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Shoemaking Techniques and Traditions--"...these foolish things..." - Page 38

post #556 of 1714
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by chogall View Post

How about using the same last for HAF sole, i.e., double sole up front, single sole at the waist.  With that, heel hight should be adjusted higher to compensate for the thicker/higher front?

Yes, of course, it must be. But the maker does that automatically--balancing the shoe with the last in it. A cobbler guesses. Because he doesn't have the last. And no matter how good the guess, it's still a guess. What ends up going missing is objectivity...and accountability.

If last balance is important...and it should be...what goes under the forepart must also go under the heel. And vice versa.
Or, say, a worn shoes with top lift replacement.  The outsole is worn thinner but the top lift is brand new, making the heel height relatively and slightly higher than it should be.

And all those things cause the breakdown of the foot and the shoe. A person may not notice it right away, but when as simple and as common a situation as a top lift wearing down occurs, the foot immediately starts to readjust to the new position. And it starts to break down.

Wear a heel down far enough and the foot starts to supinate (for most people). Eventually the shoe cannot recover even when a new heel is mounted. And ignored long enough, the foot itself will not be able to recover even when a new shoe is purchased. The foot will continue to try to supinate simply because the ligament structure has broken down.

Are these things minor?...depends on your point of view and how long your view is. How rigorous and accountable...or incurious and perfunctory...your thinking is.

And sometimes it just depends on your body structure, health, and such. Sometimes major skeletal problems--spinal misalignment, backache, etc., result...right away.
In both cases, it will misalign the shoe/last balance from a couple mm differential. 

No, it won't misalign the last balance...the last is a static form that is not affected by wear on the artifact made over the last. But it will throw off the shoe balance, for certain.

Edited by DWFII - 11/25/15 at 8:44am
post #557 of 1714
Okay. My mistake. Shoe balance, not last balance.

So at which point would you suggest getting a new top lift? I only get new heels when the rubber portion is worn down to almost the first layer of leather stack.
post #558 of 1714
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by chogall View Post

Okay. My mistake. Shoe balance, not last balance.

So at which point would you suggest getting a new top lift? I only get new heels when the rubber portion is worn down to almost the first layer of leather stack.

Depends on how thick the rubber heel is. Used to be there were "whole heels', 'half heels" and "5/8 heels"--all thick rubber heels set for various heel heights. Of course, it was a kludge. If you wore any of those to the first layer of leather, you'd definitely have walked the shoes over irretrievably.

High end and bespoke shoes usually have a combination toplift which is mostly leather but has a rubber "plug." Usually the rubber is roughly 12 iron (1/4") or a little less. Wearing the rubber down to the leather is probably taking it a little too long for optimal balance but most people do...with little ill effect. But if you watch carefully you can see the shoe and the foot change position and gait, esp. as you get closer and closer to the leather.

Best plan of all, is simply to keep your heels squared up

edited for punctuation and clarity
Edited by DWFII - 11/25/15 at 5:48am
post #559 of 1714
Thread Starter 
I might add...for the silent reader...that, while the words "last balance" and "shoe balance" are enthusiastically bandied about...esp. by people who don't really understand the term or what it is not as vague or casual a concept as some would have you believe.

"Balance," whether it refers to the shoe or the last, is an important and critical concept. And since the shoe is made on the last, to speak of one is to speak of the other.

For a shoe to be balanced, the last must be in the shoe. The "balance" at that point is a combination of factors that affect how the shoe sits relative to ground...both lengthwise and width-wise.

But the bottom line is that despite current usage, "balance" is a very specific thing...a very specific state of existence. And by definition there is no such thing as "relative" balance.
post #560 of 1714

Quick question.  Why do makers uses glass to scrap the heels?  Typically for wood/metal working, people uses sandpapers to polish a surface, so can sandpaper be used to achieve a polished heel stack?


I am thinking using 250/1000 grit sandpaper to give my heels a smoothed surface before waxing.

post #561 of 1714

Happy turkey day to all

post #562 of 1714
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by chogall View Post

Quick question.  Why do makers uses glass to scrap the heels?  Typically for wood/metal working, people uses sandpapers to polish a surface, so can sandpaper be used to achieve a polished heel stack?

