How to make sandals that fit your feet perfectly

ShoemakingAtelier Louise

One of the best things about learning to make your own shoes is that you can make sure they fit you perfectly. And as you'll see below it's not difficult to do!

Just like the shoes that you can buy ready-to-wear in the shops, the shoe patterns that I create are based on a set of standard shoe sizes. While some of us may be lucky enough to fit into those sizes exactly, many more of us are going to need to make some minor adjustments to get the perfect fit (in much the same way that many of us need to make adjustments to sewing patterns to get a good fit when making our own clothes). To work out what adjustments, if any, you might need to make, just follow the 3 steps below:

Step 1. Measure the length of your foot

To do this, place a blank piece of paper on a hard surface (such as tiles or floorboards, not carpet), and then stand on it. Trace around your foot, making sure to keep your pencil vertical as you do this (if you find this awkward to do, ask a friend or family member to help you). Then use a ruler or tape measure to measure the length of your foot from the back of your heel to the end of your longest toe.

By checking this measurement against the sizing table in your pattern instructions, you will be able to choose the size of pattern to work with (and be aware that this could be different to your normal ready-to-wear size - it's important you choose your pattern size based only on the length of your foot).

Step 2. Check the width of your foot

Now you need to check whether you need to make any alterations to the width of your pattern. To do this, print a copy of the pattern size you identified in the previous step (remember to print at 'actual size'/100%). Do not cut the pattern out yet. Place the page with the insole pattern onto a hard surface and stand on it, positioning your foot so that it sits as centrally as possible on the insole pattern. The ends of your toes and the back of your heel should be inside the pattern outline.

Now check whether or not the ball of your foot and the width of your heel also fit within the insole outline. If your foot fits neatly within the outline, you won't need to make any alterations to your insole pattern and you can move on to Step 3. 

If there is any part of your foot that’s touching the paper outside the insole outline, mark that area on your pattern, as illustrated in the photo above. Alternatively, if the insole outline is too wide for your foot then draw a mark near the joints on each side of the ball of your foot and on each side of your heel where the insole outline needs to be. (Remember it is only the parts of your foot that are actually touching the paper that are relevant to this step.) Take your foot off the paper and then adjust your insole outline so that you have a nice smooth outline that encompasses your whole foot.

You will also need to adjust the positioning of any slots that are in the area where you have widened (or narrowed) the insole. You can see in the example above that the insole was widened slightly near the joint under the big toe. This meant that the lower part of the strap slot also needed to be moved. (The changes are shown in green.)

You then need to transfer any adjustments you made to your insole outline to your sole pattern outline. Now you're ready to move onto Step 3.

Step 3. Check your strap lengths

The final step to ensuring you make a well-fitting shoe is to check the length of your straps.

To do this, use your new insole pattern to cut out your actual leather insole (your pattern instructions will guide you in doing this). Then cut out your strap pattern pieces.

Put the paper strap through the slots in your insole and hold them in place using masking tape on the underside of the insole. Try it on and adjust the length of the straps as necessary. When you are happy with their position, mark the new strap placement line on your pattern piece. 

It is also important at this stage to measure the length of strap that is folded under the insole (known as lasting allowance). The pattern is drafted to have 2cm (3/4in) lasting allowance on each end of the straps. If you have less than that after adjusting the position of your straps, you will need to add extra to the length of your strap pattern. Similarly, if you have more than 2cm because you had to tighten the strap, then remove the excess from the end of the strap pattern. In the example shown above, 1/2cm (3/16in) has been added to each end of the strap. 

If you are making the Brighton Sandals, it is also worth checking the length of the ankle strap pattern piece. You will find instructions for doing that in your pattern booklet. 

You are now ready to cut out your upper leather (or faux leather) and make a great fitting pair of sandals!