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Up until recently, I always focused my attention on design (i.e. pattern – wing tip, cap toe, color, details etc.) when deciding whether or not I liked a shoe, not ever really paying attention to the shape, even though it played a big part (if not the biggest) in my decision making process. But now, having made shoes and with my introduction into self-taught shoe design, I have come to appreciate shape on a whole new level. It’s funny how one could have never come to this realization until they started to actually play around with the design or construction aspects. I could have been a shoe enthusiast my entire life having not ever attempted to get into the construction side of things and I may have never come to know, that I truly like a shoe because of it’s shape, not because of it’s pattern, color, style etc.

Shoe At Top: Foster & Son
Shoe Above: Vass

You start to notice when you begin drawing on paper, that a shoe can turn out real ugly and disproportionate if the shape is not drawn perfectly. And it is truly difficult to do so. The slightest variation in pencil movement can be a deal breaker. And the same goes in the world of last making, which is essentially design in 3-D. Every little curve on the last is monumental when it comes to the form of the final product. And more importantly than getting a nice shape, is creating the correct proportions, because if the proportions are off, then the shoe will never look nice, no matter how elegant the curves are. This being said, I have been wanting to change the shape of my last for some time now because I am growing quite bored of the shape that it is, considering that I will have made 6 pairs on that same last. So when I do finally finish my 6th pair, hopefully in February, I will change the shape of my last before I continue on with my 7th pair. Ideally, I would love for it to look like the shoe at the top of the page but I am not sure if my last-shaving/adding skills are quite that good. We shall see!

Shoes Above: Anthony Delos

If you were like me and never really thought about how important a shoe’s shape is, then I am afraid that after reading this you might become a shape snob, just as I have. These days I won’t even give a shoe a second look if it’s shape is not specific to my standards. But I am happy that I am now like this because in the past I feel like I bought/acquired shoes based on their looks (you know what I mean) and now have shoes sitting in my closet that I wish I could tear the soles off of, take apart the upper and remake them!

Shoes Below: Gaziano & Girling

7 thoughts on “A Shoe’s Shape”

  1. Hi Justin

    Very interesting that you’re experiencing such a change in your assessment of shoes. Given you’re early posts on many mis-shaped ugly shoes, which I wholeheartedly agree with, I would have thought shape is one of the first criteria you use.

    It certainly is with me. There are some shoes I have where I keep coming back to thinking about some details of the shape – the roundness of the toe, or the curving of the inner sides towards the heel.

    I think that once you’re talking about good shoes, having left behind the obviously bad ones, then you’re pretty quickly primarily looking at shapes. At that point leather quality is roughly similar and a necessary level of craftsmenship can also be expected.

    Have you developed a universal idea of what you expect from a good shape? Or rather more interesting: what are your no-gos?


  2. Reto – It’s not really a change, I just think that I am extremely more conscious of it now. In the past, I have been attracted to shoes more based on their style but I obviously would have never purchased something that I did not find appeasing in the shape aspect.

    I think that it was always just in my subconscious when it came to shape. For the shoes that I disliked I would not say it was because of their funny shape or imperfect proportions, instead I would just say that shoe was ugly for it’s style.

    As far as your question goes, I can’t really say. I am so diverse to what I like, it is not always the same thing. I can say that I like things rounded, but not in the sense that I like old man Rockport type round. I prefer shoes that are more elegant in their curving, like JM Weston. I hate anything that is rough looking with straight lines, like square toed shoes. But my style is always changing you know, evolving. But I will say that I will never like 3 things: Shoes too pointed, toes that curve upwards and square-toed shoes. Those shoes to me can all be burned and never enter the shoe industry again, that would make me happy. Hope this answer helps. Thanks for always being an active commenter and reader.

    -Justin, “The Shoe Snob

  3. I totally agree on all your three dislikes 🙂 There’s maybe one exception though: A nicely made cowboy boot may absolutely have slightly upwardly curved toes (maybe even has to?) and be still a really nice boot. For normal shoes: no question.

    And there’s nothing to thank, really! I enjoy your diverse and honest comments on shoes and styles a lot, so I’ll definitely keep reading.

    So long (and thanks for all the fish 😉 )

  4. Justin,
    Have you ever found much of a difference between the way a shoe photographs and how the shoe appears in person?
    My general sense is shoes that don’t photograph well will not look good in person.

  5. Reto – Not a big fan of a cowboy boot’s shape, but I can sure appreciate the beauty of the artwork. To each his own, right? No worries, hope that you are able to find some inspiration for your store.

    Ben – Yes I have found this, but it’s not always the same. I have seen shoes that I did not like in photograph but did like in person, did like in photograph but did not like in person & then of course the obvious, did not like in photograph and also did not like in person. The problem is that photographs can be so deceiving and there are so many factors that can make them look bad: lighting, angle, picture quality etc. So I don’t know if I answered your question but I can understand what you are saying and do find it to be a good general assumption.

    Justin, “The Shoe Snob”

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