What Shoe Factory Equipment do I need to make custom Sneakers?

Shoe Factory Equipment : What do I need to make custom Sneakers?

mini Shoe Factory equipment how to start a small shoe factory

There is a small but growing group of young shoe makers that are making high end custom shoes.  These shoe makers started repairing and replicating  Nike™ classic kicks but some have moved onto the creation of unique custom one-off shoes.
Wired™ magazine  recently ran a story on custom shoe maker Jacob Ferrato.   The article Go Inside the Workshop of the Custom-Sneaker King” appears in the June 2016 Issue.   Read it Here!
See the Video here: JB Customs: Interview with Jacob Ferrato.

What equipment do you need to make a mini shoe factory?

What we are interested in is what shoe making equipment do you need to run a mini custom sneaker factory.  You can see in the article and videos a few different machines. These are real industrial machines you will find in any sample room of a large shoe factory.  These shoe sewing machines may be a little hard to find but they are all available in the USA, Europe and Asia.  If you want to start a small shoe factory these are the machines you will need.

Pattern Cutting in a mini shoe factory:

Cutting a custom shoe patternFor the custom shoe making process you can hand cut every piece with scissors or a sharp blade. Most shoe factories don’t actually buy cutting blades, they sharpen a small piece of steel in a few different shapes to suit what they are cutting.  In the video you can see a paper pattern template is used to trace the design onto the shoe materials.  The materials are then cut by hand. This process is used on all the leather and mesh parts.

Factory sample rooms have been looking at ways to speed up this process.  A large shoe factory will use a computer driven plotter cutter, water jet cutter, or even lasers to cut materials.  For a hand made shoe made without the use of a computer generated pattern, a machine like the new $2,300.00USD Glowforge machine may be the answer.  This laser will cut any design you draw on the materials.  This has the potential to revolutionize the custom shoe market. Check it out!

Custom shoe factory equipmentOnce the parts are cut you can see the edges are being skived.  In the video this is done by hand.  This is a time consuming process and it’s very easy to damage the cut shoe parts.  A shoe factory sample room will have a small electric skiver like this one, they don’t cost very much and will save time in our mini shoe factory.

Sewing Machines for a custom shoe factory

Flat bed sewing machines for a custom shoe factoryIn the Wired™ article you can see some of these the machines lined up.  The flat bed machine is the standard most recognizable type of machine. The machine is built into a table and run by an electric motor and has a foot control to advance the stitches automatically or one stitch at a time.  This is the most common machine for assembling the flat pattern parts of the shoe.


Once the upPost sewing machineper of the shoe has been stitched together, it needs to be “closed”. This closing operation creates an upper that cannot fit under the standard flat bed machine.  The second most common sewing machine you will see in a shoe factory is the “Post” style. Bulky items can fit under the machine for easy assembly.  This type of post sewing machine will be used to attach the tongue to the shoe or to secure the lining inside the shoe once it has been assembled into the final 3D shape.


small Custom Shoe FactoryWith the upper almost complete we will need a special sewing machine to finish it.  This machine is used to sew the bottom fabric onto the upper. This closes the upper. Now the upper is ready for lasting and assembly.

Now it’s time to assemble the sole onto the custom shoe.  There are two more pieces of shoe making equipment our mini footwear factory will need.  A sole press and a channel stitching machine.
sole press for a small shoe factory

Assembly of Custom Shoes

After the glue is applied to the upper and sole of the shoe it’s best to use a small press to make sure the bond is very strong.  A bench top shop press is not expensive and can generate enough force to press the parts together.

The final must have piece of equipment for a small custom shoe factory may be the most expensive.  This is a heavy duty channel stitching machine used to secure the upper to the shoe sole.  This machine to attach the shoe bottom to the uppersmachine is very powerful and can easily drive the needle and thread through the leather and rubber.

Because sole bonding with shoe cement is difficult for a mini factory, this machine insures the shoe bottom does not separate from the upper.   This machine has a long arm that can reach inside the shoe allowing the stitches to secure the rubber and upper together.

Shoe factory equipment in action

To See this shoe factory equipment in action see our new shoemaking book chapters 8, 9, 10.
How Shoes are Made.

 If you are looking to purchase shoe factory equipment The Sneaker Factory Team has contacts in China that can help you find what you need.  Let us know what you need.

learn how to make shoes:

Footwear design book Free PFD Shoe Design Book Download जूते कैसे बनते हैंDo you want to learn how big brands make shoes?  Now you can!  How Shoes are Made will show you how modern shoes come to life! More than just a tour through a sneaker factory and more than your average shoe making book!  This is the perfect Shoe design a handbook for footwear designers.  From drawing shoe designs to sample development and footwear manufacturing, you will learn how it is all done. Written by veteran shoemaking pros, How Shoes are Made will give you a look inside the REAL world of shoe design, development, and mass production. This book teaches shoe making for beginners and students. 220 pages with over 400 color photos and drawings. 26 chapters explaining shoe design, footwear pattern making, sample development, footwear materials selection, upper stitching, outsole and tooling design, shoe lasts, shoe costing, quality inspections, pattern making and much more!  A must-read for young shoe designers, sneakerheads, or any footwear fanatic! Secure payments Visa, MasterCard & PayPal. Over 3500 copies sold! Read in over 60 countries!
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Table of Contents:

The Design Process, Shoe Development, Shoe Patterns, Shoe Specifications, Outsole Tooling, Development Process, Pre-Production, Material Preparation, Stitching Operations, Rubber Pressing, EVA Forming, The Assembly Line, The Shoe Last, Footwear Costing, Importing Shoes, Shoe Logo Design, Leather for Shoes, Textiles for Shoes ,Synthetics for Shoes,  Foam for Shoes, Know Your Footbeds, Material Suppliers, Shoe Designers Tools, Jobs in the Shoe Trade ,Quality Control, Starting a Shoe Company, Life at a Shoe Factory, Shoe Making Dictionary

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