Picture of Make Your Own Shoes at Home!
This is an instructable for making your own pair of shoes with materials you can buy in an art store or a fabric store. I base my technique off of traditional shoe making methods, but you won't need expensive materials, a nice set up, or complex tools.

This method will also create perfectly fitting shoes as the pattern will be drawn from your own feet!

The total cost of this project is less than $50 and, will take under 20 hours.

*Note: if you choose not to use leather, you shoes will probably be best as indoor-only shoes*


The Shoe

2 sqft 1/4" thick cork (OR shoe leather, which can be bought at a shoe repair store)
1 yard of each fabric/leather used on the outside of the shoe
1 yard of the fabric used on the inside of the shoe
Thread (thicker is best)
8+ Eyelets
Shoe laces
Masking tape
Superglue (or Shoe Goo)

The Last (cast of your foot)

13+oz. of alginate
64+oz. of Permastone (or another casting material like rubber)
Cardboard box


Retractable utility knife
Eyelet puncher (usually comes with eyelets)
Cutting mat

Step 1: Generate a Concept

Picture of Generate a Concept
The most important step in any project is the design phase. Think about the type of shoe you want to make and do some sketches.

For my shoe, I ended up wanting to do a fancier-looking dancing shoe with a wider end that wouldn't constrict my toes.
T0BY1 month ago
Very nicely done!
kategordon9 months ago

so I'd like to make a pair of leather boots, (the reason is- can not find anything that is long enough in the calves to suit my taste. Im a tall woman. I want a riding boot that actually comes up just a little past my knees, seems impossible to find without going to the "Hooker Protocol" thight boot lol any suggestions?

Hi there! I'm a custom shoe & boot maker, and I'm assuming you're not interested in paying what it would cost to have custom boots made. (Although, if you're interested, I could possibly point you in the direction of some people who are making the sort of thing you're looking for.) If you're seriously looking for something you can make yourself, out of leather, I'd recommend modifying a pair of shoes that fit into boots rather than trying to make boots from scratch. Making a solid pair of footwear that looks good, lasts through more than a few days, and fits properly is extremely complicated. To modify shoes into boots, you'd be covering over the existing shoes, in their existing pattern, with leather that then extends up the leg as far as you want it to go - probably best to do a fabric mock-up first, then do it in leather. Also, you'll probably have more success with a boot that laces up the front or has a side zipper than with one without an opening. If you're interested, I'd be happy to recommend materials or methods for going that route.

acoleman31 month ago

most wear resistant sole material you can find is crepe. 1 square foot panels, in 3 or 4 mm, can be purchased from tandy leather for about $12.

weish4 months ago

a useful method for making the shoes more waterproof and durable, especially when making them with all fabric, is to take the outer material and prep a mix of equal parts beeswax and linseed oil. paint the mixture onto the material while it's hot and molten, let it soak in, and that's it, waterproof. it'll stiffen the fabric a bit, and darken the colours some, but you end up with an extremely durable waterproofing that works for cloth and leather.

BethH25 months ago

I haven't made shoes from scratch but have worked with shoe materials and anatomic plaster models.

Adhesives: Barge is outstanding. Renia is also outstanding. I actually prefer Renia but it is expensive and a little tricky to purchase unless you're a professional. http://www.algeos.com/html/products/adhesives/reni...

Barge is easier (an advert for ShoeGoo popped up on Amazon when I searched for Barge):http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0032YYOFS/ref=pd...

Modifying plaster is possible and mostly easy. You can extend/round the toe box by placing the foot mold sole side down. Then staple a 1.5" wide strip of plastic (like 1/8" polypropylene) to the sides of the foot so the strip makes a loop around the front of the toes and makes full contact with the work surface. This plastic is going to serve as a barrier for plaster, if there are gaps the plaster will seep. Then mix about 1/2-3/4 cup of plaster so it is silky smooth. Pour the plaster between the toes and the plastic. Wait. When the plaster has set pry off the staples and plastic. Shape as needed using a surform rasp.

Or modify like in this video around the toe box. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqBpXMMtirY

I'm planning to do this soon, I am a little confused though on how you removed your foot from the mold without ruining it?

sonya.hunt.31910 months ago

Sewing most leather is all about the needle, not the sewing machine. They make leather sewing machine needles that will fit most any normal sewing machine. They also make hand needles for leather. Also, the tandy company has a lot of leather crafting things. I use to make shoes for my toddlers. The last ones I made, I made a last out of a cheap pair of off brand crocs. Those were the best shoes I ever made. I'd love to try my hand at making my own shoes. If I could make myself a boot that I could actually wear, I'd be in heaven.

neffk10 months ago

How does the cork insole hold up?

