So, you’re always hearing about custom, MTO and bespoke handmade shoes services, but don’t know what makes each unique? Not to worry! Here’s a quick overview.
Custom and MTO (made-to-order) shoes are one in the same. They are the definition of having a pair of shoes made on order for you, and these shoes may be personalized and customized to a certain degree. This can include color, material and even adding engravings – all that are considered cosmetic changes. Some made to order shoes also allow for slight variations in fit for your preference, to add width or extra insole padding for example. These are all elements that will not change the general aesthetic or structure of the shoe.
Every brand uses different lasts that may be more comfortable to some than others. Some brands even offer different widths to their sizes (37A, 37B, 37C for example), and usually make the sizes depending on the country of sale (wider and shorter fits are usually characteristic of Asian countries for example). Because of the high production numbers required to make all sizes in all widths, brands may choose to produce these special sizes only on order making it custom or MTO.
With this option, the shoe will be made with a pre-made last, one that has dimensions similar (but not exact) to the anatomical foot. The shoe maker will not measure your feet to make the shoes specifically to your size, it is a general fit with the opportunity to select unique elements and avoid technicalities and cost. Most of the time is sufficient enough and works quite well.
However, if you experience problems with foot structure or have foot, leg or back problems and need special arch support, the bespoke route may be the way for you to go. Venturing into the bespoke world is a special and truly technical experience, and understandably so considering that shoes are the most difficult worn item to fit. It’s not only that every person has different feet, but also that each person has a different left and right foot (and possibly different bone structures or problems for each). Here is where a bespoke service will be the solution to more comfortable shoes.
Bespoke shoes that are completely handmade using traditional shoe-making techniques is a very difficult service to come by and the truly skilled shoemakers are scarce to find. It is a sophisticated and refined process. These shoemakers go through many details and steps that begin by creating the last according to your feet in specific. This means that each foot is studied and measured before a custom last is made for each side using these measurements. Hand-carving lasts from wood blocks based on paper measurements is the most traditional last-making process and can take months of work, however some modern companies use 3-D scanning to create plastic lasts as well.
Once the last is made, a series of testing and re-testing of sample shoes is made to ensure that the fit is as near to perfect as possible. Because the fit cannot be adjusted much after the shoe is made (unlike in tailoring), it is clear to see that creating the last is the most critical step in shoe making and needs to be perfected before the design, pattern or production even starts.
The last created remains uniquely for you as an individual customer, and available for more shoes to be ordered and made without the need for other measurements and fittings. In having said that, if you had a last for a round-toe oxford shoe made and are looking to now make a pair of shoes with a different shape or style (a boot for example), then a new last will have to be made with the required adjustments.
Because of the lengthy, technical and difficult process in creating a pair of bespoke handmade shoes, the price range to expect will be much higher than you’re your simply custom shoe and commonly starts from three or four thousand dollars. This is expected as bespoke shoes are the highest level of customization and require the time and highly skilled craftsmanship.
For that reason, if your requirements are quite standard and you have to real problems or issues with your feet, the custom process is enough for you to get a great pair of shoes without the huge price tag that comes with a pair of bespoke handmade shoes.
If you’re interested to find out about customizing at Rana Cheikha just drop us a message here. Or if you’re looking to work on a completely tailor-made experience from start to finish, have a look at some of our projects under the Souls by Rana Cheikha Label!
Signing-off: The Shoe Advisor