How To Make Shoes?

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Today, we have something of a mixed bag for you…

 We started out thinking about making shoes and decided that inkeeping with this theme it would be a good opportunity to look briefly at shoe alteration and shoe care.

If you have always wondered how to make shoes and fancy some easy, actionable tips, read on…

Making Shoes

Making your own shoes needn’t be intimidating. Don’t get us wrong, it’s not something a complete amateur can steam into without any planning or some degree of practical skill, but it’s not that hard either.

We’ll walk you through just the very basics of making shoes today. It would need far more space than we have here to cover everything in such an expansive artform. What we can do, though, is inspire your confidence and get you started learning how to make your own shoes from scratch.

How To Make Your Own Shoes From Scratch

With fashion moving so rapidly from the catwalk to the high street these days, finding truly original clothing or footwear gets harder and harder.

Buying custom-made gear is so expensive that it’s out of the range of the vast majority. Bespoke shoes, for example, run deep into four figures so it’s not something most people can comfortably consider.

So how about spending the time and learning how to make your own shoes from scratch?

Obviously, you’ll need to have some kind of artistic streak and an interest in making things by hand or it will be a recipe for disaster. If you feel up to the challenge, why not give it a go?

This is absolutely not a complete step-by-step guide to making shoes. There are far too many variables and shoemaking is a craft that takes a lifetime to master.

  • Preparation
  • Design
  • Materials
  • Making a Last
  • Pattern
  • Assembly
  • Cleaning


Fail to plan, plan to fail. 

Nowhere is there truer than if you’re planning to make some shoes from scratch. It’s certainly not an undertaking to just launch into headlong.

Before anything else at all, you’ll need to double down on what kind of shoes you want to make. Do you fancy some sneakers or sandals? How about some heels for that special occasion? Nobody but you can decide what type of shoes you’d like. Imagination is your only limitation.

Try grabbing a sketchpad and drawing a few designs. Often scribbling away can get the creative juices flowing and you’ll be able to generate some ideas pretty quickly.

Unless you’re already pretty adept at shoemaking, keeping it simple is key. Don’t set yourself up for failure by planning an intricate pair of boots if you’ve never tried your hand at shoemaking before.

Once you have the shoe style clear in your mind, it’s time to think about the design…


Clearly, making a pair of shoes is not something to do on the hoof. You’ll need a design in place to work from.

If you don’t like the thought of designing something from scratch, you can easily find shoe templates online.

We’d strongly recommend taking the time and trouble to properly research templates and to take this option unless you’re highly experienced and confident of producing something workable freeform.


We can’t produce a definitive list of what you’ll need to make your own shoes since so much depends on the style you opt for.

Here, though, are some general pointers… 

  • Sheets of leather
  • Fabric
  • Rubber
  • Sewing kit
  • Cork

As a rule of thumb, buy twice as much as you think you’ll need of any material to allow for wastage.

As well as these basics, it’s a smart move to forage for parts from your old shoes.

Making a Last

Central to the art of shoemaking is the last. This foot-shaped block is used by shoemakers the world over to guide them as they beaver away on new creations.

While making a last is shrouded in secrecy – in this article, the author claims that making a last is seldom taught by shoemakers – it’s actually not so tough.

Firstly, you’ll need some alginate jelly.

Fill up a box with this material, pop both feet in and allow the jelly to firm up around your feet for 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove your feet with extreme care.

Making a Foot Cast

Pour some casting material into the mold you made of your feet.

Allow enough time for this to solidify properly. It may take anywhere from an hour to the entire night so follow instructions on the package and be prepared to wait it out.


With your last solidified and the pattern in place, it’s time to really get the show on the road…

What You Need

  • Shoe last
  • Masking tape
  • Craft knife
  • Pens and pencils
  • Ruler
  • Stiff paper

What To Do

  • Tape up your last. Layer the masking tape in two directions. This will ensure the pattern stays in one piece. Make sure the layers of tape are smoothly laid on so you can draw on the surface without struggling
  • Mark your shoe pattern onto the taped-up last. Use your ruler to lay down the center line and with this in place, it’s time to draw the rest of the pattern…
  • Get to work drawing the pattern on. If you make a mistake, just add some more tape so don’t be afraid of getting creative and making any last minute changes
  • Now the design is executed, it’s time to peel it off the last. Use a sharp blade to cut down the center lines of the heel and toe. Cut the tape at the bottom edge. Peel it off so you end up with a flattened out pattern
  • Trim down this shell pattern and you can now redraw your pattern on the computer using your chosen software

Keep the last as you’ll be able to use this again. And again! Don’t let all that hard work go to waste.

