How to Make Your Own Shoes?

Updated on

Shoes don’t last forever, regardless of whether they are made of high-quality materials or how well you take care of them or. With time, your favorite pair of work boots or dress shoes will undergo normal wear and tear, which means you will have to replace them. As you might be aware by now, high-quality shoes don’t come cheap, and you might end up spending hundreds of dollars every year on shoes alone. However, you can minimize some of these expenses by making your own shoes. Furthermore, making your own shoes gives you an opportunity to customize them as much as you want, since you have full control over the entire process. So, how can you make your own shoes? Here are the steps that you should follow.

Gather the Materials

Before the shoemaking process begins, you need to have all the materials you will need for the task. But first, you need to decide the type of shoe that you want to design and make. Shoes are highly diverse, and there are various types that you can make at home, including sneakers, loafers, boots, high heels, or even slippers. For instance, the materials you will need to make a pair of sneakers will not be the same as those needed to make oxfords or leather dress shoes. It’s advisable to first note down the ideas that you have and then bring them to life using a sketch or an illustration. If you’ve never made your own shoes before, it’s highly advisable to start with something basic such as a simple laced shoe. You can then make complex designs later on, once you’ve mastered the basics.

Once you’ve decided on the type of shoe that you want to design, you then need to find a blueprint for that particular type of shoe. You can either design it yourself or purchase it online. Free designs are also readily available on various online platforms. And if you can’t find the exact one that you are looking for, you can use the available information to create yours. Now that you already have an idea of the type of shoe that you want to make and you’ve already acquired the design, it’s time to gather the materials that you will need.

You can harvest some of the materials from old shoes, which might be lying in your backyard. As long as these materials are in good shape, they will save you plenty of money. However, it’s almost impossible to get all the materials that you will need from old shoes, which means you will have to purchase some from a specialty outlet or a hardware store near you. For instance, you will need a stitching and a sewing kit, as well as high-quality leather, fabrics, and rubber. You will also need glue, and sturdy thread, which you will use to connect the different parts together.

Take the Measurements

Custom-made shoes should fit like a glove. Therefore, whether you are making work boots or sneakers, it’s important to have the right measurements. Without accurate measurements, you might end up with a pair of shoes that you will never wear, since they are ill-fitting. When taking measurements, ensure you measure both feet. In most cases, the two feet are not the same exact size. Also, it’s highly advisable to take measurements late in the afternoon, when your feet have already expanded. You should also leave some allowance for socks and insoles. Once the measurement process is complete, you can now proceed to the next step of making the last.

Make the Last

A last is a physical base that will guide the entire shoemaking process. It emulates the biomechanics of your foot, thus giving the shoe its shape. Lasts are either made of plastic or wood. Lasts are readily available in specialty stores across the country. However, since you are making your own shoes, it’s also wise to make your own last, to ensure the shoes you make are specifically custom-fitted to your feet.

Alginate is one of the best materials for making a last. It’s flexible, non-toxic and easy to use. You will need at least two pounds of this material, to make lasts for both feet. Alginate is readily available on Amazon. Apart from alginate, you will also need a box, where you will pour in the alginate. A wooden box is best suited for this task. Apply Vaseline or any other petroleum jelly on your feet, place them inside the box. And if you have hair on your feet, you should first shave it off. After that, you can now pour in the alginate into the box. Alginate sets quite fast. You should be able to remove your feet from the mold within a few minutes. Make sure you remove the feet gently to avoid tearing the mold.

Now that you have the mold, you can now pour in the resin, plaster or whichever casting material that you are using into the mold. You should then allow the material to solidify so that you can end up with a perfectly formed mold. The casting material used will determine the solidifying duration. However, don’t rush the process. In the meantime, you can be working on other parts of the shoes, as you wait for the casting material to solidify. Once the casting material has solidified, you can now take out the last and then cover it with white masking tape.

Cut the Pattern

Using your personal design or the template you downloaded, it’s now time to cut the paper pattern for your shoes. Make sure you follow the measurements that you obtained earlier. The pattern will consist of the various parts of the shoe such as the cap, the vamp, tongue, as well as the quarters. You will then use the paper pattern to cut the leather, fabric or any material that you are using to make the shoes. When cutting the patterns, make sure you leave some allowance – at least an inch of extra material along the edges, where the different pieces will join together.

Assemble the Shoes

It’s now time to assemble your shoes. In this step, you will be stitching the different pieces of the material together to form a complete upper. You will also include the linings as well as any trimmings that might be required to make the shoe. Be careful and meticulous when you are stitching the different pieces together. If you make any mistake during this process, you might end up with a pair of shoes that are either too large or too small – which means you might never wear them. Leather might give you some problems during the stitching process, due to its sturdiness. Therefore, it’s advisable to punch some holes prior to the stitching process, to make your work easier. After you’ve finished putting together all the upper pieces, you now need to create the eyelets – if your shoe design has some laces. You can either make the eyelets using a sharp scalpel or an eyelet-making tool. For the insoles, you can cut them out from an old pair of flip flops, since most flip flops are made of cork or rubber.

Once the upper is ready, you now need to attach it to the outsole. You will need to use shoe-specific glue for this process. Make sure you apply the glue evenly to the lower ends of the upper and the sole where the two will come together. Applying glue will help to seal the shoe against moisture while making it sturdier. Ensure you’ve placed the last inside the shoes when you are attaching these two parts together. You can then add some stitching to make your shoes even more durable. Once you’ve attached the two parts together, you need to trim any excess leather or fabric, and then apply the same steps for the other shoe. After that, you need to slip in the insoles and then add the laces.

Apply Final Touches

Your shoes are now ready. However, it’s important to apply some final touches before you can take them for a test walk. First, ensure you waterproof your shoes. As much as leather comes with its own natural waterproof capabilities, you need to enhance it further to maximize the lifespan of your shoes. Therefore, make sure you apply a leather-based sealant on both shoes. You can also add some decorative features on home-made shoes, to give them a personal touch. You have numerous options when it comes to stylizing your home-made shoes. You simply need to choose a design that you like. For instance, you can add a metallic logo, stitch on a buckle or even make some areas of the shoe darker than the rest. After all, you have spent a considerable amount of time and effort into making these shoes. Therefore, feel free to experiment with any design that you want.

Once you’ve finished applying some decorative touches, it’s now time to take them out for a test walk. However, you should do it gradually. You can start by wearing them around the house, as you do some chores like washing the utensils or when you are watching the TV. Your shoes might not be comfortable as you might have expected or they might have other issues. And this is normal. After all, this is your first rodeo. With time, you will perfect this skill and the results will be more satisfactory.

Closing Remarks

It might take several days to complete a pair of shoes, depending on the type, style, and availability of materials. However, making your own shoes is an extremely rewarding activity, regardless of how long it will take. Besides, you will have added another feather to your cap. And you can even take it further and start doing it professionally.

Photo of author

About the author


Hi, I’m Brian Bradshaw. I’m a super duper mega hiking enthusiast, with a love for everything that has to do with outdoors, hiking, gear, footwear and more.

Leave a Comment