How to Make a Last

A last is a generalized anatomical representation of the human foot shape. Created from a data set and functional requirements specific to a sport, a desired look, or an athlete, a master last is created from which production copies can be made. Production lasts are made from either turned (lathed) plastic, or sandcast aluminum. The Last is First.

Click the Read More link below for a review of the processes involved in making both plastic and aluminum lasts.

Part 1 > Making a plastic Last

Part 2 > Making an aluminum last


Blogger aO said...

i have always wondered where the actual last data is derived from, could you explain that? like if you were to create a last from scratch, how id that done?

i really dig this site, please keep it going R!


6:05 PM  
Blogger The Directive Collective said...

many times a last is developed from an existing last. it may be modified to suit a particular athlete/fit/look desired.

i've never really created a last from "scratch", so cant really comment on this. I'd assume that most of the time, there would be some sort of basic data existing to start from, perhaps a brand's standards for a particular type of shoe, and then the data points would be adjusted to achieve the whatever is needed.

it is also possible to create a last from "scratch" from scans of a foot, or other by other methods such as casts. i know this is often done when creating bespoke footwear for certain pro athletes.


6:38 PM  
Blogger Shoestring said...

Great blog, very informative for those working in the industry without having the ability to travel to the factories to observe the process.

I may be able to elaborate on the process of making a last from scratch.
The process is different depending on the last you are making. If it's a bespoke last that's meant for one specific foot you obviously take the customers foot as a base for your measurements.
As stated in the blog posting a shoelast is a generalized anatomical representation of the human foot shape. Some measurements are transfered directly from the foot, others are modified when applied to the last. On average I take 6 to 8 foot measurements and some tracings to make a bespoke last. The rest of the design is based on proportions and shapes that need to be complimentary to both the foot and the style of footwear your are making. It's as much an art as a science to get a properly fitting last that also has the aesthetic characteristics one is looking for.

For a production last, not based on a specific foot the process is different in that you work from on sample size with a predetermined length and width that later will be graded into a full size run. Tables are used for measurements such as ball width, heel seat width, heel height and ball volume to mention a few. The tables become very complex if you consider that with every change in even a single element most of the measurements change slightly. Each last factory guards their tables carefully as they believe theirs are better than their competitor's. Based on the clients wishes regarding style, shoe type and even material choices the shaping takes place. After shoe samples are made on the new last fittings take place and adjustments are made.
It's an involved process that gets expensive quickly so the more common approach is to take a last close to the customer's wishes and adjust it. One of the problems you will run into with this process is that you loose true sizes and widths but if your client gets what he wants it's a small price to pay.

There are 3D scanners sold that can scan a foot with the purpose of making a shoe last. All the systems I have seen to date are a great tool for last makers but fall short when it comes to “interpreting” the foot and coming up with a finished last in spite of what the vendors claim their systems are capable off.
Technology evolves quickly and improvements are made constantly so I do expect to see a system that is capable of delivering a quality last in my lifetime but it will likely be a few years away.

There are advantages to working on a virtual last, the ability to quickly and easily make changes and when needed undo these changes is the most obvious. Last makers I know will however tell you that to make a quality last you need more input than a computer screen offers.
A very important sense in last making is touch. A last maker will get as much feedback from working the last with his hands as he gets from looking at it. That's where the science stops and the art comes in, an art that takes extensive last knowledge and decades of experience to perfect.

1:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it customary to have a couple sets of lasts for a given outsole (like a basic cupsole) so that you have more styling options? If it's not customary, is it possible?

11:51 AM  
Blogger The Directive Collective said...

Normally one last is set per outsole. In theory, however you could use different lasts on the same outsole, however they would need to share a common last bottom template in order for the upper to fit the outsole.

If you are using a die cut outsole (such as a retro running shoe) you could have more freedom with upper lasts as the outsole mold is only a flat sheet and you need only a die that matches the upper last bottom to fit.


12:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm trying to achieve both slim, retro styles and bulkier skate styles on a single bottom. I understand that the footprint of the last must be unchanged but I thought two options for the upper last shape would be the best way to make it happen. However, the factory is giving me grief. I guess I was searching for a precedent.

Thanks for being a great resource.

12:22 PM  
Blogger The Directive Collective said...

not really possible. if the outsole is wide as per a skate shoe, it can't be narrow for a retro style. Multiple tooling is most likely required.


12:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The outsole isn't wide. Modern skate shoes aren't the bricks of old. With that in mind, is it still the wrong way to go? I don't know how to lower a profile on the other last without ending up with a giant throat opening.

12:39 PM  
Blogger The Directive Collective said...

...hard to say without really seeing the last, outsole, upper designs, speaking with the fty, etc..... and I don't do that for free ;)

but in general, i'd go with whatever your fty advises. They normally know what they are talking about, and unless you can specifically instruct otherwise it'll be hard to get them on board.


12:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the advise. Your check is in the mail!

3:11 PM  

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