Shoe Making 101-the Pump insole

The insole is an extremely important part for the fit of the shoe. Most shoe makers buy the pre-made insole that goes with their chosen last, not Bill. A pump traditionally includes a structural support spanning from the heel through the arch. Most often that structure is provided with a metal insert, but we learned how to do this with fiberglass.


The process begins with an insole component that runs the full length of the shoe with an insole board that spans from the heel to the curve of the sole. These components will eventually be covered. You are viewing the side that will be inside the shoe.




cutting fiberglass
Cutting the fiberglass
prepping for heat
Prepping for heat

Next we cut the fiberglass and prepared it. With our insole tacked to our lasts. This consisted of cutting the fiberglass, connecting it to the insoles with epoxy and adding foil to protect the insole from the heat gun. Restaurant grade foil was stapled onto the insole from the edge of the fiberglass out.




shoe at ther ready
Shoe at the ready
heating fiberglass
Heat applied to activate fiberglass

Our last step was to heat activate the fiberglass to bend it to the insole shape. This took several minutes. When done the insole and lasts were wrapped with elastic and left to cure to hold the shape. Note-several of our fiberglass pieces didn’t take, most likely from a faulty mix of epoxy. In these cases (mine was one) a metal shaft was used for the sake of time. So I have on shoe with the fiberglass shaft and one with the metal.

Shoe Making 101 – Pump Odyssey

I’m back from my seven day shoe making extravaganza with a pair of bad ass and beautiful pumps. I call them wrinkles. I learned a lot and ended up with a pair of shoes that have 2 leathers that didn’t really want to be shoes. Confusing? I promise it will all come clear in the end. Right now I’m going to back up and take you through my journey.

Day 1 – Measuring the foot, selecting and manipulating the last

foot measurements
completed foot measurements

We started the day with introductions and ground rules and got right into measuring the foot. We began with a trace around the foot, followed by an angled trace hugging the bottom in red. Next we attached a piece of tape to the top of the foot, noted the furthest point of the toe and the widest part of the foot. Note the widest part of the foot is canted at 15 degrees.

Next we wrapped the tape around the ball of the foot and pulled hard, releasing slightly until the wrap was comfortable. Sometimes “the client” was asked to stand for this measurement and it was done standing and seated. We then wrapped the instep snugly and found the waist, the point in between and noted both of these.Finally we measured the heel around the heel and to the top of the instep.

Measruing the foot 2
Measuring the ball of the foot.
measuring the foot 1
Measuring the instep








Once the measurements were done, the last selection process began. We selected a pointed or rounded toe style and a desired heel height. Bill chose lasts and measured them around the ball of the foot and foot length.

last matching 1
Measuring the ball of foot on the last
fitting last to foot 2
Fitting the last to the length of the foot








last manipulation
Creating a pointed toe

Finally we learned how to change a last. One of our peers wanted a more pointed toe, but not a completely pointed toe. First, Bill selected a last that had already been maniuplated. He had previously traced the original last so he could return it to the original later. Then he heated some plastic in a teflon pan and put it onto the toe of the last. After it cooled, the block was cut down and then sanded into shape. The process was repeated for the second last.


old lasts
Note the curve to the crest of the foot.

A very interesting point is that older lasts accommodated the angle of the crest of the foot from the ankle to big toe, but newer lasts have put this dead center. Why? Follow the money… If the curve is in the center, the last is symmetrical and all patterns, etc. can be created equally on both sides. Less labor, less materials, more marigin. No surprise.

Deconstructing a Pump




I’m preparing for my trip to Ashland Oregon next week where I will participate in a 7 day intensive Fashion Pump making workshop at Bonney & Wills. I can’t wait to do this and really learn how to work with a last. It is my next step toward my next career as shoe designer.

The school sent me a rather large package to review in preparation. One of the suggestions was deconstructing a pump. I love this idea and have used it often in my making career. I am a visual and physical learner so by taking something apart I can see how the pieces fit together.

iComfort Classic Pump Staci – Faux patent leather and heel detail.

Of course I don’t have a pair of pumps I want to deconstruct so I first had to acquire some. I thought about a thrift shop. There is probably a lot to learn from taking apart a quality pair of shoes. On the other hand, there is plenty to learn from a recently manufactured shoe. In the end, I settled on a clearance pair of pumps from Sears.