Well done

I just spent the weekend experimenting with shoe prototypes! question, what fabric do you recommend for the fabric used on the inside of the shoe? Did you use canvas? bukram? something I haven't heard of...?

amadadi1 year ago

I know this sounds too extravagant, but I always wanted to make my own Soccer cleats. do you think replacing the rubber / cork outsole with suitable plastic material (I think I found some suitable ones for this purpose) and cutting holes in it to accomodate the studs will work? Please let me know if you have any ideas I really want to do this and this tutorial was both eye opening and full of hope for my project! Thanks!

heya i was just wondering about the bit where you have made the last and want to mould around your toes, did you just use tape or did you use some sort of filler permastone solution? i want to make my own lasts and fill in that area to make it smooth ish. thanks for sharing your work
To do this, you will need to take a second mold of your "foot." You create the original permastone foot mold, then using regular old modeling clay, smooth the whole thing over to make the last design you're looking for. Take a second casting of that with amalgam, and create another permastone (or resin - for stability's sake's) mold to finalize your last. As another addition, you can crank four or five large nuts over a large bolt, and set those into the "neck" of this last when the medium is still soft. Once the medium has set, the bolt can be removed and the nuts (with threading) will remain in the last. This will give you a hole that can be used to prop the last on a cobbler's stand, and the threading will allow you to crank in a handle (or attach it to a stand) so you can remove the shoe once it's built around the last. (Don't want to end up with a last stuck in a shoe that you can't remove!)
Zobot2 years ago
I love this inscrutable, it is very inspiring. I have been looking for something like this for years, and it opened the door to a wealth of information by means of knowing what questions to ask :D. I do have a question for you though. I tried this, and I used a roll of cork that I bought at Lowes. The shoes turned out great except that the second time I used them the cork sole cracked. I think it is 1/8 cork from the flooring department, I don't know much more about it. Is there a special kind that you are supposed to use for shoe making that is more flexible?
wbohrer2 years ago
Dude this is utterly awesome, I am a total shoe freak and have been search for instructables on how to make decent usable home made shoes like for EVER. Coupled with all the cool advice in the comments I can't wait to get started!
MissLead2 years ago
Your instructable is great so far! Although to reduce the air bubbles found in the casting, you could coat a thin layer on the inside of the mold first and tap out the rest while pouring :) This was a great idea though. I probably would have done a two part mold and gotten a mess everywhere.
luciac19882 years ago
angel birch2 years ago
Wow, I love your ideas, I am researching making espadrilles at the moment and found that I have gone off on a tangent. I thought of using cork on my own and I have to say you made an amazing job of the assembly.
Thank you for sharing
angel x
The Rambler2 years ago
This is very cool. I've been looking at making children's shoes (I have a young son) as well as comfy slipper shoes, so this is really useful.
This is awesome! Great instructions :)
Do you (or any of the other commenters...) know how I could tweak your steps to make high-heeled shoes?
With the 2nd way you could also fold under the seam allowance and it'd give you a much prettier (and fray-proof, if applicable) edge.
tinker2343 years ago
i was wondering could i draw my foot on a piece of paper and then cutting that on cork then using steel wire into the cork then add some cardboard for structural support around the shoe then glue down leather
tinker2343 years ago
i like the idea for the outsole could i use a large rubber alos for insole could i use something like doctor shouls pads thanks
lukieh3 years ago
Hi William. Can I recommend one of the easiest way of improving the strength of your shoe uppers and sole attachment would be to stop using a running stitch! Either use a sewing machine or learn to saddle stitch (with two needles and threads).

Shoe glue shouldn't take too long to dry. In the industry we use contact adhesive (called Barge in the USA I think) which only requires a fairly thin coat. No glue should really take hours to dry unless it's water based.
WilliamBottini (author)  lukieh3 years ago
Thanks for the tip! I've seen shoe glue before (it smells!) and I would *definitely* agree that sewing machine work is ideal. I did this in college and I didn't have a sewing machine. I'll update the Instructable with your insight in mind!
Thanks much for posting this article. I was wondering: did you remove the last from the upper prior to attaching the sole, or were you able to take it out afterward? The thought occurred to me that I could make the initial cast of my foot in plaster/Permastone/whatever and then fill it out with Sculpey or the like to get closer to the desired interior shape so that I can pull the material tighter to get a more defined form in the end. The problem I run into with that is getting the last out without destroying it or the shoe... If I wanted to go all out, I could replicate the last in silicone putty, cut it into segments, and embed magnets to hold the pieces together. However, that probably wouldn't be worth the effort...
ahelton3 years ago
I'd love to see a photo of them on your feet. Have you made other styles?
9995923 years ago
this is quite possibly the only truly step by step tutorial that i have been able to find on shoe making. and i have been searching for quite some time... thank you very much.
kbeadle3 years ago
Can you give me some advice on how much of one permastone packet you used for the casting? I'm in the UK and can only find permastone from usa so want to make sure I order enough. Best how to make shoes instructions I've found on the web!
WilliamBottini (author)  kbeadle3 years ago

