Shoe Lasting Constructions

Shoe Lasting Constructions

Once you have a new shoe designed you need to learn what shoe lasting or construction technique is right for your shoe.  Shoe “lasting” is the shoe making operation that sets the final shape of a shoe and holds it in place so the outsole can be permanently attached. The ideal shoe pattern fits the last tightly so the lasting operation will stretch the upper a bit, but not so much as to damage the shoe materials.
The shoe lasting type you select will depend on a few factors.  Mainly, the shoe upper material, the required stiffness of the finished shoe, and price. I’m going to review the most common shoe lasting constructions used to make athletic, casual and dress shoes. These are slip lasting, strobel lasting, california lasting, combination lasting and board lasting.

Slip-Last sneaker construction learn how to make shoesSlip lasting is used to make the most flexible shoes. This is often used to make lightweight running or racing shoes. Slip lasting can also be called moccasin type shoe construction. The shoes upper materials, usually mesh and polyester, are left long and patterned to meet in the middle of the shoe. Once the sides are joined, the upper will be steam-heated and the last slipped in with the shoe being laced up tight. The upper is then cooled to tighten the upper before the bottom is attached.

Strobel lasting Strobel shoe constructionStrobel, slip, force, or California lasting is the most common shoe construction for casual and athletic shoes. Once the upper is complete a “sock” or bottom material is added to “close” the upper.   This material is non-stretch and is marked so the assembler can keep the upper straight on the last.  As before, once the upper is heated and slipped on it will be cooled to make the material tight. A machine assist may be used to make sure the heel is down tight.  This shoe construction is used in almost every sport shoe.

Toe_combination-Last shoe construction The combination last is used to ensure the toe of a shoe is correctly formed to the last. For a shoe with a smooth solid toe cap the strobel sock may be attached to the inner lining and a lasting “skirt” may be left on the toe cap pattern part. Once the upper is lasted, a second machine operation is used to pull the toe pattern part down tight. This shoe construction is often used on light hiking boots and basketball shoes with smooth leather toe tips. Toe lasting allows the leather to be shaped with a lasting machine.

Combination Lasting shoe construction Another option for using the combination last is to make a lightweight shoe stiffer. In this case, the forefoot is formed by strobel while the rear of the shoe is board lasted. This allows the shoe to have a shank or stiffer board in the rear of the shoes. For this type, a machine is used to “heel last” the upper, while the waist area may be pulled by hand with a pair of lasting pliers. You will find this shoe construction on “support” shoes and light hikers.

Board_Lasting_Shoe_construction Board lasting is a very common process used to make all types of military, hunting, and hiking boots or any shoe requiring a stiffer bottom, say steel toes shoes. The open upper is placed into a lasting machine that grips the upper and pulls it down onto the last. The last has been prepared with a paper board or plastic lasting board (could have a metal shank inside).  In one operation the lasting machine pulls the upper tight around the  last and injects glue between the upper and lasting board.  A heel lasting machine and some hand pulling will complete the operation before the outsole is attached. Women’s fashion shoes are made by board lasting but a delicate touch is required by the lasting machine operator to avoid damaging the uppers.  Handmade shoes are almost always board lasted by hand. Board lasting shoe construction is also used to make the classic running shoe. The classic shoe with sheet cut EVA requires the upper to be tucked under, board lasting is the shoe construction method.

There are many other shoe construction styles for fashion shoes and heavy boots. These include Blake Construction, Blake/Rapid Construction, Goodyear welt construction, Norwegian Storm Construction, Stitch down Construction, Bologna Construction.  We will cover these in detail in another article.  You can learn how to make shoes with these constructions here.  Shoe Construction Techniques

Learn more about making shoes:

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