1) Shoe Last & Perfect Fit;
The SHOE LAST is the heart of shoe design (shoe pattern) and shoe fit by reflecting the anatomical shape of our foot. It is a Designing Tool to work on directly. They are usually made from plastic material (most common ones), wood(usually hard maple) and aluminum(for high temperature reasons). The second important feature of the shoe last, is that it is used as a manufacturing tool during the production of our shoes. A comfort Fit must be calculated each time a last is developed and is essential in producing shoes which will have a PERFECT FIT.
There are many important parameters to be calculated on a shoe last with the help of a measuring tape. The two major ones are: 1) Size of a shoe which is measured by taking the length of the bottom side of the last from the edge of the heel till the edge of the toe. 2) The width of the shoe last is done by taking the maximum volume of the Instep Girth. (Most popular width are Narrow Fit, Normal Fit, Wide Fit and Extra Wide Fit. A particular shoe, sandal or boot will have its specific shoe last made for a particular shoe style. The shoe last will have a specific toe shape, specific volume and height which will identify the shoe we need to construct. The heel profile and inclination and heel height will be specific to a unique type of shoe. Some shoe last will have a steel plate at the bottom of the last and this is to avoid the nails, during the attachment of the upper to the assembly insole to perforate the shoe last. Most footwear lasts will have different type of openings like hinges or detachable pieces to facilitate the de-lasting of the shoe at the end of the production process.
A good shoe last should always consider not only a Perfect Fit but also a good Stability during walk. A well-constructed pump for example will sit tightly on your feet without any fastening and will have a narrower last having no other way to adhere to the foot than the quarters, the counter and the toe box, while leaving the instep completely free. It is for this reason that it must be perfectly constructed and will always be longer than your feet length with toe allowance to hold the foot in place while leaving the foot space to move inside the shoe. The Pump also called Court shoe is the one of the most difficult shoe to construct for these reasons.
The Sandals is a opposite example having an open construction, where we have straps holding the shoe in place. Sandal lasts have dimensions which are very close to the dimension of the feet with a bigger instep than the pump of at least 8mm.
One last important note is to understand that each country is working with one of the most common shoe sizes calculation which are; French size, UK size, USA size and Japan size. This means to get your perfect fit and perfect size; you will first need to know the length of your foot in cm from the back heel to the longest toe (usually the big toe). Bring this measurement on a specialized footwear chart (you can download from our https://www.italianfootwearsolution.com/size-guide/ ) to get your correct size per country system marked on the shoe.
FUNCTION: The last is utilized firstly in the designing process by wrapping it with masking tape and then, designing the style of shoe directly on the tape. This masking tape pattern which reflects the shape of the shoe last, will then be transferred to a harder carboard with designs to be used for cutting the leather/materials for the making of the uppers of the shoe.
Italian Footwear Solution will ensure the calculations of the shoe Last are those of a PERFECT FIT on every shoe being constructed. Once the Perfect Fit Volumes have been reached, the designing team will give the last a Fashionable look giving the shoe its maximum Comfort Fit in a Great Looking Shoe!
1) Shoe Materials;
Synthetics & Fabrics
The use of synthetic materials for upper and lining, in shoe making have surpassed by far the use of leather for the production of footwear in the world due to the following reasons; they are usually cheaper, long lasting, and come in various fashion-colored combinations. They can easily be cleaned and are resistant to water, dirt and have a uniform thickness. They also can be cut from many stacks of layers in one single slice. The negative downfall is that PU tends to warm up causing the foot to suet in addition to the fact that the foot does not move naturally inside the shoe so limiting its comfort.
Synthetics can be classified in two major families; Coated and Coagulated materials.
The Coating System, which represent the majority of the synthetics in the market, is also called the Dry System. This system will use a specialized Paper called the Release Paper having various patterns/design (example leather Grains designs) on which is spread one of more layers of PU or PVC. This is then placed in an oven to dry and a fabric support will then be glued on it to stabilize it and make it sturdier. Once it is dry, the release paper is peeled off leaving the print visible. This release paper can then be rolled and reused again up to 4-5 times. With this coating system, the fabric will be visible so we need to be careful where to place it in the shoe. In other words, the grain side will look like leather while the flesh side will look like textile.
The Coagulated or Wet System still uses fabric which will be soaked into PU or PVC so both sides will get completely covered with the material, hiding the support completely. These rolls will pass through compress rollers and into various substances which coagulates the materials together in the next drying phase. Before it is completely dried, it will pass through a roller having the desired print. The feel is more like real leather and the reverse side (flesh) also has a similar leather flesh finish. This system is more complicated and so more costly. With this system, the grain side and flesh will both look and feel like leather.