Insole & Sole removed
Insole & Sole removed




My first step was to pull out the insole of the pump.  This was a relatively simple process as it was lightly glued to the outsole. I was able to pull it out quickly with my fingers. Next, I tried to remove the sole. This was pretty hard. The sole is rubber and well glued to the outsole. This took a lot of work with my utility knife.  The item on the left is the insole and comfort pad. The sole is on the right.





Lastly, I removed the heel which was screwed into the outsole and separated the upper from the outsole.  The outsole houses the metal support that is generally necessary when making a heeled shoe.  (This is what the Mojito removed). In this case, the upper was glued to the outsole so it too took a bit of knife work to remove.

Pump Upper
Pump upper-note stitching
toe box
Toebox and pouf
pump heel
Note the decorative element between the heel and heel cup

Finally, I investigated the toe, heel and upper. The toe and heel have added structure for stability. The upper also included some stitch work. The entire upper had an innerliner as well.

Note the decorative gold above the heel and structure added to the heel. The extra material under the toe box is the pouf.

There are a couple of parts I didn’t take out – the lift on the heel and the aforementioned metal support. It was a wonderful exercise and I look forward to sharing my workshop with you through this blog, my travel blog and Instagram.




The Oxford, Shoes of Prey and Mass Customization

April showers bring May flowers and in my part of the world the weather can fluctuate from Summer hot to Winter cool with all weathers in between. I plan my outfits around my shoes and most often I start with boots or sandals, but this time of year is one of two brief moments (spring and fall) when I consider the “pump”.

For my purposes, I’ll define the pump as a closed-toe, heeled shoe. This year one of the hottest trends for women is the Oxford, an integral part of any complete shoe wardrobe. Incredibly versatile, they work well with dress, work or casual wear.

My design Oxford – Shoes of Prey

Last year I designed my own version of an Oxford using the online  site, Shoes of Prey. I combined a deep charcoal grey and silver leather with a light blue and silver fishskin option to create these beauties. They are so me- all about texture and shine, a neutral with a kick. These are real conversation starters!

Shoes of Prey offers an online option and they have recently launched a “Design Lab” program in select Nordstrom stores in the US and David Jones and Westfield in Australia. The online process is easy. You choose your style and off you go. You can choose from designs others have made, or go through a selection process to make your very own, personalized style. Options included styles, leathers and heel heights. Shoes are made to your size, half sizes included. They are guaranteed in your hot little hands within 5 weeks AND you can return or re-make until you are satisfied! This shoe cost me $199. Quite reasonable for a personalized design with a guaranteed fit. Oh and by the way, they are comfortable.

Shoes of Prey is a mass customization model out of Sydney Australia. They launched in 2009 and with the recent partnership with Nordstrom, I see a bright future.  I’m glad to see it working. The RoxAnneLava label is based on a similar model. I look forward to a similar success, albeit on a smaller scale.

Shoe Design – 2 day workshop

drawn shoe draped last
Drawing and Draping

In addition to the 1-day sandal making workshop I took last summer, I also took a 2-day shoe design workshop at Prescott & Mackay, lead by Aki Choklat. I wanted to learn the process and pick up some more drawing tools. I hate drawing and I’m not that great at it. I much prefer to work things through in collage or 3 dimensions. It was enlightening and in the end I didn’t do so badly. My shoe is much like my mission “badass & beautiful” with a unique heel detail.

Caged shoe drawing
Badass & Beautiful

I’ve been working hard to set up my new shoe making studio and I’m nearly there. I hope to devote 30 minutes a day to drawing and I am sure I will see a great deal of improvement with practice.

I am also sure I will mostly design on a last in 3-D (otherwise knows as draping) as you can see in this image. I was working out how many straps there would be, where they would fall on the foot, how wide the center strap would be and where elastic would need to go to get the foot in and out of the shoe.

Outside view draping
Inside view draping showing elastic placement
Top view draping








personal printing and milling fabricator
personal printing and milling fabricator

I’m waiting for a 3D printer/milling machine from Fabtotum. I hope to try and make this heel and toe cap when that arrives.