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How do I go about making my shoes? (Part 1)

Updated: Oct 27, 2023

5 tips and resources on shoemaking for beginners

As I mentioned in my earlier blog, I fell in love with shoes during my teenage years, and spent a lot of money (no regrets!) over the years buying and wearing many pairs of them. My interest in shoemaking grew when I started working in New York city many years ago. Even though I worked in the fashion industry, I felt very uninspired by the shoes that people were wearing on the streets, and often thought about how cool it would be if I could design and make my own shoes.

This interest in shoemaking led me to scouring the internet for shoemaking classes, and that was how I met Keiko in 2018. She is an expert shoemaker who teaches people how to make shoes. I felt like it was divine intervention at my first introductory shoemaking class because the address where the class was held was my birth date. I thought it was a sign! Since then, I started my shoemaking journey and decided that I would make my own footwear prototypes for my first capsule collection.

Making my mules in 2021

In this three part series, I want to share with you steps I took in making my first sandal for my capsule footwear collection, as well as some tips and online shoemaking resources to get started if you are interested in learning more about shoemaking. Part 1 below involves the steps in making the midsole. Part 2 illustrates the steps in making the upper, and completion of the entire sandal will be shown in Part 3.

Shoemaking is an art, and like many other forms of art, the process of making a pair of shoes by hand is long and tedious because it involves many steps. Different people may have slightly different steps in making their own shoes depending on the type of shoes that they are making. Personally I feel like there is no one definitive correct way of making shoes; the most important thing is to get creative and have fun in the process!

Step 1: Design and create the midsole pattern

My first step usually involves making the pattern for the midsole. I start by taping the bottom of the last with masking tape, and trace the sole using a pencil. After this step is completed, I cut the pattern and lay it flat on a piece of paper. I modified the midsole to give it a square edge in line with my design and cut out the pattern.

TIP 1: You want to overlap one layer of masking tape over the other to make sure that all layers adhere to one another. This ensures that the entire sole pattern gets lifted off in one piece when you remove it from the last.

1a. Taping the sole with masking tape

1b. Tracing the sole with pencil

1c. Removing the pattern from the last and transferring it to a piece of paper

Step 2: Create and wrap midsole with material using renia glue

I then proceed to trace and cut midsole on texon board. After this step is completed, I then trace my midsole pattern over the material (in this case faux suede) I want to use to wrap my midsole and cut the midsole material.

TIP 2: Remember to provide at least 1.5"-2" allowance from the midsole pattern as you need to wrap the material over the texon board.

2a. Cutting the memory foam and sanding the edges to give it a smooth finish

I then apply renia glue onto the midsole and faux suede. Renia glue is a strong contact adhesive and you have to apply glue on both sides of the surfaces you want to stick. Wait for about 20-30 minutes for the glue to dry completely. You know that the glue dries completely when your finger does not feel sticky/tacky when it touches the glue surface.

TIP 3: You have to make sure that every bit of surface you want to stick is covered with glue otherwise the surfaces will not stay adhered permanently.

TIP 4: Renia glue has a very strong chemical odour so please make sure you work in a well-ventilated room with open windows and respirator.

2b. Glueing the texon board to the material

Once the glue dries up, I will glue the midsole to the faux suede, starting slowly from one end and gently pressing the materials together to ensure no air bubbles trap in between. I then fold the excess fabric over and glue it to the midsole.

TIP 5: Make sure you place the foam slowly over the material starting from one end to another because once the glue adheres it is very difficult to remove.

2b. Glueing the texon board to the material. See the allowance I provided on the faux suede.

2c. Folding the faux suede over the midsole. You need to cut the fabric close to the edge to open up the fabric so it can be glued properly onto the midsole.

And there you have it, you just completed making your midsole! On Part 2 next week I will share the process of making my upper.

I would not be here making my shoes if I had not have the support from other shoemakers in the community, so I am sharing some wonderful shoemakers below who helped me along my own shoemaking journey.

Resources on shoemaking classes:

1) Brooklyn Shoe Space - owner Keiko is an amazing instructor based in Brooklyn, NY and she offers in-person shoemaking classes in her studio.

2) I can make shoes - owner Amanda is an awesome instructor based in London and offers online and in-person shoemaking classes and supplies.

3) Bonnie Andrus - Bonnie makes her own shoes and is also a shoemaking instructor. Her shoes are to die for!

Thanks for reading. Sign up on my website to learn more about shoemaking and my journey to launching my first capsule footwear collection coming soon!

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