I am thinking using 250/1000 grit sandpaper to give my heels a smoothed surface before waxing.

Actually, wood scrapers were (and are) very popular with makers of fine furniture. Those who are really perfectionists will tell you that sandpaper, at any grit, leaves particles of silicon or carborundum or whatever--grit, IOW--in the wood. Scrapers don't do that.

Woodworking scrapers were traditionally made of metal and sharpened at a fairly blunt angle and then the edge was "turned" with a burnishing rod. Barnsley used to carry a set of these as part of their "Boston" series of Traditional shoemaking tools. I have some but prefer the glass.

Glass is cheaper, of course, and you don't need to go to the trouble and time consuming labour of resharpening glass--just break off another piece and you get a fresh, pristine edge.

The reasons for using scrapers on leather is the same as on wood--a scraper will take off an ultra thin layer of material and leave no grit or residue.

I will be the first to admit I am not as good as I want to be with glass and sometimes fall back on the sandpaper. But, if I understand correctly, in the right hands sandpaper is not only not needed, it is scorned simply because it doesn't yield as refined a surface as the glass.
post #563 of 1714
Glass first, finest sandpaper after. Bit of talc on the sandpaper does something that I don't understand the science of but I like it.
post #564 of 1714
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by ntempleman View Post

Glass first, finest sandpaper after. Bit of talc on the sandpaper does something that I don't understand the science of but I like it.

I sometimes rub talc on sanded foreparts prior to finishing (picked that up in Thornton or Golding ?). It almost "bleaches" the leather...or at least subdues discolourations. Great for natural foreparts but I never was really certain I liked it--maybe a little too bleached.

And elsewhere I wasn't confidant that the talc would absorb the dye or even that it wouldn't swell up a little. That said, sanding with talc is certainly something I'd like to investigate a little more thoroughly.

And thank you for that.

edited for punctuation and clarity
Edited by DWFII - 11/27/15 at 10:27am
post #565 of 1714

Sorry it took me a while to get back to this. I've had a ton of surgeries and a busy schedule over the past month, plus I was preparing a lecture that I was giving to surgical residents at a teaching hospital in my area.



Originally Posted by mw313 View Post

from a medical / biomechanics standpoint, having at least a moderate toe spring will ease a proper gait for most people walking in daily life.


The foot is meant to roll forward as moving from the stance phase to swing phase of gait. Many people do not have enough degree of dorsiflexion of the hallux (lifting of the big toe at the big toe joint) to have the proper movement for gait, so the toe spring will help this process happen more efficiently. 


This effect is exaggerated in some shoes that have rocker bottom soles. These shoes are used for people who have very little dorsiflexion as well as some other orthopedic deformities that are out of the scope of this comment. 


Yes it is possible to have no toe spring, but most people will just slap their feet, causing a problem with walking that can even damage parts of the foot as well as causing an increased pressure that can work up to various bones and joints.


I don't agree with the extreme toe spring of some shoes, because they can look like elf shoes, but a mild to moderate toe spring goes with the general effect that happens to shoes over time as well as assists people in walking. 



Originally Posted by DWFII View Post

I was hoping you'd jump in here...

I can't speak for other makers but I believe most of my boot lasts, at 1-1/2"+ heel height, are running about 2cm of toe spring and AFAIK that's pretty standard. It does create somewhat of a rocker bottom and without it, as I said, gait would be adversely affected.

The toe spring on my 1" shoe last is right at 11mm (?) but I have built shoes on a previous iteration of that same last with 2cm TS. In fact, my alligator balmorals pictured below (the first of a number of similar pairs made for customers) have the 2cm. They feel and look terrific (little personal testimony there...FWIW) and I have not seen any downside to that much toe spring...either functionally or aesthetically.

So I would ask your opinion...what's extreme toe spring? At one inch heel height? At Inch and a half?

And what would you regard as optimal toe spring at one inch? At inch and five-eighths?

The balmorals...before wearing


Thanks for continuing on this topic @DWFII ! I would say that as a general rule of thumb 1-2 cm is quite normal for toe spring in a 1-1.5 inch heeled shoe. Anything extreme like 3 cm is really just causing more of a rocker bottom to propel off of when walking, but it isn't really needed to be that great for a functional purpose. That would be purely aesthetic and in my opinion, would be way to curved up, especially if being that flexed before ever wearing the shoe. 


