The Art Of Lasting Shoes By Hand

The video’s location is unusual – the workstation for side lasting in the factory that produces Zonkey Boot. Hand lasting is normally practiced by bespoke shoemakers, sitting on a small stool in a workshop while lasting the shoe. Shoe factories don't normally last entire shoes by hand, but use hydraulic lasting machines which do part of the job in a fraction of time.

But these machines have their limits. They can only pull the upper over the vamp and fix it tentatively to the insole. In order to properly carve out the waist and instep of our asymmetrical lasts, these parts have to be lasted by hand, with a pair of pliers and a handful of nails. This is called side lasting and we do it on all our shoes by hand.

And yet, there are certain technically complicated models like our ankle-covering wholecut derby boot which can be lasted only with hand tools and muscle power.

In the video Mr. Marian shows how skilful technique and hands like a bench vice can bring the most unruly Russian Calf leather upper on the last. He starts by literally soaking the upper in hot water which only for the Russian calf is necessary. After inserting the damp leather counter, he starts positioning the upper straight on the last fixing it with five nails only.

Then, step by step, the upper is pulled down and fixed with further nails. When all the pleats are distributed equally and the upper sits tight on the last, the lining at the tip is fixed to the insole and the upper leather is folded back. Now he can fix the tip stiffener to the lining and pull the upper leather part over the stiffener to complete the lasting process.

The job of lasting a series of ten pairs took Mr. Marian eight hours. As a member of the side lasting team he would not be able to waste an entire day on ten pairs, that is why he prefers to do tricky jobs like this on quiet but still working Saturdays.