Shoe lasts have a massive impact on how a shoe will fit. If a last is poorly designed then all shoes made on the same last will most likely not fit the majority of feet it is aimed to fit.
Before we go into detail, first lets explain what a last is…
What is a shoe last
The last is usually a similar shape to the foot, but not identical. It is the block or shape on which the shoe is formed and must allow the foot to stand still but also allow it to move. A good last shape will give the shoe a good fit in several different styles which can be seen below. Some lasts do not have a long shelf life if the design of the shape is quite fashionable and therefore making it only viable for two or three years. Other lasts have been the same for years and are much coveted in the shoe industry. A well designed last can be worth a lot of money! It is common knowledge for example that Hotter bought some of Clarks old lasts and used them in the infancy as a business. Hotter believed the lasts still had value when Clarks did not. As it transpires, Hotter have built their business around these lasts! At Begg Shoes we place great value on the last as it has a direct impact on comfort for you, our customers. We try to buy shoes that have been built using a well designed last, that way we know they should fit properly and be comfortable.
The design of the shoe, the purpose of the shoes end use and the method with which the shoe is manufactured will all affect the shape of the last. Different style of shoes made on the same last but using different materials will fit differently.
A last is a mechanical form that has a shape similar to that of a human foot. It is used by shoe manufacturers in the making of shoes. Lasts typically come in pairs (left & right foot!) and have been made from various materials, including wood, iron and plastics.
How is a last made?
A last is designed for the shoe manufacturer and the original last was cut from a block of wood by hand. Now these are produced by a three dimensional CAD CAM system.
1. Template designed and cardboards cut outs made.
2. Material then cut to the required shape.
3. Model made to check dimensions at specific places – once satisfactory production of whole size range made.
4. Working last cut into two pieces & usually hinged together – so that it can be removed easily from the shoe without damaging it.
When a bespoke shoemaker creates a last for a customer and their feet “age”, a new last won’t be made, extra pieces will simply be ‘tacked’ on to the existing last to cater for the knobbly parts of the ageing foot.
Examples of our Brands’ Lasts
Rieker shoes have several popular lasts which can be seen in our collection Summer & Winter shoes and boots. Below you can see an example of five shoes/boots that are all made on the same last. They are all different styles and use different materials but are made on the last we call ‘Dor’. So if you’ve bought a pair of Rieker Shoes from us before, they fitted you very well and the shoe name on the box started with the letters “Dor” then you can be confident that anything on our website or in-store that starts with the letters “Dor” will be a great choice for you. Click here to browse more styles from Rieker shoes that are made on this last.
The “Felicia” last used to make some of the ECCO Shoes has also been very popular over the past two years and is a relatively new last that Ecco have started to use widely in their collection. The ‘Felicia’ last is sophisticated in style and has a lovely feminine design with the slight wedged sole unit to provide support and comfort. Click here to browse more styles made on the ‘Feli’ last from ECCO.
Remonte Dorndorf Shoes
The “Mill” last from the Remonte Dorndorf is used in many of their popular styles. Remonte are part of Rieker shoes, they use Rieker’s design flair to influence their collection. Like most Rieker lasts, the fit properties of this Remonte last are excellent and the fashionable styling means they are practical, comfortable and stylish.
Importance of the Last
The original designer of the last has a difficult job as they need to create a last shape based on average feet and an average fitting and to suit any style. This aesthetically acceptable shape of a last must play its part in creating shoes to accommodate feet which can be far from aesthetically pleasing – at times a balance needs to be struck between how nice a shoe looks and how practical the shoe is. The best last designers can do both!!
The last model maker has to have a full knowledge of the anatomy and physiology of the foot and be aware of the changes for gender and age. A last which has been designed for a women 25-35 year old women with a 5C fitting will be different to that of a last designed for 70 year old women of the same size 5C. The older women’s last would need to have a slightly narrower back because women’s feet become bonier in the heel as they go into their senior years and a last for the younger women would need to have a rounder cross section.
Not too long ago manufacturers all owned their own lasts and guarded these designs closely. Now fewer manufacturers employ a last maker as most footwear is made in mass production when they will suggest and lend a last. The last information is vitally important to a shoe fitter and retailer. For customers looking for shoes made with a similar fit to a pair you may have previously had, it’s best to visit your nearest Begg Shoes Shop. One of our professionally qualified shoe fitters will help you to find shoes made on the same last in the next seasons range, so that you can buy a shoe that is made on a last that is comfortable and fits you properly.
In the ideal world we would all have our own last and have bespoke shoes made for us. Sadly this is not economic, but at least you have us at Begg Shoes to try to help you.
Written by Cheries Dutton and Donald Begg