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What is a Shoe Last?

Updated: Jul 14, 2021

Everything you need to know about shoe last shapes and why they’re so important when finding the right fit for you.

If you’re thinking about purchasing a good quality pair of shoes for work, an event, or just for casual wear, finding the right fit is absolutely imperative. While knowing your usual size is one thing, there’s also the matter of establishing what a company’s particular shoe's last shape is like. The question is, what is a shoe last? And why should you consider it before purchasing your next pair of quality dress shoes?

What is a shoe last? explained... A lot goes into making a top-quality dress shoe or boot. First, a designer has to think about the type of leather used (tier, grain, tannage, etc.), then the sole (shank, layer, welt) and then there’s establishing the perfect fit. The latter is where the shoe's last shape comes in. In layman’s terms, a shoe last is a model of a foot made from wood (copper beech or hornbeam are best) that is completely unique to each company. Dating back to Ancient Roman times, any modern-day company that has a shoe last is usually a sign of quality shoemaking. Its job is to create a foot form from which the shoe is made. In other words, it’s like a framework for the cobbler to shape the leather or fabric around.

The final shoe's last shape will then be determined by the last toe shape, volume measurements, heel height, and instep placement. Without the foot last, you’ll have a shoe that is poorly manufactured, takes an inconsistent shape, and will often break quite easily. Think of it this way, a last is like a shoe company’s equivalent to Colonel Sanders’ secret recipe to his fried chicken! No company will share their last with others as they take a considerable amount of time to design and can act as the differentiator between the competition. While a shoe company can easily copy elements like the toe box, they simply wouldn’t be able to recreate someone else’s exact shoe last. Once it’s been created, many companies around the world won’t ever throw it away as they can continue to use it as a basis for all future designs. For example, if we wanted to develop a new range of Oxford shoes with a broader toe or a certain heel height, we can use the shoe's last shape as a basis to ensure our customers are guaranteed the same fit they know and love.

Why is a shoe last important to you personally? A good way of explaining this is to use food as an example! So, every lunch break you buy sandwiches from various different cafes, restaurants, and shops, but don’t have a particular favourite. Sometimes they’re good and on other occasions, they taste like a dog’s dinner. However, when you find a place that serves the best sandwiches on a consistent basis, what are you going to do? Remain loyal and keep going back again. Well, the same principle applies with a shoe last. Making a new shoe last is extremely expensive, so there’s no need to go and get a custom one made just for your feet. Instead, it’s just a case of using the sandwich philosophy by finding a shoe company that has a last that suits your particular feet shape and sticking with them! Here at Percy Stride, we worked tirelessly to create a shoe last shape which is built to suit all feet and sizes, including wide, narrow, flat, and long feet. Once you’ve walked a couple of steps in a pair of our men’s Oxford shoes, you’ll realise that the framework, quality leather, and first-class welted construction makes them one of the most durable and comfortable options on the market. This is our custom shoe size chart for reference, in case you feel a little nervous to start with! So, if you want a shoe that lasts, choose a company like us who invests in their last. If you have any concerns about our sizes or fittings, get in touch with us today and we’ll be happy to help. For more information try our blog : Are you wearing the right shoe size?

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