August 28, 2019

The Ultimate Guide to Shoe Last Types and Shoemaking

Shoe last is the form that shoemakers use in shoe molding and it is the anatomical "copy" of our feet.
Shoe last comes in different forms, shapes and are made from different materials. It is used only in shoe making .
This is the first "tool" that we are using in making of shoes and we will be using it through the entire process of shoemaking:

  • We apply our footwear design on the shoe lasts
  • We make our pattern with the shoe last
  • We lasting shoes, uppers on the shoe last
  • We make shoe sole and leather heels on the shoe last 

What is a Shoe Last?

Shoe lass for molding shoes

This is maybe the most important "tool" or a supplies for shoemaking you must have to make shoes.

Before we will check the different last types and why you need to have them to make variety of shoes, I want you to learn what is a shoe last, what it is made of and how we use it in making of shoes.

better to see once than hear a hundred times

I have created a short video for you, to quickly explain why shoe last is so important in shoe making process.

Materials Used for Making Shoe Lasts

There are 3 materials shoe lass are made from;

1. Wood
2. Plastic 
3. Aluminium

Let's begin from the last and least used material - Aluminum

In general we use aluminum last in shoe making for shoe sole molding. This kind of lasts are placed in special ovens in high temperature. 

Plastic lasts  are the most used in making of shoes.

Maybe this is not the best material for molding shoes and it is defiantly adds to our pollution problem, but it is used in shoes mass production and in bespoke shoemaking as well.   

Wooden Shoe last

Last is the "foot copy" mold upon which a shoe is constructed. That is why shoe lasts that are made of wood is usually used in bespoke making of shoes.
Shoemaker or a lasts maker takes the persons feet measurments and creates wooden lasts that are perfectly fits that person. Shoe last making is a craft on its on with a long history and in the traditional way of last making is to shape a last from a hard type of wood (usually maple) with a last makers knife.

Bespoke making of shoes could be and it is pretty expensive. Focus here is on making the perfect shoes for you and it always begins from bespoke wooden lasts. 

Wooden shoe lass

Where to Find High-Quality Shoe Lasts for Your Projects

  • If you want to purchase good wooden lasts please visit this great website, Spenle they create wide variety of shoe lasts from wood. Many of my students have purchased their lasts there and they will be very usefull for those of you who have a "problematic "feet and need something special.
  • I have created a detailed page about shoe last and there you can find good resourses to buy you a shoe lasts.

Making Shoes with Different Shoe Molds: How Many Do You Need

Why Heel Height Matters in Shoe Making

You must make shoes on a lasts with correct heel height. That means, that we can make few footwear designs on the same lasts but we can't  make different heel height shoes on the same lasts.
Measure the height of your shoe last (the heel) and make shoes accordingly. This is how we take measurments and create stacked heels for shoes.
How To Make Heels and Heel Height Calculation

Its a known practice in making of shoes to customize a shoe mold to fit the person feet. Another great technique in shoemaking that I teach my students is a changing the toe shape of your lasts. That can be permanent change or a temporary change and by changing the toe shape of the shoe lasts we will change the design and the look of our shoes.

Shoemaking Techniques to Change The Shape of Your Last

Choosing the Right Shoe Last for Your Shoemaking Projec

If you have experience in shoemaking, or you are a shoemaker you probably know which lasts you need for the job. If you are just getting started and don't know which shoe lass you should get to start making shoes, you should read this article Perfect Footwear Last To Learn Shoemaking. Also, if you are willing to learn more about shoemaking, about all steps of shoemaking, you must read this post "Beginners in shoemaking Toolsand Materials Definitive Giude 2023"
This is perfect and correct solution for beginners, as you would want to practice and have the chance to make more then just one footwear type. Do it right and buy footwear last that you can make variety of shoes with it.  

Anatomy of a Footwear Last for Shoemaking

Making of shoes with specific footwear last can and will effect the process of shoe making. Shoe last has few important components and different types of opening (to take shoes off the lasts) and for specific types of shoes you must know with which shoe lasts is better to work with.

For example, you must have a steel plate on the bottom of our last when we are molding closed shoes. Meaning, with footwear models like Oxford shoes, flat ballet shoes, boots etc, we need to attach the bottom part of the upper to the insole with nails.
By having steel plate on the bottom will prevent the nails going into the last, so we could take our shoes off the lasts. 
For types of shoes, like Sandal or sport shoes, you don't need to have the steel plate as shoe upper and insoles are attached without nails.
[Check out the how Adidas making their sport shoes with new technology. ]

Another example, most footwear lasts have different type of opening like lasts with hinge. We need this opening to easily remove shoes off the lasts. This is very important in types of shoes like, boots, High boots, Derby shoes, etc.
If in previously mentioned footwear types the opening is not critical, it is in Moccasin shoes. Here we must use lasts with sliding hinge.
To learn more about different shoes opening please check this super detailed article
Different types of last opening

All Shoemaking Supplies 

If you want to make shoes there is no way around it, you will need knifes, hammers, leather, glue, shanks, boards, and everything else to get the job done.
For that purpose I have created a detailed list of everything you need to make shoes.

Common Shoe Last Types for Shoemaking

pumps shoe lass

There are different shoe last types and in this post I will talk with you about most common shoe last types.