Fabrics on the other had can also be used to make uppers and lining in footwear. The fabric differs from the clothing industry since it needs re-enforcement in order to keep its shape and resist to the tensions of footwear machineries. We use fabrics for its lower cost, but also for its fashion creativity and speed in cutting same as synthetic, they also can be cut from many stacks of layers in one single slice.
Fabrics can be classified in Firm Fabrics and Stretch Fabrics.
We start with Fibers from animal, vegetable, artificial or synthetic origin. These fibers are then transformed into threads. These threads are then transformed into yarns. These threads can now be weaved into Fabrics, Knits or Meshes.
Depending on how these threads are crossed we will transform into various type of materials. The easiest and most durable fabric which we mostly use in footwear, is the CANVAS where the threads go below one thread and over the next and so on. Canvas is resistant to heat so suitable for Vulcanized constructions. DENIM instead will go below two threads and over one threads. This type of material is less durable but more elastic. The SATIN threads will go below four threads and over one and is the most complicated.
Knitting instead the threads are knitted together into rings and used in Jersey a re-enforcement for leather. MESH on the other hand, it’s woven are loosely enough that there are small holes throughout its surfaces making it very breathable and fresh. They are often used for upper lining in warm countries.
FUNCTION: Today more than 80% of footwear materials use synthetic and fabric materials due to its low cost, versatility and variety of choices. Big fashion brands also have adopted these materials for its technological beauty. Some High-quality man-made materials can also cost more than leather and have incredible designs and patterns.
Italian Footwear Solution will ensure to only use the best materials in the market. The decision of the material used will depends on the quality, its softness, comfort, durability and esthetic look and feel. You can always trust the high quality of our material carefully selected which represents our Italian Tradition and Heritage.
The leather, called Hide for large animals like Cow or buffalo and called Skin for small animals like sheep and goat and exotics animals is an organic surface that covers the body of all living beings. Its characteristics, strength, elasticity, softness and breathability are the ones that make it unique and superior to any material manufactured disposable so far. The leather is a byproduct of the meat industry which means, after the animal is killed, the leather will be removed and immediately cured also said stabilized, so it will not putrefy and rot. Layers of salt will be placed between these skins and refrigerated until delivery from the butcher to the tannery. Once they reach the designated tannery, the salt will be removed and the leathers will be inspected for quality, weight and thickness. After inspection the pre-tanning starts by soaking them in lime also called liming or soaking which chemically dissolves the hair, removes unwanted proteins and opens the fiber structure. The leather will swell so we will pass them in roller blades in order to remove the bottom layers “ Fleshing “ making the thickness of the leather more regular and thinner. Now we can trim the excessive undesirable parts at the edges by hand. Now the leather is put into a special machine cutting the leather horizontally into two or more layers. The Top layer because of the pores remaining from the hair is called Top Grain while the bottom is called Split. Now they are place into a large rotating wooden Drum with chemicals transforming them into a durable product. The chemicals used are mostly Mineral (Chromium salt or Aluminum salt) and Vegetable tanning. Leather tanned with Chromium salt comes out wet and Blu color so they are called WET BLU. The Wet Blu leather is cures and can be kept for the next process called CRUSTING. The Crusting is the Wet Blu which is Dyed, Dried and ready for FINISHING. Vegetable tanning instead use natural tannates coming from trees. Mineral tanning is faster, lower in cost and easier and the leather will be softer so it is mostly preferred. We will now have mineral Crust or Vegetable Crust. At this point each tannery will have their own secret recipes to finish the leather to get the finished desired by its customers.
If the split is sanded with rolls having similar to sand paper it will have a velvety look and feel and called suede. This is less expensive. If the Top Grain is buffed, only few microns are sanded to get a velvety effect, it will be very expensive and only few specialized tanners are able to get this finish and called Nubuck. If we buff the Top Grain, the defects tend to show more and so we need to utilize only the highest quality leather with closed grains. The most expensive leather is the one with double finishing having the Top Grain finished and the reverse side with a suede finish. Because of the double finishing also called Reverse calf, it is very expensive and usually used for lady shoes but not only.
PU split or Action Leather or Bicast is a split leather where on top we apply a synthetic material with the designs or a top grain. This is very economical. We also have PU leather which is synthetic made in Labs so it is considered artificial leather. Lastly we have bonded leather made from scrap of leather materials pressed together with glu into sheets. Bonded leather is used for leather accessories and shoe counters.