I have US men's size 9 feet, and I used entire 28oz packages of permastone for each foot. Honestly the couple of times that I made casts of my feet I didn't use enough, and I had to end up adding volume by stuffing paper into the drying mold.

While everything depends on the type of shoe you're designing, I think you should play it safe and get around 80 oz of it, or two of the 48oz bags they sometimes sell, and split it between your feet (unless you have giant feet, then you're on your own!)

You should also be generous with the alginate when you make the actual mold for your feet, and try to mix enough that you'll be able to make a mold of your foot that goes up to the ankle.

This mold-making part of the process is probably the most resource heavy, but it's also pretty important. Good luck and ask if you have any questions!
kellylynn4 years ago
looks good and can't wait to try w/ leather,thanx!
bachinie4 years ago

Thank you for this c:
Cpt. Caleb4 years ago
Geez, thanks for being the ONLY practical step by step process for this topic on the entire internet!

Nice Ible by the way, it'd be great to see more of these made. but it just seems so tedious.
josuchav4 years ago
this rocks.
I've made some turn shoes in the past but these are awesome.

How well does the cork hold up against concrete/ street walking?
WilliamBottini (author)  josuchav4 years ago
Thanks! It's a pretty fun project because it can be very involved if you want it to be but isn't so long that you'll stop halfway through.

I'll say that the cork will work with street walking if you're careful to avoid rocks. There are several thicknesses of cork you can buy at a drafting or art store and I think that stacking thinner pieces together works better than getting using a single piece. It seems to allow for more flexibility.

However, I try to use my shoes indoors only. If you want to use them outdoors I'd suggest you visit a shoe repair store and ask for some of their sole leather. You should be able to buy them and pare them down yourself for about $20.
I've been thinking about this a bit and there is a shoe making group (I can't seem to remember the name right now) and they use regular shoe glue or contact cement to adhere tire shavings. I tried this out myself a couple of times and it's a fun way to do it too. Just smear a coating of contact cement on the sole and then put tire shavings on it. Let it dry and repeat until desired thickness is achieved. I usually tap the sole with a light hammer to make the rubber stick a little tighter.

I won't have time to do this for at least a couple of weeks to a month, but I really want to try this out. Once I do I'll see if I can figure out how to make an instructable response to yours and do only the soles part.

At any rate, thanks again for making this one. I looked and looked online trying to find an easy way to make lasts and then how to make a shoe around it... this is certainly the best bit I've found.
taria4 years ago
this is cool, I wonder if you could make a pair of boots with this?
mo54 years ago
for the toe

i have all of the darts and everything

im using one sheet of fabric instead of multiple strips. so

how do i put a square around a circle?
WilliamBottini (author)  mo54 years ago
I don't quite follow... Show me a picture?
im sorry. i kinda worded that as a puzzle hahah. the best example is to get a CD and a piece of copy paper. fold the paper around the circumference of the cd. you will have a perfect edge but the rest of the paper is sticking up in the air and there is no way to fold it back down with out messing up what you already did. idk if that is very clear. but i will try to upload a picture
pyromonkey4 years ago
This project is so creative!! Now I have a new use for my fabric scraps! :)
WilliamBottini (author)  pyromonkey4 years ago
Yay! It's not difficult to use this to make different tops for a pair of shoes you already have too.
do i need 1 yard of fabric per shoe or for both?
WilliamBottini (author)  mo54 years ago
You could get away with 1 yard if you position your pieces right but it's always good to have extras
ahh awesome :D im using eco friendly bags for fabric haha
mo54 years ago
dude forget toms :D i know what im doing today thanks
akregio4 years ago
so love it! thanks for the instructions :)
funkijunk4 years ago
This is an awesome project :D
WilliamBottini (author)  funkijunk4 years ago
eoutlaw4 years ago
Too cool!!! I can't wait to make these. Urban Outfitters would sale these for like $150.00.
cfallone4 years ago
They are awesome in person!
sharkstun974 years ago
Very cool and affordable if only i had the time! Those are some stylish shoes. Is there a shorter way?
WilliamBottini (author)  sharkstun974 years ago
I hand stitched everything, but a sewing machine would definitely cut many hours off of the project!
henryvrgl4 years ago
This is great! I studied (informally,that is) shoe making and find it very interesting. I've found out there's an actual school of sorts in Washington State,http://shoeschool.com and they have workshops and everything. I've ordered a few of their manuals, one particularly on last making.I just have been...apprehensive about actually making a shoe. But my friend, you have inspired me to make the effort. To quote a wise elder,"Do...or do not. There is no try."
WilliamBottini (author)  henryvrgl4 years ago
Haha you should go for it. It's pretty satisfying to put your own shoe on. I wanted to make shoes so I went for broke and learned how they're actually made. I'm a little critical of traditional lasts because they don't *really* fit human feet so it'd be interesting to learn why they are the shape that they are.
dchall84 years ago
To quote 21GeeOff21, "This is really cool," and inspiring. Is there such a thing as shoemaker supply store where you can get leather, rubber soles, cork, twine, etc.?

