Author Topic: Making your own shoes?  (Read 3374 times)

rugorak

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Making your own shoes?
« on: May 23, 2016, 11:43:37 AM »
So I am interested in learning to make my own shoes. Specifically barefoot type shoes. I have a few pairs of Vivobarefoot shoes. But honestly they don't hold up and whomever designs them doesn't seem to understand a lot of people don't want their footwear noticed. Plus they don't seem to hold up as well as I would like.

Basically I am thinking of learning leather working to make moccasins and then expanding to incorporate some more modern soles. I know you can buy the sheets from vibram etc. in bulk. I haven't figured out exactly where but have come close. I think I would enjoy it. And I am looking for a crafty type hobby that wouldn't require a full on workshop. Plus it would make it much easier for me to repair my own shoes as well as getting exactly what I want. I know my girlfriend would greatly appreciate it. She has a horrid time because women's shoes are notoriously narrow and rarely plain in barefoot styles.

So is there anyone out there who is doing this already? Or something close to it. Maybe you are a cobbler. Or do some leather working. If there is any tips or suggestions would be appreciated.

Daley

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Re: Making your own shoes?
« Reply #1 on: May 23, 2016, 11:52:48 AM »
Honestly, I looked into this at one point with similar goals in mind. The easiest solution I found is to make your own huaraches out of Vibram soles and paracord, combined with some quality toe socks. If you go all black, they're not blatantly obvious.

You could get into more complex cobbling as you're suggesting, and I'm sure you might even find one of the few remaining cobblers in your area willing to apprentice you, but the leatherworking equipment was a bit too expensive on one's own for a passing side-hobby. That was my experience, anyway, so I just KISS'd it as in the suggestion in the first paragraph.

Gimesalot

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Re: Making your own shoes?
« Reply #2 on: May 24, 2016, 10:00:33 AM »
i haven't made my own shoes, but I do work on pre-made shoes to customize them.  Mostly very easy things like making new holes in straps, changing heel taps, etc.  The tough part about working with shoes is that the materials need to be super durable.  This makes shoes very difficult to sew (almost all shoes are sew to some extent).  The machines that have the power to sew shoes are very very expensive. 

I suggest that you find your local cobbler and see if you can trade some work for training and time on a machine.  For example, offer to work the counter, answering phones, making a website, cleaning and organizing, ordering and stocking products, etc.

rugorak

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Re: Making your own shoes?
« Reply #3 on: May 24, 2016, 11:41:49 AM »
Honestly, I looked into this at one point with similar goals in mind. The easiest solution I found is to make your own huaraches out of Vibram soles and paracord, combined with some quality toe socks. If you go all black, they're not blatantly obvious.
I was thinking about that. Where did you get soles from? I have been looking on occasion and find places that list it but no prices or how to order from them. I am thinking huaraches might be a good first step. Not too expensive, something useful and learn something about the soles part.

You could get into more complex cobbling as you're suggesting, and I'm sure you might even find one of the few remaining cobblers in your area willing to apprentice you, but the leatherworking equipment was a bit too expensive on one's own for a passing side-hobby.
I suggest that you find your local cobbler and see if you can trade some work for training and time on a machine.  For example, offer to work the counter, answering phones, making a website, cleaning and organizing, ordering and stocking products, etc.

I think finding a cobbler might be a good step 3 for me. With step 2 being learning some basic leather working and maybe making some moccasins. My thinking there is that I have some of the stuff available to me already as my girlfriend used to have a side business making dresses and corsets so has some of the tools already. As well as some of the skills as well. So together we should be able to do some basic work with not a huge investment. I've seen some used tools available on ebay for a reasonable price compared to new stuff. Also this way when I would get to a cobbler I would have some skills already instead of being useless at first.

Thanks for the insight. Any additional comments or suggestions are most welcome!

GuitarStv

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Re: Making your own shoes?
« Reply #4 on: May 24, 2016, 11:49:28 AM »
I know nothing about shoe making, but would it be possible to take a pair of socks that you like and use plasti-dip on the bottom to get pretty much what you're looking for?

Daley

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Re: Making your own shoes?
« Reply #5 on: May 24, 2016, 12:14:21 PM »
Where did you get soles from?

Again, talk with your local cobblers. :)

When I told my local guy what I was looking to do, he not only told me the location of a local supply house, he also offered to to let me order wholesale through his supplier directly.

The best material to look for is going to be 4-6mm Vibram Cherry 07175 (better wear and traction, but stiffer) or Newflex 08860 (contours nicely to the foot, but wears faster and a bit softer). Try not to pay more than about $40-50 for a full 11.4" by 35.8" sheet.

Here's the Vibram catalog if you're interested in all the various sole materials and colors they offer.
« Last Edit: May 24, 2016, 12:18:26 PM by I.P. Daley »

SimplyMarvie

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Re: Making your own shoes?
« Reply #6 on: May 24, 2016, 01:04:42 PM »
So my first career was as a historical and theatrical costumer. I've done some basic cobbling and can make my own moccasins. It's awesome, and fun, and if you have strong sewing skills you can make some really nice moccasins, but a) there are a LOT of skills involved. I can copy a full Elizabethan Court Dress no-sweat, so I am by no means a sewing rookie... but my first couple of tries at making my own shoes looked like I was a kid in a sandbox. Working with leather and dealing with grain and thickness and the specific differences in hides and dye lots and parts of the hide takes serious experience and skill before you'll be good at it... and b) the costs of materials are substantial. You'll need leatherworking tools (which are NOT the same as sewing tools! You need awls, leather scrapers to bevel the leather for seams, and specific chisel-point needles and punches to go through multiple layers of heavy leather), specific glues, heavy-duty leather, and probably, if you're not hand-sewing, a new sewing machine with gears and a motor strong enough to tackle shoe leather.