FUNCTION: The tannery will not only preserve the leather in time but will give its quality, thickness and color. Tanners have learned from generation and long tradition to transform normal leather into masterpieces enhancing the richness of any shoe.
Italian Footwear Solution uses leather coming from the best tanners in the world ensuring consistency, comfort and timeless beautiful finish.
UPPERS & LINING
The leather is made of three layers; top layer called EPIDERMIS (not used in footwear), the middle layer said DERMIS (used in footwear) and the bottom layer called IPODERMIS (fat reserve not used in footwear). During the tanning process, the hair of the animal is removed, leaving pores or grains visible on the top side of the leather and for this reason called Top Grain. The bottom side instead is called The Flesh Split. The leather can additionally be classified in open grain (open pores when they are separated) like sheep and goat (Kid Skin if young) and closed grain (smaller pores) when they are tight and close to each other like bovine and cattle. Pig skin can be easily recognized by the patterns of islands made of 2-3 large pores, separated by wide empty space. Pic skin are usually used for lining since less costly.
The animal skin, depending on the area of the animal, is divided into different sections and for the footwear industry, the best part is the middle back, also called “Bend” which has regular and uniform pores with maximum resistance. We can illustrate this with our free leather Mouse Pad. The neck and shoulders are also used and the lower quality are the shanks, then the belly and butt.
There are also exotic leathers like Fish, Ostrich, Reptiles, and Horse.
Tanning of the skin with chemicals (mineral) or vegetable (natural) tanning will give the skin it’s richness, and mainly stabilize it to keep it from decaying and rotting.
FUNCTION: Top Quality Leather, once tanned by experts with professional knowledge will be conserved and mainly enhance its richness and beauty and transformed itself into a real masterpiece material, bringing vitality and brilliance to any shoe.
Italian Footwear Solution uses only the finest quality prestigious leathers with fine closed grains coming from the bend area of the animal. This ensures shoes with the highest brilliance look, quality, and durability including softness for the best deal of comfort. The prestigious leathers used during our production combined with expert craftmanship will ensure the best quality for all shoes which carry our brands giving our customers the certification of excellence for the best experience in look and walk.
UPPERS & LINING
The upper is the top part of the shoe, surrounding the foot and is attached to the assembly insole and outer sole. It can be made of an upper part, a middle part (usually sponge for additional comfort) and a bottom layer called the lining in direct contact with your foot. The upper and lining can be classified into 3 groups;
A) ANIMAL SKINS or LEATHER
B) FABRIC which is reinforced woven materials
C) SINTHETIC which is made by attaching one or two layers of synthetic materials to a base support.
The Leather is the most noble material. It is breathable, flexible, stretchable having in addition, humidity and temperature control quality and is naturally accepted by our skin. The leather is very versatile so it can be processed (said tanned), so to become very hard or gently soft depending on the age of the animal, the thickness, and the tanning technique used. We can vary the look, texture, thickness and color during this tanning process.
A general rule is the younger the animal the higher the quality. There are also exotic leathers like Fish, Ostrich, Reptiles, and Horse.
Tanning of the skin with mineral or vegetable tanning will give the skin it’s richness, and mainly stabilize it to keep it from decaying and rotting.
FUNCTION: Covering and protecting the foot, keeping it warm and helps the movement during walk. Some uppers will have more volume being more comfortable while others will focus more on the fashion look and style.
Italian Footwear Solution uses only fine quality uppers with a touch of fashion and a great deal of comfort. The prestigious materials used during our production combined with expert craftmanship will ensure the best quality our customers always trust and appreciate. Always trust the high quality of our materials for the best experience in look and walk.
THE OUTSOLE: The outsole is the bottom part of the shoe which has direct contact with the ground. We can classify the Outsoles depending on the materials in which they are made. We have the Leather outsoles and Man Made outsoles. The leather usually is more expensive and is sold by weight while man made is sold by pair.
LEATHER OUTSOLES: These are made of adult cattle and tanned with vegetable tanning making them harder but very classical and beautiful to wear and look.
MAN MADE OUTSOLES: Is made out of different components like PU (POLYURETHAN – very versatile since it can be finished to look like Leather, Cork or other materials), TPU (Thermo Plastic Polyurethan), TPR (Thermoplastic Rubber), PVC( Poly Vinyl Chloride ), TR (Thermo Rubber). The difference in materials gives the outsoles its different flexibility, weight and function and the choice will depend on the final result we need to obtain.
On the other hand, latex soles are natural and come from Rubber Tree.
The rubber material will give a stronger grip while usually being heavier while other materials like PU will be very light weight with less traction.