My feet are hard to fit. They are wide and have high arches. None of the local stores carry shoes that fit and the Internet is not much help. I spent at least 20 hours finding shoes and returning the junk I received in the mail. There is a local boot maker who will make the first pair for $300 (plus leather) and $200 (plus leather) per pair thereafter.  This is a great alternative. 

Historical note:  During the Civil War, at one point the Army of Northern Virginia needed shoes and could not afford to buy them with inflated Confederate dollars.  General Lee pulled all shoemakers off the firing lines to make shoes for the troops.  They used leather from the carcasses of the hundreds of cattle they ate every day.  Eventually, when they could not afford the cattle, things spiraled downward quickly. 

Thank you for this. 
WilliamBottini (author)  dchall84 years ago
I had heard that about the Civil War, very interesting how the war was as much about resources as military strategy.

Talk to your local boot maker if you are looking for leather or rubber soles. The leather you want is fairly thick, about 1/3" of an inch. Maybe he'd sell you some. I've heard people call shoe making supplies "findings," and very few places offer them anymore since shoes are so cheap/disposable to people now.

You could also cannibalize some Goodwill shoes if you're interested.

Good luck!
Hi- I took a class in shoemakeing from two people that call themselves the Cobblettes and they have a website www.shoemakingclasses.com. Maybe they will have a weekend seminar near you or you can go to NYC and take a class. I made awesome shoes. But, there is a company called Kauffmans Shoe Repair in NYC and they have all the supplies you need to make shoes. if you get a chance to go thee it is an amazing experience to see all teh shoe repair people form all over NYC and the area coming in to get thier weekly supplies, it is so interesting. I will make another pair soon.
I've got feet like yours, dchall8, and it's always a frustrating and unsatisfying experience shopping for shoes, knowing that no matter what I end up with, it's a compromise. That's why I've worn nothing but sandals for the past few years, and in the last week or so, have been looking to start building my own sandals and shoes.

WilliamBottini, awesome instructable, you've re-inspired me!
jrossetti4 years ago
Speaking of shape, how much difference does it make in your final shoe product if your foot is against the bottom of the box as opposed to slightly lifted? Which works better, for the final shoe?
WilliamBottini (author)  jrossetti4 years ago
It can make a big difference if you press your foot down when you cast the mold, especially if you have dramatic arches on your feet.

Whether one way is better depends on the type of shoe you want to make.

If you care more about your shoe giving your feet room - especially if your feet are wider - I'd say put your foot against the bottom of the box, since your feet expand when you put pressure on them.

Then again, if you want the traditional shape of a shoe, you'd probably want to leave your foot suspended to get the full curve of your sole.

I personally don't think that shoes need to have arch support that the traditional shoe shape gives, but it's up to you! I put this instructable up because the basic instructions are there to guide *you* to make *your* choices for a great shoe.
Burnsides4 years ago
Awesome Idea!
WilliamBottini (author) 4 years ago
Yeah it was pretty fun to make this. All you really need are simple tools.

Makes you appreciate the cost of shoes in a way haha

Great thing is you can get shoes or parts of shoes and use those in this process. I showed a friend how to do this and he tore some soles off of other shoes and used those.
Ranie-K4 years ago
I recommend wearing a thick leather apron (blacksmith type) while you cut while holding anything between your feet. I worked in a orthopedics workshop and one of my colleagues never bothered to (before his second visit to the emergency room).
21GeeOff214 years ago
This looks really cool and I would definitely like to try it some time. For now though, I think I'll just buy some cheapo shoes on Amazon... Definitely will try when I get a free weekend or 2 though.