We have men's lasts, women's lasts and children's lasts. But this is not all the shoe last types that we have.

Do you know that there are same shoe lasts types for every footwear type? Yes, almost every footwear type have its own shoe last type.
Why each footwear type must be done on a specific shoe last? Because each shoe type has its own construction and this construction must suit also your feet parameters, that is why we need different lasts for each type.

To explain it better let's take an example. Let's compare sandals ( one shoe type) and pumps ( another shoe type).

Sandal Lasts vs. Pump Lasts: Understanding the Difference

Usually sandals have open construction: it is open in the toe, in the instep and heel part, and most of them have fastening in the ankle area.

Now, the pumps are constructed in the way where they sit tightly on your feet and without any fastening.

Understand now?
That's why sandal last and pump last have different construction:

Sandal lasts have dimension that is very close to the dimension of the feet; on the other hand, the pump last much narrow than the real dimension of human feet.

pump last and sandal lass

1.Sandal Lasts with Reduced Toe Allowance 

The pump last is always longer than your feet length and have toe allowance at least (not smaller than) 8 mm.

You never will find sandals with pointed toe shape ( only if it is some fashion trend).  The toe shape  of sandal last is similar to the shape of feet toes and doesn't have many variations.
The toe shape of pump last has different variations ( square shape, rounded shape, pointed toe shape etc).

bottom of shoe lass

2. The width of the insole in the toe are, joint line, instep and heel is wider than insole of pump last in the same places.

3. The instep of sandal last is bigger than instep of pump last at least on 8 mm.

shoe lass with tape measurments

4. Most of the sandal lasts don't have steel plate and have mono-block construction (we talked about it in this post

Pump lasts have steel plate and have removable cone or hinge link.

In this short example I wanted to demonstrate you why each shoe type, because of its construction, must have its own shoe last.

So what is a shoe last type you need to use to make sandals and what is a shoe last type you need to make pump shoes?

To make sandals use sandals lasts, to make pump last.  You can't make sandals using pump last and otherwise. Just as you can't make pump shoes on boot lasts!

Although, there is a pattern making approach to construct boots using pump lasts and  I teach how to do it  in  my High Boot Course

Most Common Shoe Last Types You Can Work With in Shoemaking

1. Pump Lasts for High Heels

pumps shoe last

On this type of last you can do any type of pumps:

Classic pumps, T – strap pumps, D’orsay pumps, Slingback pumps, Mary Jane pumps

2. Moccasin Lasts for Casual Shoes"

moccasin last

Using this type of last you will make the original moccasins. Check my previous post on why moccasins must have theirs own shoe lasts type.

3. Lace-Up Shoe Lasts for Traditional Footwear

Using this type of last you can make Derby shoes, Oxford shoes etc. This type of shoe lasts have curved shape on the instep to fit better to the curved instep of human foot.

4. Boot Lasts for Boots with Fastening

boot last

On this boot last you can do any boot design ( ankle boot or high boot) with zipper or laces.

5. Boot Lasts for Boots Without Fastening

This is special shoe last type designed for boots with free entrance, meaning, the boots that don't have any fastening. They wider in the instep and in the back part of the ankle.

6. Cowboy Boots Lasts for Western Footwear

old cowboy boot last

More about cowboy boots and cowboy lasts you can find in this interview I made with one of our members, William Shanor

7. Open Toe Pump Lasts for Summer Styles

Yes, there is a special shoe last type made for this footwear type.

It has the same parameters as the pump last, except the toe part. In this type of pump last the toe allowance is smaller than in the original pump last. That means that pump last with open toe is shorter than regular pump last. Why? To not show too big allowance of the insole in open toe pumps.

So what is a correct shoe last for the Peep toe pumps?It is the peep toe pump shoe last.

8. Sandal last ( we talked about specification of this last type above)

9. Hybrid Lasts for Unique Shoe Styles

It was designed when open toe boots were in fashion. It was easier to construct this type of footwear, working with this type of last.

There are also few shoe lasts that I didn’t mention here, just because  I wanted to talk with you about most common shoe lasts types that you need in your work.

Now, in the comment below let me know what is a shoe last that you use in your work?

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About the author 

Sveta Kletina

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  1. I would like a picture of a last for Mary Jane flats. I wear size between 5.5 and 6. Also where can I buy shoelasts?

  2. Please tell me how to obtain fabric insoles for my ballet flat style shoes. I want them to be white. The states do not have insole manufacturers. I have looked up SEVERAL other manufacturers in other countries but they will not send me a sample of what I am looking for.

  3. Hi Sveta, I want more info on the hybrid last of boot last and sandal last…i want to make high boot with long zipper in midline, wide square toe box and high stacked heel….i am a beginner and also want to use the sole and heel from a boot i have taken apart.

  4. Hi. I wish to Make sandals, Oxford, and Derby types footwear, but because to purchase these moulds is an expensive venture for me I'm looking at the alternative of trying my hand at last making; hence, my search for information relative to last making

  5. Hi Sveta
    I’m a sandal maker and am looking for wooden split toe sandal lasts. Do you have those or do you know where I might purchase them?
    Thank you

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