Every shoe starts with the last. The last is a shoe shaped block that the shoe is built around and the shoe takes on the lasts shape in the process. With this in mind you have to choose the right size, shape and heel height of your last before you begin making a shoe.
Lasts replicate the shape of the foot but are not totally foot shaped because the foot has too many curves to replicate, and well...most of us don't want a foot shaped shoe (sorry 'Vibram Five Fingers' shoe fans.)
Just like feet, lasts are not universal in their shape and size. This is why you can be one size in 1 shop and another size in another shop, and this applies to the style of shoe too. There are hundreds (maybe thousands...) of last manufacturers around the world and every manufacturer has a different way of interpreting how they grade the sizing and fit. But, we have come a long way from the narrow victorian shoes that look like they could fit both a left or right foot.
Choosing the right last can be a process, as often you won't know exactly how your shoe will look or fit until you have made it. When it comes to fit everyone has a different preference of how they like their shoes to feel; some people prefer a loose fit and others more snug, and in different areas.
As a guide we recommend buying a last that is around 1-2cm longer than your longest foot. Most people will find that their feet are different lengths but unless they are very different you can normally get away with using the same size, or slightly adjusting the length by adding some leather or shaving away some excess.
For a wide/rounded toe last we would suggest 1cm difference.
For an almond toe shape we would suggest 2cm difference.
For a drastic pointed last we would suggest 3-4cm difference.
When it comes to shoe width, more brands are beginning to offer wider foot ranges, but it is mostly an issue that is not addressed. When you are making your own shoes however, there are some very simple fixes to ensure you get the correct width for you....
If you have a narrower foot then you can sand away some of the lasts width - We suggest not to remove any width until you are confident that they are much wider.
As a guide we recommend that the circumference of the widest/joint area of the last is 5mm narrower than the circumference of the widest/joint area of your foot. This is because the shoes will stretch out in time.
Use the diagram below to measure your feet accurately.
We sell a range of lasts on our online supply shop here.