People often ask me, “What is a good shoe?” They are then quite often surprised by the cost. Good shoes do cost more; quality material and craftsmanship is more expensive, and there is no way around that. Shoes are made in a variety of ways. They are also made in variety of styles, processes, lasts and shapes. Shoes are also made everywhere in the world, the location of where a shoe is made, is not as important as the way the shoe is made. There are quality shoes made in Italy, and there are poor quality shoes made in Italy, the same goes for the United States, Mexico, Canada, even China.
So, what makes up a quality shoe? A quality shoe is quite often hand made, or at least very well designed and the manufacturing quality control is stringent. Quality footwear is also made from the best material available. Typically it is made of mostly leather, but even then leather comes in variety of qualities and thicknesses. Below I have listed the different types and techniques involved:
1) Full custom shoes/boots: These shoes are hand made, from a plaster mold of the person’s feet. The mold is then filled with plaster and the copy of the person’s actual foot is used for the last of the shoe or boot.
2) Custom or tailor made shoes/boots: These shoes and boots are made from measurements taken of the customer’s feet, and are designed by the customer and the dealer. The customer typically will be able to pick the color, style and type of leather used along with the type of soles and heels to be placed on the footwear. The shoes are then hand made for that person.
3) Made to order boots, and shoes: This style of footwear is also typically handmade for the customer, and is made to measurements of their feet, but with fewer options of individual styling.
4) Off the rack: Like the custom and made to order, the “off the rack” quality shoes are made of high quality materials, by hand, but in standard sizes, and stored in warehouses until sold through retail outlets.
5) Quality machined shoes and boots: footwear in this category is more machine produced than hand made, but made from quality designs, with quality material, with strict quality control and oversight.
As important as the way the shoe is made, is the place the shoe is purchased. Proper sizing and customer service is important. A quality shoe which is improperly fit is no better for your foot than a poorly made shoe. Service before, during and after the sale is very important. Remember, if you care about your teeth, you should care about your feet.
Dan has been in and around shoe repair and retail shoes for over 40years. His parent owned both a shoe repair/retail shoe store and operated a licensed vocational school teaching shoe repair. The Shulters family has been repairing shoes since 1947.