Have you read the famous story, “The Elves and the Shoemaker,” where three helpful elves help a poor shoemaker in his business? Well, the real world does not function like that. There are no elves, no magic, but a lot of effort and machinery to make shoes.
Irrespective of where you buy your shoes from- a high-end shop in London or a flea market, most of the process remains the same. Even though it is not a simplistic process, it indeed is fascinating! If you have ever wondered about how your favourite sneaker or heels are made, read along and find out.
- 1 How Does a Factory Make Shoes?
- 2 Type of Shoe Construction
How Does a Factory Make Shoes?
It is to be believed that the earliest known shoes were the sagebrush bark sandals found in Oregon, USA. The oldest one had a simple construction- a single piece of cowhide laced with leather cord when it comes to leather shoes. Sounds tedious, doesn’t it?
The current scenario is shoe factory is different. There are several shoe machines lined up that conduct everything- from stitching to lacing it up. However, besides the manual work, other prior steps are required to make a perfect pair of shoes.
Step 1: The Design
Shoe designing is an art gracefully done by shoe designers. It is a complex process that requires the cooperation and teamwork of artisans, designers, technicians, runners, doctors, scientists, etc.
As opposed to popular belief, the process of designing shoes goes beyond appearance. It has to consider safety, comfort, durability, style, everything.
Different individuals of their respective departments have essential responsibilities in the manufacturing process. The process starts with the idea that is sketched out thoroughly by experts. All the aspects- from the outsoles to the laces to the heel area- everything is designed according to the latest style and convenience.
After the prototype is ready, it is sent to the client or the department’s head for approval. After the last changes, the shoemaking process begins.
At times a computer is used to draw the sketch. But most of the traditional artists prefer drawing it by hand. But the designers make sure that all the angles of the shoes are covered.
Step 2: The Last
Shoe lasting is the process that takes place after designing the shoes. It sets the final shape of the shoe that helps in keeping it intact. This is done so to attach the outsole permanently.
This step is crucial in deciding the final shape, structure, and function of the shoe. It is fundamental to determine its shape and size. The last should be fitted tightly. This process might stretch the upper bit but does not damage or compromise the material.
Shoe “lasts” are mainly carved from wood, plastic, or metal. It takes into account the rolling or the foot as well as the height.
Each type of shoe has a different last. It can differ from running shoes to hiking boots.
Step 3: Stamping and Sewing
This step is where the desired fabric is stamped and sewed on the shoes. After this process, the boots are referred to as a shaft. If they are leather shoes, their pieces are stamped on it. This is done do to avoid any confusion when the sewing process begins.
Every piece of the fabric is stamped and marked- from the eyelets to the heels. The material is then sewn together to make a seam.
Step 4: Step Insoles and Decorations
If you need to make any last changes in these shoes’ design, this is the step where it all takes place. In case the insoles feel rough, a filler layer is added to even out the foundation. This is glued and stitched securely to the welt.
In this step, the pins that were earlier placed in the heel are removed. The leather will seal the holes left behind. If any ornamental perforation is required, it is done so.
The seam holes are masked through ironing, dyeing, and polishing. The edge of the heel and its outsole are scrapped. Moreover, the welt is given a few final touches. The soles are dyed, and the brand’s logo is inserted for overall appeal.
After all the steps are completed, the shoe is cleaned thoroughly.
Step 5: Shoe Room
The last step is the shoe room, where the shoes get all the finishing touches to give them a more appealing look. They are polished, cleaned, and laced up.
Each pair goes through an intensive quality check, after which they are packaged and shipped to the retailer.
Only after these steps, the customers get the shoes.
Type of Shoe Construction
There is no one way to make a shoe. Shoe construction can be conducted in several manners, like the following:
The Goodyear welted construction is used to make fancy and dainty men’s and women’s dress shoes. The result is classy and decadent. As this is considered a rather traditional way to construct shoes, the shoes are made to be of a high standard. Along with that, the price is also in a higher range.