With everything in place it’s time to put your shoes together…


Assembly, as with all stages of making shoes, varies depending on what you’re making.

Here are some general guidelines so you can get a flavor of the process…

  • Using your pattern, cut out pieces of leather or fabric with a sharp knife. Make sure to leave an inch or so at the bottom edge and also where the uppers join to make provision for your seams.
  • You now need to stitch the pieces together. It’s absolutely key that you practice so you can stitch with precision. Take your time with this stage as poor workmanship here will completely spoil the end result. Fabric will be super-simple to stich but you’ll need to put in some effort learning how to stitch leather effectively. Practice on some scrap material rather than expecting to dive in and pull it off with your shoes first time.
  • You’ll need to take care of the eyelets next. These are the holes where your laces go. You can try making these with a scalpel or buy a specialty eyelet tool if your budget is more fluid
  • It’s best to start off by using a pre-existing sole from some old shoes. If not, make your soles using your last as a guide and some cork as your material. Glue more than one layer together if you want a super-padded sole.
  • Stitch and glue all the remaining pieces of your shoes together and you’re good to go with shoes nobody else in the room will have!


Use a sealant spray to ensure your shoes are nicely waterproofed. Overlook this finishing touch and you risk spoiling all your hard work


This has by definition only been a cursory overview of how to make shoes rather than a blow-by-blow guide. All we intended to do was whet your appetite and show you just how easy it can be to get started even it mastering the craft is an ongoing effort.

We’ll take a look now at making some other types of shoes before moving on to shoe alteration and general shoe care…

How To Make Doll Shoes

As with making other kinds of shoes, if you want to kit your doll out in the latest style without needing to buy shoes from a toy store, you can make your own without undue hassle.

Again, this will be a basic snapshot rather than a detailed strategy since there are too many variables at play to offer up precise instructions good for all needs.

  • Style: Whether you want to craft a simple pair of slippers or some sandals, as with making shoes above, it’s sound practice to start off with a simple design and work from there as your skill increases. For the purposes of this brief glance at how to make doll shoes, we’ll take the classic Mary Jane style
  • Supplies: Depending on your chosen material, buy some leather or faux-leather. You could opt for a heavy fabric if you prefer. You’ll also need some decent embroidery thread. Additionally, pick up some PVA glue, stiff card, paper, pens, pencils and craft foam sheets
  • Sole Pattern: Making a sole pattern is a breeze. Trace the shape of the feet of your doll onto some card and cut it out. Be sure to make a separate pattern for each foot
  • Upper Pattern: Cut a semicircle from some thinner paper, push it against the sole of your doll’s foot and mark off the line using a pencil. Trim and check for accuracy against the food. Repeat for the other foot
  • Seam Allowance: When you’re making a pattern for the upper part of your shoes, make sure to leave a seam allowance so there’s enough leeway when you attach the sole to the upper
  • Use Your Material: Making use of your patterns, cut out the pieces of the shoes from your chosen material and glue them together and trim away any excess
  • Decorate: Use ribbons, beads or anything else from your craft box to impart those finishing touches

How To Make Elf Shoes

If your kid is at the dressing up stage or perhaps has a competition at school, find out here how to make elf shoes!

What You Need

  • Needle
  • Thread
  • Scissor
  • Felted blanket
  • Measuring tape
  • Pins
  • Fabric paint
  • Sewing machine
  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Crochet needle
  • Yarn

How To Make Elf Shoes

  • Making Pattern: Here are some great elf shoe pattern templates. You can create the sole by tracing around your child’s foot. Make sure to leave plenty of room with the pattern since you’ll be using thick felt
  • Cutting Pattern: To make your elf shoes, you’ll need 4 soles and 8 sides for each pair.
  • Sew and Pin: You first need to pin your pieces together. You must remember to have the wrong side on the outside. Next, sew up the top front seam then sew the toe seam followed by the heel seam. Finish by sewing up the liner heel
  • The Sole: Pin the sides to the sole making sure the seams remain centered
  • Putting it all Together: Sew the sole to the sides then sew your way around the open top of your elf shoes
  • Turn Inside Out: Gently turn your shoes inside out
  • Finishing Touches: Decorate with crochet, beading or anything else that takes your fancy

As with the previous guides to shoe making, this study of how to make elf shoes assumes a degree of expertise and familiarity with sewing machines so don’t expect to follow these instructions blind if you’re just starting out.