Over time, the shoe may start to develop more flex at the region of the toes due to the pressure of walking and dorsiflexing the toes on the shoe materials, but a brand new shoe has no need to be as extreme as 3 + cm. 

Originally Posted by bengal-stripe View Post

It is the flexibility or rigidity of, primarily, the sole and, ultimately, the entire shoes that decides the “right” degree of toe spring. On the one end of the footwear spectrum you have the Dutch clog whose rigid totally inflexible wooden sole determines the the curvature of the bottom; on the other end is the ballet slipper (I’m not talking about pointe shoes) which is designed to be flexible and the nearest thing to barefoot.

A classic opera pumps with a thin sole, despite it’s low low heel, has a “dead” forepart (little toe spring,) just like a (ballroom) dance shoe. A man’s dress shoe with it’s standard ¼” leather sole (designed for moderate walking) needs a bit more toe spring. The double-soled country shoe (heavier walking and less flexible sole) needs somewhat more toe spring and army- and hiking boots, traditionally made with extra-heavy leather soles and hob nails will need a rocker sole as a clog. That’s the theory, in practice no shoemaker likes to make a new pair of lasts for every single order by the same customer, particular as toe spring and heel pitch are very difficult to alter by conventional means. Although new digital design programs and digital controlled lathes have changed the difficulty level, it is still an added expense having a new pair of lasts turned.

So last/shoemakers are likely to settle for some medium toe spring which will work reasonably (but not optimally) well with different sole configurations and only will start making a new last in extreme cases. Whatever measurement of toe spring they settle is most likely to be defined by their training and local traditions and schools. In the case of those who buy commercial last to be fitted-up, availability will be most likely the defining criterion.

Yes the materials used and construction method are major factors in how much toe spring is needed. It is not just the height of the heel used in the shoe. Yes a very rigid shoe like a clog does need more toe spring because one walks in those shoes by purely rolling the foot forward to propel them into the next step. A heavy duty boot with a thick double sole will also need more toe spring to allow a smoother gait, because it is much more rigid than a thin sole that is much more flexible.


A flexible shoe like a ballet slipper (not a pointe shoe) or flat can have little to no toe spring because the shoe is so flexible and bends with the wearers foot so well that it is more like a person walking barefoot. A person uses their natural dorsiflexion at the 1st Metatarsal phalangeal joint (the big toe joint) as well as the plantar fascia (band under the foot from the ball of the foot back to the heel) which are the main factors to help the person's foot adjust in shape for propulsion. Then the intrinsic (start and finish within the foot) and extrinsic (start from the leg and end in the foot) muscles will supply the forces need to move the body forward. 


This is why the toe spring varies based on the function / purpose of the shoe, the amount of walking done in that type of shoe, the materials used (thin vs thick leather soles, leather vs rubber, etc), and the heel height. 


Originally Posted by DWFII View Post

The rigidity of the outsole certainly enters into the does, to some extent, the thickness of the outsole. A good deal of this is simply what mw313 referred to--the ability of the foot to flex...and to induce the shoe to flex with the foot. But rigidity is not the whole story. A relatively flexible outsole that is thick, such as cloud crepe, needs toe spring to the extent that it even benefits from additional spring added to both the toe and heel.

That said, look at footprints in the sand. Shoes with minimal or no toe spring will tend to wear faster at the toe regardless of the flexibility of the outsole. Simply because a normal foot pushes off with the toe.

I suspect that this is the reason I have never felt the need to mount toe plates on any of my shoes--the toe spring on my lasts imparts enough rocker motion to minimize excessive wear.

But almost without exception, newer, more fashion forward, low profile shoes nearly require them. The combination of low toe spring and a semi rigid outsole make wear at the toe a certainty. Again because the foot is pushing off with the toe...against a resistant substrate.

yes a thick but flexible outsole like crepe may be flexible but since it is so thick, there needs to be enough toe spring or the person walking in the shoe can actually break the crepe sole right in half. I have actually done this because I need a fair amount of toe spring, due to my foot shape, biomechanics, etc. and this pair of boots did not have enough for me. 


