Tools of the Shoe Trade: Lasts

The process of traditional shoemaking involves a whole host of specialist tools. We’re making it our mission to introduce you to some of them. We’re starting with lasts, which are one of the most crucial bits of equipment a shoemaker keeps in their workshop.

A last is a solid form in the shape of a foot. They have various uses in a shoemaker’s workshop, but primarily they’re used as moulds to create new shoes. A shoemaker will have hundreds of lasts, all in different shape and size variations. These useful pieces of equipment are also used to repair shoes as they help the leather to retain its shape during the repair process.

Historically lasts were made out of hardwood, but nowadays they are often made from various plastics and other modern materials. Whatever they’re made out of, lasts need to be hardwearing, able to withstand constant thumb tacks and up to the humidity involved in moulding leather. 

At Old Sole, we make bespoke shoes. This means that we use lasts the old fashioned way. For each new client, we set aside the time to make them a personalised set of lasts. These are made to the exact proportions of each client’s feet. We are then able to use these personalised lasts to create a pair of shoes with a perfect fit.

Lasts are used during the stitching process to ensure the many components of a shoe come together in a way that will comfortably cradle the client’s foot. Once the uppers have been created, they’re often left sitting on the lasts for a number of days in order to ensure the leather is properly moulded to the correct proportions.

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