Foot comes first

It is time to change the way we make shoe lasts

Published on February 9, 2018

Nicoline van Enter
Creative Director at The Footwearists

Footwear manufacturing has changed rapidly over de the past decades, yet the rules for making shoe lasts have largely remained the same. "Last comes first" is one of the most used sayings in the footwear industry, but is it correct? Nike legend Mike Friton, creator of famous styles like the Presto and the Woven, would rather say "Foot comes first". He has developed radically different ways of making shoe lasts, as well as shoe uppers. In April he will be teaching his methods to designers, bespoke shoemakers and orthopaedic shoemakers at The Footwearists in Italy.

During his 30+ years at Nike's Innovation Kitchen, Mike found that the way we make lasts is mostly dictated by - sometimes outdated - standards for mass production. For instance, the ball curve on the bottom of the last is convex, which makes machine lasting of shoes a lot easier. However, on our feet, this curve is concave, so exactly the opposite shape! This is causing a lot of foot problems for athletes and non-athletes alike and according to Mike this is certainly not the only problem with regular shoe lasts.

His focus is on designing shoes that are dynamic, for optimal sports performance. This means they move with the foot, not just in width, but also in length. Most traditional lasts make that very difficult, which is why he developed his own system to make and adjust lasts that he is now teaching at The Footwearists. In the video below he explains how several aspects of the last can influence the movement of the feet:


Mike was one of the first sneaker designers to create uppers that are fully dynamic, like the Nike Sock Racer and the Nike Presto, which led the way to Nike's Flyknit constructions, as you can see in the pictures below. In the early 2000s, when the Presto was launched, such sock-like uppers were still a niche, but now they have become a staple for every sports and fashion shoe brand. And yet we still make these uppers on traditional lasts, even though they have a very different construction than regular lasted uppers. The same counts for various other constructions that do not need to be machine-lasted.

In the first week of the program, Mike will show how bespoke shoemakers, orthopaedic shoemakers and designers from the industry could make highly effective lasts in-house, both for production and prototyping. In the second week - which can be taken separately - he will focus on creating dynamic uppers.

The courses that Mike Friton is giving with The Footwearists will take place at our most inspiring and idyllic location: the Shoestyle Lab in the historic center of Vigevano, Italy; about 30 minutes from Milan. The lab has all the latest equipment, from a fully automated cutting table, to all kinds of stitching machines and a broad range of 3D printers. Each course week can be taken separately, but participants that decide to take both classes - making better sneaker lasts and designing through prototyping - will get a discount and are able to create several dynamic uppers on their own custom last!

For more course info and applications, check our course webpage.