If we want a very light shoe (example running shoes), we can use EVA ( Ethylene-Vinyl- Acetate ) Midsole with a Rubber Outsole for Grip or TPU. Today even though more costly, many casual shoes are also made with eva outsoles.
Thunit on the other hand is a specialized material which copies the look of leather and is made of vulcanized Rubber which is sold in sheets and is a very a high-quality material.
There is a second Classification for outsoles: OUTSOLES CUT OUT & OUTSOLES MOLDED
OUTSOLES CUT OUT: In this case, the various materials come in sheets which could be made of leather, thunit, rubber and crepe and are cut by a metal blade called a DIE CUTTER placed on the sheet which is pressed by a hydraulic press. A laser printer can reproduce the NESTING with designs of all the pieces of material to be cut out.
OUTSOLE MOLDED: The Mold, which has the shape of the outsole, is usually made of Metal and the material making the outsole is poured inside which can be Solid, Semi-Solid or Liquid, then the mold is closed until the final product is dried. The Mold is Machine made at first and then will be manually finished by Hand.
The quality of this mold is essential since it needs to make an outsole which will fit perfectly to the upper fitted over the last of the shoe.
OPENING A NEW MOLD; means investing in the series, since each shoe size represents one mold size. The cost of each mold is very expensive.
It is very important to take note that once the Soles come out of the Molds, they can expand (EVA) or reduce (PU) in volume and these considerations should be taken into account during the production of these SOLES by putting more or LESS material into the Molds.
Some Outsoles are bult directly onto the upper of the shoe (Vulcanized or Injected ). In both cases, the upper is first lasted and then inserted in the mold which closes and the liquid or melted material is injected into the mold which will take its shape around the bottom part of the upper making them one single bonding unit. You can easily identify these constructions since they leave a small thin line of junction piece of outsole in the front and back called “ Flash “ made by the closing of the mold. A more widely used kind of vulcanization is first placing a initial outer sole to the lasted upper, then spreading a special heat activated glue around it and then wrapping a stipe of rubber all around the bottom part of the shoe, then putting the entire shoe into a autoclave with high temperature and pressure which will react the rubber making it bond directly to the upper.
FUNCTION: The outsoles are the tires of the shoe by protecting the bottom part of the foot, giving them traction, flexibility and adding to the shape and stability.
Italian Footwear Solution will only use outsoles which are made of world’s best components ensuring not only durability but a shoe which is light in weight, flexible and bouncy comfort during each step.
Always trust the high quality of our materials and our specialized experts assembling each part of the shoe for the best experience in look and comfort walk.
SKELETON OF A SHOE: ASSEMBLY INSOLE is the lower part of the shoe which cuddles the foot right beneath the footbed. This part is very important because together with the Toe Box and Counter forms the skeleton and will ensure a good stability and comfort of the shoe. It is essential that the insole is made of good quality orthopedic and flexible material which is the core of a good quality shoe making. A good insole will give you a good shoe and should never be under estimated since it will be the most important part of a good structure of a shoe.
The insole is also part of the stiffener family, which is a strong but flexible material and is positioned between the footbed and the outer sole. It will be the heart of the shoe since most of the other materials will be attached to it, like heel, upper, footbed, and outer sole.
FUNCTION: Gives the shoe it’s structure, form, flexibility, comfort, shape and stability.
Italian Footwear Solution uses only top-quality insoles made by professional craftsmen who understands the quality of a shoe. These quality stiffeners as the toe box and counter will ensure beauty and perfect shape of the shoe. In order to increase the comfort, all our assembly insoles have an additional padding adding more comfort cuddling the foot during walk.
It is very crucial that the assembly insole is manually made to match perfectly the bottom of the shoe last. This will ensure there are no gaps in between and will be a perfect fit.
Always trust the high quality of our materials and our specialized experts assembling each part of the shoe for the best experience in look and comfort walk.
SKELETON OF A SHOE: COUNTER also called stiffener is a strong material positioned between the upper and the lining in the heel position of the shoe.
FUNCTION: Gives the heel part of the shoe it’s shape and holds the foot in place.
Italian Footwear Solution uses only top quality counters to ensure maximum comfort, stability and durability to all its footwear.
SKELETON OF A SHOE: TOE BOX or PUFF is also a stiffener, which is a strong material positioned between the upper and the lining in the toes area of the shoe.
FUNCTION: Gives the front part of the shoe it’s shape and rigidity.
Italian Footwear Solution uses only top-quality stiffeners as toe box to ensure beauty and perfect shape of the shoe and also bouncing back in shape should it get deformed by pressure and bends. This is called the ping pong effect. Always trust the high quality of our materials for the best experience in look and walk.