Also construction method can be a factor as well. A thin blake stitch or something like a moccasin construction is so flexible that the shoe naturally bends with the foot where as a goodyear welted (GYW) shoe that has a steel shank (think Alden) may need more spring to accommodate for that more rigid construction.

I'm sure that this is surprising to many here but, I have noticed that with hand welted shoes, which are very strongly made and durable, they don't necessarily need a ton of toe spring because they usually are made entirely of leather in that process. My few hand welted shoes from different shoe makers in different parts of the world have less spring than my GYW shoes but are just as fluid in my gait. I attribute this to the extra materials used in GYW construction. My hand welted shoes use leather shanks but I have some GYW shoes that have steel shanks, which are much more rigid. 


I don't use toe plates on my shoes either. I don't have excessive wear at the toes either because I have enough toe spring, even in my shoes that have elongated toe boxes. 


Originally Posted by DWFII View Post

When fashion...or simple allowed to dictate, anything can happen. Doesn't mean it's right or a standard. Or maybe, in some circles, it does. We sure see a lot of that kind of attitude here, IMO, not to mention the general population.
Stylized gait has nothing to do with it. It's height of heel and the desire to walk easily at that heel height...without sole slap.
I can't speak for other makers but I too would consider that excessive...if the shoes have never been worn. Which, not being as beguiled by "internet mimeographing" or second or even third hand information as others, I have no way to confirm one way or the other. They look suspiciously worn to me.

But the key element which I find entirely spurious is "fashion" or fashionable."

As Oscar Wilde said " Everything popular is wrong." It goes back to all the things I've railed against here on SF--the overt deception and subtly manipulative influence of PR and marketing hype on popular opinion. Group think. And the even more corrosive effects of inexperienced and unsubstantiated speculation.

I am one shoemaker and @mw313 is one podiatrist (?) who feel...from experience...that toe spring is not just about fashion, although it can certainly be distorted by fashion and misinformation.

IMO, there's more concrete reasons to eschew too low a toe spring than too high a toe spring...all within reason of course.

edited for punctuation and clarity

I actually have seen some shoes like those that do have that much toe spring when new. I think it is ridiculous but that is fashion. That is why there is a difference between fashion and style. Fashion fades, whereas style is something that is individual to the wearer and is a part of their character. It can develop further but doesn't just come and go.


Yes I agree from experience that too low a toe spring is more of a problem unless it is a shoe made so flexible or is not for walking at all. Some English riding boots don't need any spring, but they were only worn on the horse. There is very little to no walking done in them, because that is when a walking boot would be put on. 


Don't get me started on women's high heeled shoes and the amount of toe spring, or lack there of. haha.

post #566 of 1714
May I ask a question of the experts here

The insole of this pair of shoes (handmade) appears slightly too small, leaving some type of soft material exposed (?canvas. The cream coloured materially on either side of the insole)

Will this have long term deleterious effects?
Should it be repaired now?

I don't think my foot rests on it when worn (high arches I guess)
post #567 of 1714
That's not the insole, it's the sock liner.
Why does it have nails thru it!?
post #568 of 1714


post #569 of 1714
Maybe there are nails underneath but I have no idea smile.gif can't feel them

So you are saying this is not a problem?
post #570 of 1714
Thread Starter 
I have a hard time believing those are handmade, as well. But then anything is possible, I suppose, even if it doesn't make a lot of sense.

That said, I'm not sure what I'm seeing there. I cannot think of a single process that is consistent with handmade shoes that would result in this kind of slippage(?) / issue / problem.

My best guess(and it could be wildly wrong) is that the shoe is a cement construction--the upper glued to the underside of the insole--and the upper has broken the cement and pulled away from the insole. The cream colour is the lining leather that has lost the finish (dissolved by the cement) and the extent to which it shows is an indication of how much it has slipped.

This could have happened after the fact--such as when the shoe was stretched (if it was) or in the factory or by the maker if the shoe was mis-lasted. It's hard to tell.

Overall ...and another guess...I'd have to say it's not a good sign.
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