There’s nothing more frustrating than making a whole pair of shoes, only to find out at the very end that they don’t fit you properly! In this tutorial, we’ll teach you how to build up your lasts for a custom fit so you can achieve perfectly fitting shoes that don't compromise on style. 😉
Before we dive in, I just wanted to mention that if you find you have much narrower feet, you might find it tricker to make customisations to your lasts. So if you've got narrow feet and they're way too narrow for a standard sized last, I'd recommend buying a narrow-fit last. Feel free to reach out to us if this is the case and we can help you find some!
You will need:
If you rarely have any fit issues, we'd recommend you start by making a mock up on your standard sized lasts before you make any necessary adjustments as there’s a good chance that most lasts will fit you well to start with. You can learn how to make a mock up HERE.
The first thing to take into consideration is that everyone has a different preference of fit regardless of their shoe size or foot shape. Some people prefer a looser shoe, some people prefer a tighter shoe and some people prefer their shoe to be tighter or looser in certain areas.
There is no science for creating a truly bespoke fit for you. It’s a process and you may need to make a few mock up shoes and adjustments before you get the fit how you’d like.
The lasts do not need to be the exact same shape as your foot for a great fit, hence why shoes look like shoes, not feet. Some people may argue otherwise but we think there is balance between the two. 😉 Shoes made straight onto our lasts may fit some people really well despite being completely different shapes.
First of all, we will want to check the general width. Do this with your socks on if you’re making a style you’d wear with socks. Measure around the circumference of the widest part of your foot (which is usually your forefoot). Now measure around the widest part of your last. In general, you want your last to be around 5mm narrower than your feet as your shoes should stretch a bit with wear. Make a note of both measurements as they'll come in handy later.
Trace around your foot onto a piece of paper and place your last on top of your tracing. If your lasts are too narrow (with a gap 5mm or bigger), the areas where the tracing overlaps is where you’ll want to start building up the last.
To build up your lasts, we recommend using cork sheets or vegetable tanned leather. It doesn’t matter too much about how thick your material of choice is as you can add more or shave it away later. Cut some scrap pieces slightly longer than you need.
Using the stronger solvent-based shoemaking glue, glue the underside of your patches, and the area of the last you are working on. Wait around 10 minutes for your glue to dry a little.
Patch by patch, activate the glue with a heat gun and stick them in place (if you don’t have a heat gun you can use a hairdryer but note that this may take a little longer). Make sure the pieces at least line up or overlap the feather edge of the last.
Continue any of the width build up to the toe area of the last if you want to maintain the original overall shape. If your feet are very different from each other, don’t hesitate to build up the lasts differently. For example, if you have a bunion on one foot, you only need to build up that one corresponding last.
Also, if you have a high instep you’ll want to build up across the instep too following the same process.
Once the patches are stuck in place, take a safety beveler and begin smoothing out the edges of the cork or leather. You’ll want the patches to transition into the shape of the last. You don’t need to replicate the exact lumps and bumps on your foot here, just general width in the areas you need will create a flattering shoe shape. Use the sandpaper file to sand down the cork for an extra smooth finish.
You should also level out any of the overlapping build up on the feather edge of the last. You can use your sandpaper file to get rid of any bumps.
Check the circumference of the last to see if you need to shave more away or add extra patches. Remember, you want your last to be around 5mm narrower than your feet as your shoes will stretch with wear.
Test the shape by wrapping some upper leather around the last and check there are no visible bumps. We’d also recommend making a test mock up to check the fit. Click HERE to learn how to make a mock up.
And that’s how to build up your lasts for a custom fit! Just note that if your lasts have an alpha hinge and you’ve built up the lasts across this join, you’ll need to cut a seam here so that you’re able to break the last at a later stage.
There are really no limits on how much you can alter the lasts so keep going until you achieve the perfect fit. 😄
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