What materials do you need to make shoes?
Here's what you are going to need to get started...
Beginners shoemaking tool kit: We sell a beginners tool kit which includes all of the hard-to-find, essential tools and glue you’ll need to get started. Below we have outlined the key tools and equipment.
Tools & equipment: Paper, Masking tape, Pencil, Eraser, Ruler, Tape measure, Craft knife, Scissors, Silver pen, Heat gun (or hairdryer at hottest setting), Folding Hammer, Safety Beveler/Skiving knife, Awl.
Sewing machine: We use a ‘Janome HD9 Professional‘ sewing machine in our workshop, but many domestic sewing machines will sew through leather as well. We recommend using denim needles and nylon or polyester thread. You can read more about sewing machines for shoemaking in our post here.
Glue: We use Aquilim 315 glue for 90% of the shoemaking process and Klebfest glue (the extra strong stuff) for attaching the soles. You can also source these glues from ‘Algeos’ online in the UK– the strong glue from their website is called ‘Renia Colle de Cologne’.
We have a full international and local suppliers list within our online course. For more information and to book on, click here.
Lasts are shoe-shaped blocks that the shoes are built around. They come in left and right pairs and are normally made of plastic or wood. Lasts will determine the heel height, shape and size of the shoes.
We sell lasts on our online supply shop.
You can also order custom fit lasts from Podohub online.
‘Uppers’ are the part of the shoe that cover the foot and essentially the part of the shoe that you see. Most uppers are made up of the outer material and a lining material, which are traditionally; leather, leather alternatives or fabric.
Leather: For upper leather you would need to chose something with a slight stretch to it. A thinner leather will give a softer looking shoe and a thicker leather would create a more structured shoe. Our favourite leather shops in London are:
Leather alternatives: There are lots of exciting new vegan materials coming onto the market so we recommend you try out any you can get yours hands on.
Fabric: Most fabrics are suitable for footwear but they will most likely need to be backed with an iron-on interfacing to give them strength.
Traditionally made of leather or thermoplastics, ‘stiffeners’ are inserted within the upper to give shape and structure to the shoes. Depending on the style of shoe, two types of stiffeners can be inserted – the ‘counter’ which cups the back of the heel and the ‘toe puff’ which cups the toe area.
We use thermoplastic toe puff and counter stiffeners and sell them in packs of 5 on our online supply shop.
Horrah! Heels are the trickiest component to find and we’ve got‘em!
Check out our online supply shop to see our selection of heels which fit our lasts perfectly.
When describing the heel as a shoe component this is the block or stilt which holds up the height of the shoe. Heels come in all shapes and sizes and have a huge influence over the style of the shoe.
Also known as ‘insocks’, insole socks are an additional piece of material, which is added to the shoe at the very end of the making process. They serve to cover up the insoles and screws/staples that attach the heels. They are also an opportunity to add some padding to the shoes for comfort.
Insole socks are normally made from a soft leather or fabric (often the same material that was used for the lining) and foam padding. We sell insock foam here.
Hardware is the additional components that can be added to footwear such as eyelets, zips, buckles, studs etc. We We have a a few tried and tested component recommendations on our Amazon list. Otherwise Etsy or eBay are great place to find bits like this. We also love London Trimmings for zips and J.T. Batchelor for buckles.
The main difference between sneakers and other styles of footwear is the sole. You can purchase sneaker soles from our online supply shop or Etsy online. To attach the sole you will need a Hole punch, Awl, Speedy Stitcher and strong Waxed Thread (around 1mm thick). We also find using a ‘curved needle’ and ‘crochet hook’ very helpful for some of the fiddly bits.
These materials can be found at a leather supply or ‘shoe findings’ store in most urban areas. If your city has one, they are worth checking out and exploring!
San Francisco/Oakland, CA: O. Baltor & Sons
Los Angeles, CA: Saderma Napa
CA: Hide House Portland, OR: Oregon Leather
If your area doesn’t have one of these stores Tandy Leather (stores and online) sells leather and rubber soling
We have a full international and local suppliers list within our online course. For more information and to book on click here.