Once you have designed your shoe, you need to decide which shoe lasting type or construction technique is right for your shoe. Shoe “lasting” is the shoemaking 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. The lasting operation will stretch the upper a bit, but not so much as to damage the shoe materials.
Shoe Lasting TypesThe shoe lasting type you select will depend on a few factors: 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 LastingSlip lasting is used to make the most flexible shoes. It is often used to make lightweight running or racing shoes. Slip lasting can also be called moccasin type shoe construction. The shoe’s 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 so it will tighten before the bottom is attached.
Strobel 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 fit tight. A machine assist may be used to make sure the heel is down tight. This shoe construction is used in almost every sports shoe.
Combination LastThe 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. Another reason to use 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 LastingBoard lasting is a very common process used to make military, hunting, hiking boots, or any shoe requiring a stiffer bottom and a steel toe. 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 paperboard 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. A delicate touch is required by the lasting machine operator to avoid damaging the uppers in the lasting process. Handmade shoes are almost always board lasted by hand. Board lasting shoe construction is also used to make the classic running shoe.
Additional Shoe Constructions and InformationThere 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, and Bologna Construction. You can learn how to make shoes with these constructions here. Shoe Construction Techniques You can learn more about lasting and other shoemaking procedures in our book How Shoes Are Made. Learn more about shoemaking materials in our book Shoe Material Design Guide. Learn more about lasting in our new book, Last Design and Pattern Making.
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