My experience was that it's really not something that works as a side hustle unless you're deeply into the RenFaire, re-enactor or SCA crowd (I was, and was branching out of a successful costume and corsetry business) and even then you're competing against much larger and more experienced makers who have economies of size and talent. These are literally the "boots that cost more than your car" boots... so a lot of people who are in the market for them aren't as price sensitive as you might think because it is a once-in-a-lifetime status-symbol purchase for them.

Anyway, I've mostly moved on to house slippers for friends and family, but when I was working in leather I bought the majority of my supplies from Tandy Leatherworking online, working in bull leather with deerhide for decoration, and got the soles and insoles that I needed off e-bay where there are plenty of Vibram options. There is a lot of information on how to put moccs together online, although most of it is geared either toward turnshoes (medieval) or buckskins, so use your imagination. :)

rugorak

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Re: Making your own shoes?
« Reply #7 on: May 25, 2016, 10:18:36 AM »
Again, talk with your local cobblers. :)

I'll have to find one. From what I am finding when I search "local" is going to be relative. But I'll see if I can dig up something else. I may have to go digging into that old relic that still exists the local yellow pages.

So my first career was as a historical and theatrical costumer. I've done some basic cobbling and can make my own moccasins. It's awesome, and fun, and if you have strong sewing skills you can make some really nice moccasins, but a) there are a LOT of skills involved. I can copy a full Elizabethan Court Dress no-sweat, so I am by no means a sewing rookie... but my first couple of tries at making my own shoes looked like I was a kid in a sandbox. Working with leather and dealing with grain and thickness and the specific differences in hides and dye lots and parts of the hide takes serious experience and skill before you'll be good at it... and b) the costs of materials are substantial. You'll need leatherworking tools (which are NOT the same as sewing tools! You need awls, leather scrapers to bevel the leather for seams, and specific chisel-point needles and punches to go through multiple layers of heavy leather), specific glues, heavy-duty leather, and probably, if you're not hand-sewing, a new sewing machine with gears and a motor strong enough to tackle shoe leather.

My experience was that it's really not something that works as a side hustle unless you're deeply into the RenFaire, re-enactor or SCA crowd (I was, and was branching out of a successful costume and corsetry business) and even then you're competing against much larger and more experienced makers who have economies of size and talent. These are literally the "boots that cost more than your car" boots... so a lot of people who are in the market for them aren't as price sensitive as you might think because it is a once-in-a-lifetime status-symbol purchase for them.

Anyway, I've mostly moved on to house slippers for friends and family, but when I was working in leather I bought the majority of my supplies from Tandy Leatherworking online, working in bull leather with deerhide for decoration, and got the soles and insoles that I needed off e-bay where there are plenty of Vibram options. There is a lot of information on how to put moccs together online, although most of it is geared either toward turnshoes (medieval) or buckskins, so use your imagination. :)

Thanks much. Very good information. I was looking at it primarily for a hobby to enjoy both the process and the final result for myself. If I made a few bucks to offset some of the cost that would be bonus. Obviously it sounds like a side gig probably has low probability. I am not completely dissuaded from going down this path yet. But much more aware of the money sink it has the potential of being. What I'll probably do is start with the simple huaraches and go from there.

Daley

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Re: Making your own shoes?
« Reply #8 on: May 25, 2016, 10:26:54 AM »
Again, talk with your local cobblers. :)

I'll have to find one. From what I am finding when I search "local" is going to be relative. But I'll see if I can dig up something else. I may have to go digging into that old relic that still exists the local yellow pages.

They are a bit of a dying breed in this disposable sneaker world, sorry to say. That's probably why so many of them are so friendly and willing to work with screwballs like ourselves now (wasn't always the case in the past). It's someone they meet that has a similar value system to their own, the possibility of not seeing the art die out, and a possible additional income stream or labor savings through apprenticing depending on how far down the rabbit hole you want to go with them.

The cobblers I've met over the years in my life has impressed upon me that these are frequently some solid, salt of the earth types, and worth getting to know.

SimplyMarvie

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Re: Making your own shoes?
« Reply #9 on: May 25, 2016, 11:24:06 AM »

Thanks much. Very good information. I was looking at it primarily for a hobby to enjoy both the process and the final result for myself. If I made a few bucks to offset some of the cost that would be bonus. Obviously it sounds like a side gig probably has low probability. I am not completely dissuaded from going down this path yet. But much more aware of the money sink it has the potential of being. What I'll probably do is start with the simple huaraches and go from there.

Oh! I don't mean to dissuade you, in that case. :) It's an awesome hobby, so start working on building your hand strength now, and get to it.:)

rugorak

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Re: Making your own shoes?
« Reply #10 on: May 25, 2016, 01:32:37 PM »
Oh! I don't mean to dissuade you, in that case. :) It's an awesome hobby, so start working on building your hand strength now, and get to it.:)
I didn't mean to imply you or anyone else were trying to. The feedback has been great giving proper warning to watch for this having the potential to cost quite a bit of money and not be as easy as one might think. All the while giving encouragement on where to start, what to look for, and the fact it can be fun. So thanks to you and everyone else. This is why I keep coming back to the forums. Great reasonable advice.

MayDay

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Re: Making your own shoes?
« Reply #11 on: May 25, 2016, 05:28:25 PM »
I've thought about this as well. I own a few pairs of vivobarefoot shoes but they are too narrow for me (and I ordered a men's pIr too, it was identical to the women's). I own xero make your own sandals which love, and they've made me want to make more.

I'm pretty good at sewing, and I think I might try to sew myself moccasins with a rubber sole. Minnetonka moccasins are ridiculously narrow or I'd just order some.