How To Make LED Shoes

LED shoes that light up can be expensive but there’s a good reason for that…

There’s a fair bit of technology that goes into making them and you obviously need to pay for that research and development.

Unlike with the shoes outlined above, there’s not really a quick and easy way we can give you an overview so we will refer you to this detailed guide on how to make LED shoes.

You’ll need to be pretty tech-savvy and, in our opinion, it’s well worth buying some LED shoes instead. You can see some cheap LED shoes here.


Now we’ve given you a good grounding in how to make shoes, it’s time to take a quick look at shoe alteration.

Shoe Alteration

Sometimes, it’s extremely hard to find shoes that fit just right.

Here are some simple hacks for making shoes smaller, bigger and wider…

How To Make Shoes Smaller

·Insoles: Start off by popping an insole inside each shoe (or inside one if you have one foot larger than the other). Thick foam insoles work best. With some insoles, you’ll need to cut them down to size but most are pre-cut

  • Pads: Put a foam heel pad in the back of each shoe
  • More Pads: Add more of these pads in a stack until your shoes feel snug but not too tight

How To Make Shoes Bigger or Wider

  • Hairdryer: Put on two pairs of thick socks to stretch out your shoes then use a hairdryer for 30 seconds to help loosen the leather. This is a surprisingly effective method which costs nothing and takes almost no time at all!
  • Freezer: Fill 1/3 of a Ziploc plastic bag with water. Put the bag inside your shoe making sure it goes right down into the toe section. Pop the shoes inside the freezer until the water turns to ice and expands your shoes. This neat hack can stretch your shoes considerably
  • Shoe Stretcher: If you don’t like the idea of those homemade hacks, try buying a shoe stretcher. These strange looking contraptions are not particularly expensive and are well worth the investment

To round out today, we’ll look at some more easily employable tips to help you make your shoes waterproof, slip-resistant and whiter than white…

Shoe Care

If you have always wondered how to make your shoes waterproof, slip-resistant or white when they are soiled, read on…

How To Make Shoes Waterproof

  • Waterproof Spray: If you don’t mind spending a few bucks, there are dedicated waterproof sprays available for most materials of shoes. If you have suede shoes, this is the only effective method you can press into commission without damaging your shoes
  • Silicone: Silicone sprays are multi-purpose so if you have shoes in an array of materials and want a catch-all solution to waterproofing them, roll with a silicone spray
  • Beeswax: If you want to know how to waterproof canvas shoes, beeswax could be just what you’ve been looking for. Work a covering over your shoes until it’s visible all over the surface. Use a hairdryer so the beeswax works fully into the fabric and is no longer visible and enjoy waterproof canvas shoes without spending a fortune

How To Make Shoes Slip-Resistant

  • Scuff Up The Soles: This should be your first port of call if you want to avoid taking a tumble on slippery soles. Scrape up the soles against an abrasive surface and see if you gain more traction
  • Use Some Hairspray: As a temporary fix that needs reapplying daily, a quick blast of hairspray can work wonders in the quest to make shoes slip-resistant
  • Get Some Traction Spray: A slightly more expensive solution is to buy some dedicated traction spray so you can stay firmly on your feet at all times
  • Coat With Salt and Rubber Glue: Use some rubber glue combined with salt which should make your soles non-slip without costing the earth

How To Make White Shoes White Again

  • Washing Machine: The old favorite, popping your soiled white sneakers in the washing machine is a surefire way to restore them rapidly to their former glory. Put them inside a pillowcase or wrap them in a towel. If the stains are ingrained, use a stain remover first, let it sit for 10 minutes then slip the sneakers into the washing machine
  • Toothpaste: If you have some white, non-gel toothpaste, you can apply this to any rogue dirt on your white shoes to surprising effect. Allow it to remain there for 10 to 15 minutes then wipe down with a damp towel
  • Diluted Bleach: You need to be very careful here but watered down bleach can be a highly efficient approach to dealing with really stubborn stains on your white shoes. Make sure you wear some rubber gloves and use a toothbrush to apply the diluted bleach directly onto the affected area


We trust you’ve found some inspiration and help in this bumper guide on how to make shoes, alter them and care for them.

Drop us a line any time if you have any queries or feedback. We want to give you exactly what you want here on the site and we’re very responsive to suggestions. We’ll get back to you promptly and we’re always happy to help in any way we can.

Come back soon!

Pamela Couch

I am a designer, shoe-obsessed lifestyle expert, and founder of, a shoe boutique located in Downtown Atlanta. I love shoes and I love being able to share my passion for them with others.