattern of the shoe bottom, and then to make buttons for different parts of the insoles. If you will make insoles from card boards. There are two card, this one, the shank board and texon board, texon board more flexible and thinner then the shank board. Shank board is harder than texon board for reason because here we need to have good support for arch zone and that's why between those two materials in arch area we need to attach steel shank, so in this step of insole making you need.

[11:40] To have these tools, you need to have hammer to attach cardboards together to create insoles and also you need to use your hammer to make curve in the steel shank according to the core of the shoe last bottom, and to attach all the parts together you need to work with contract glue and after you will attach all parts together is the time to finish the edge of the insolce,cardboard made from cardboard, and for that reason, you need to have or Dremel, to finish the edges, to sand the edges or or rasp next step is lasting. This is the process where you will place your leather upper on the last and we'll pull edges of the upper to attach them to the insult.

[12:41] In this process, you need to have this tool, so you'd have pincers, you'd have nails, you have two types of nails, the small ones that you will use to attach the back part of your upper and long nails. To attach the front part of the upper, you need to have hammer to hit well edges of lasting allowance and to create beautiful shape on the hill and to attach all this data, the edges to the insole unit to work with contacts and you know during the last thing you need to work also with two materials or one of them chemical nobleman material. This is the material that you need to use to create stiffness, or if you don't have this material, you can work with vegetable tan leather. This parts we need to attach in front of this one in the top and also this one in the back of your shoes.

[13:57] This part will keep the shape of your shoes. Okay. And also to finish the edges after when you will last your upper, you need to work with rasp to send the edges and create beautiful bottom of your shoes before you will move on to the next step, the sole making, here, the sole making okay, yeah. Here I'm showing how to make sole from leather. I personally love to work with vegetable tan leather and I teach how to work with this leather to create different types of soles. And to make these soles you need to have pattern. So first, you need to prepare pattern for the sole, then cut it from vegetable tan leather and attach it to the bottom of your lasted shoes. To create bottom, to make flat bottom, to have beautiful and comfortable soles, you need to work on the bottom using cork. Cork here is the one of the materials that you need to use. Also to make the soles you need to have vegetable tan leather, to have shoemaking knife to skive edges of leather, because leather, the vegetable tan leather is to thick for women's shoes. And to have beautiful, thin edge of the soles you need to skive the edge using the shoemaking knife.

[15:37] Then after you will attach the sole, you need to attach it well using shoe making hammer. Here you will use the handle of the hammer to attach well these soles to the shoes. You don't need to have any special tools, only hammer and you will make beautiful soles. You will attach them well. Now to attach the soles to the bottom of your shoes, your need to have a contact glue. And also to finish the edge of the soles you can work with rasp or with drill dremel. After you will attach soles it's a time to build heels.

[16:30] Actually there are different types of heels that you can build before you will attach the soles, but this is one of the most common heels that you need to build after you will attach the soles to the finished shoes. There are different materials to build heels. Here I show you how to build heal using vegetable tan leather. So, here in this step of heel making you need to work with vegetable tanned to cut this leather and to skive leather in different places to have beautiful and flat heels. You need to work with shoe making knife,same shoe making knife that you saw in other steps of shoe making. You need to have same shoemaking knife to attach well all layers of our leather stacked heels, because this type of heel we need to build using few layers of leather, to get leather stacked heels. So to attach layers of leather you need to work with contact glue and after you will attach all these layers you need to finish your heels. And to finish your heels you can work with dremel drill or with rasp.

[17:57] Okay. And, uh, I have to say that to build beautiful heels and to have identical heels on both halves of our shoes, because we have a pair of shoes, it's better to prepare a pattern for each layer of your leather stacked heels and attach them layer by layer. Only in this way you will have identical heels first of all, and only in this way, you will need to work on the finishing not too much time. Okay! So here, the pattern making is one of the important, most important things to have well done heels. So after you will finish your heels, this is actually your final step in shoe making. I mean, this is the main final step in shoe making. This is minimum tools that you need to use in all steps of making. Of course, later after you will get some experience in shoe making, you will find some new tools that you need to use, but to start making your shoes, it's enough to use those shoemaking tools.

Shoemaking Courses
  • November 27, 2018

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