This method is used in the following way to make shoes:
- The upper is lasted with the tacks. This is removed in the later stages.
- The rib underneath the insole is stitched through the welt.
- The cavity is filled to make it balanced and even.
- Glue is applied to the upper and outsole. It is attached to the welt with a vertical lockstitch.
- The heel is nailed to the soled after it is cemented with adhesive.
This type of construction gives a more solemn look as compared to the Goodyear welted method. It is easy to distinguish this as the stitch inside the shoe follows the shoe’s whole edge.
The following steps are needed for this type of shoe construction:
- The shoe is lasted onto the insole and glued down.
- After the last is removed, the insole is stitched onto the lasted midsoles, upper edges, midsoles, and the outsoles’ top part.
Moccasin is when the upper leather covers the entire structure of the shoe. It is achieved in the following manner:
- The moccasin stitch is utilized to attach the vamp part of the shoe to its top part. It is done so while the upper material covers the bottom part of the shoe.
- The upper is pulled around the aluminum last. This gets its shape after heating it.
- The last is taken out. The outsole is stitched in such a manner that it is taken from the shoe’s inside.
Sewn-in-Sock / Ströbel
This alternative method is used for casual or athletic shoes. It produces a flexible shoe, which is a necessity when it comes to physical activities.
The footbed and the insole cover are removed. The insole is stitched to the lining with the help of overlock stitches.
This type of construction gives an ideal fit for the shoes.
It is done in the following manner:
- The upper is attached to the insole through a locking mechanism. This creates a sock-like figure.
- Steaming machines are used to warm it on the inside.
- The lack is inserted by force lasting, and the shoe is roughed up.
- The outsole is cemented with glue and placed in its desired position.
This is the most common method when it comes to the types of shoe construction. Not only is it the fastest one, but it also costs the least amount of money. The results are qualitative and sturdy.
It is completed in the following manner:
- The toe part is lasted with the help of a machine and is glued onto the insole.
- The upper is lasted manually.
- A unique filler is used to fill the spaces between the lasted edges.
- The bottom part is roughed, and the outsole is cemented. If any, the heels are attached with the pins.
Vulcanized shoes are for athletic and casual footwear. This is a distinctive method as it used rubber foxing that surrounds the shoe.
It is done in the following manner:
- Aluminum last is used to last the upper.
- A filler or rubber layer is added.
- The foxing is glued to the sole and upper.
- Then, the shoes are vulcanized in a vulcanizing chamber.
Moulded / Direct injection
As the name suggests, the whole shade is injected with material around a mold. This type of construction is ideal for safety or motorcycle boots.
It is done in the following manner:
- The last with the upper is kept n the injection molding machine.
- The bottom part is injected soon after.
Stitch down / San Crispino / Veldtschoen
This method is recognizable from its stitching that goes through the upper on the outsole’s top. As this made the shoes extremely flexible, it was used for desert boots and shoes for children.
It can be done in the following manner:
- The lasting edge is used to last the upper of the shoe. This is turned inside-out over the insole.
- It is stitched onto the insole or midsole with the help of a vertical lockstitch.
- Glue is used to attach the outsole, and the heel is nailed.
The bottom line
We hope that you have an intricate idea about the efforts that go into making the shoes by now. It is not a simple process and requires minute attention to the details. As such, an amount of work is put into the boots,t is our duty to choose the best and preserve it!
Brandon R. Katz is a registered professional nurse who has been instrumental in providing us with an informed opinion on the medical aspects of footwear. He graduated from NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and currently provides his services at a non-federal long-term care hospital in Brooklyn, NY.
Brandon proves to be the champion in the group of expert writers with his in-depth knowledge in foot health, how to take care of it adequately, and what shoes, socks, or insoles will be supreme for you. He has previously worked with hospitals where he has foreseen both inpatient and outpatient departments and has been a practicing nurse since 2009.
Brandon hails from Jersey City, NY, and has a loving family of four with a small popper called Rozo. His decision to become a nurse arises from the desire to be in the position of helping and rehabilitating people.