Introduction: Self Leveling Shoes
This project is directly inspired by the machine shop at Autodesk's Pier 9 workshop. A lot of the machinery here is supported on the ground by machine leveling mounts. These helps the machinery stay constantly level even if their legs or the floor is uneven.
I wondered to myself why this innovation had never been used for a piece of footwear before, at least not to my knowledge!
A shoe that enabled your feet to stay constantly level could also be an advantage in a city such as San Francisco that has a number of hills.
Maybe there is a good reason why these parts have never been employed on the soles of shoes before (sprained ankles?)...
Let's find out!
Step 1: The Theory
During group project day here at Pier 9 I began testing the level-mount theory by making a Geta inspired wooden sandal that included one level mount on each foot underneath the toe:
This used a heavy duty metal mount that had a quite a loose action and swivelled easily. I thought it would be more helpful to have a mount with a stiffer action so that it was easier to balance on. Also the metal was hard to attach a rubber grip to.
I found that you can buy mounts made from Acetal which a stiffer action and should be easier to add some grippy material to.
Step 2: Materials and Tools
For this sample project I will be doing a quick and basic mock up of a shoe. I will use as few specialty tools as possible.
You will need:
A pair of shoe lasts (to make close-toed shoes)
A pattern for your design (please see my other Instructables- www.instructables.com/id/Make-Your-Own-Shoe-Patter...)
Leather and woven materials of your choice- one for the outer and one for the lining
A sewing machine
Strong shoe glue
Scalpel or craft knife
Insole and sole material
Belt/disc sander or dremel
Step 3: The Design
As this footwear project is directly inspired by the workshop, I thought it best to make sure they comply with the workshop rules- feet must be covered! That means no open toe sandals like the test pair that I made previously.
The insole and midsole will be made from a shank board material that is both rigid with some flexibility. I had considered using wood but that would make the shoes difficult to walk on.
I will use 6 leveling mounts bolted through several layers of insole and sole material.
The upper will be made from a rugged brown canvas, the same sort that workwear is often made from. I have a natural coloured pig skin lining for comfort and breathability.
Step 4: Cutting and Stitching
Lay out your pattern on your chosen materials, mark it with a pen and cut or cut straight from the paper pattern.
I am using canvas so I need to add a folding allowance to my material the glue and fold the edge over to prevent any frayed edges.
Glue and stitch the leather lining to the canvas outer.
Trim the excess leather from the top line.
I have added brass rivets to add strength at a critical spot. You can stitch a small box here to reinforce it if you wish.
I have also added a small leather tab at the heel of the upper for strength and to go with my work like aesthetic.
The uppers are now ready for lasting.
Step 5: Preparing the Insoles
My shoe requires holes perforated through the sole in order to accommodate the level-mounts. I will prepare these first.
I have made a insole pattern for my shoe last. From this I can decide where to place my level mounts under the foot.
Once I have decided where to put them I mark my sole pattern so that I will have consistently placed holes.
Cut out your insole and use your pattern to help place and punch the holes.
I have chosen to use two layers of Texon brand cellulose board and one of a reinforced 'shank' board for extra rigidity.
Glue these together.
Step 6: Lasting the Shoe
'Lasting' is the process of placing and stretching the shoe upper on to the last and attaching it to an insole.
Tack your insole on to your last so it is secure and does not move
Begin to line up your upper on to the last and place one tack at the toe to keep things in place and continue to adjust its position.
Glue the lining down at the heel (seat) first. Pleat the leather so that it fits smoothly to the last.
Remove the tack at the toe and glue the front part down. Again use pleats and make it as smooth and tight as possible to the last.
Check as you go that the postion of the shoe has not shifted on the last
Continue around the shoe to the middle (waist).
Repeat the steps for the outer canvas.
You can use a hammer to help smooth out any creases. If it is helpful you can use tacks to help position the material as you last it.
Remove all tacks from the insole.
Step 7: Attaching the Sole
Once you have your uppers lasted and are happy with their position you can attach the soles
In this case I am using a leather 'rand' as a connection between the upper and sole. This adds some strength but is mainly decorative.
I have cut out heavy leather pieces for my outsole and punched holes where the level-mounts will be inserted. Glue the bottom of the last and the leather then attach and beat with a hammer.
Trim the excess leather from the sides with a knife.
Finish on a sanding wheel or Dremel until smooth
Step 8: Finishing the Shoe
I recommend leaving the shoe on the last for at least 24 hours to get the leather to hold its form
I have cut out pieces of Vibram rubber sole and super-glued these to my plastic level-mounts for grip.
Screw the mounts in and use the nut to regulate the depth in the sole
Cut out some leather to go inside the shoe (sock), this will stop you from feeling the holes we have used for the screws.
Your very own level mount shoes are now ready to wear!
I will be wear testing this design concept to see if it works at all as a shoe.
Watch this space for version 2.0