What makes handmade sneakers expensive?

If you’ve bought a pair of sneakers recently, I’m sure you noted the cost. What was it? Over $100? Was it in the $300’s or the $500’s? And what aspects justified the cost for you? I’m asking because the prices of sneakers in today’s market are all over the place, and so are the quality and level of craftsmanship.

As someone who has worked in the footwear industry for decades, it’s easy to see that there’s a high value of a well-made pair of shoes. But for most consumers, those who aren’t privy to various kinds of production processes, it can be difficult to see what makes a pair of shoes worth a heavier price tag and which shoes are priced high simply for hype.

If your sneakers are handmade, they fall into a category of footwear that’s inclined to be more expensive. In short, what makes handmade sneakers expensive is the time and level of craftsmanship, but for more details on the cost of handmade sneakers, read on.


Material: High-quality leather or fabric

As with any type of footwear, apparel or accessory, materials used factor into the quality and, well, the overall cost to the consumer. High-quality, not necessarily Italian, but certainly European, skins will elevate the look and feel of leather sneakers. For example, Berluti, which prices its footwear roughly between $1,000 and $4,000, uses materials like calf and alligator leather, which are on par with its dress shoe offerings; and such expensive material is handled with care by knowledgeable craftsmen.

In terms of how and where the materials are allocated, not many companies use a leather insole, which maximizes comfort. As I mentioned in an earlier article, other companies use less expensive materials but sacrifice comfort and quality in the process. Nike, which offers sneakers at many price points, uses a sponge material; however, the rebound of such a material lessens after a while. Meanwhile, cardboard, used by Common Projects and other notable sneaker brands, is too stiff and won’t break in at all.

KOIO, a brand that makes a minimalist sneaker lined with premium Italian leather, has a very reasonable price range of $248 to $368 for its products that have a quality comparable to Common Projects.

Design: Thoughtful and full of creativity

Rather than following the latest trends, a brand that makes shoes by hand will usually offer timeless styles that are also functional (that is to say, comfortable). And generally speaking, the handmade shoe-making process takes time because it is, well, made by hand rather than automated machinery. There are countless steps the cobblers must follow to complete your one-of-a-kind shoes, but the process ensures that no element of your shoes has been mass-produced or will be exactly the same as any other pair crafted by the same designer.


Craftsmanship: Made by hand with acute attention to detail

How sneakers are made also plays a role in pricing. Goods that take time to make, particularly when they are made with leather, are costly. Golden Goose and KOIO, brands that craft their shoes by hand with varying levels of detail to their designs, price their shoes accordingly.

Of course, it’s worth noting that in these times makers use the term “handmade” pretty liberally, and some use machinery to avoid such costs. (It’s far more expensive to employ a craftsman than it is to buy and utilize a machine for production.) But when products are made by skilled shoemakers from start to finish there is an assurance of exceptional quality and that no detail will be overlooked.
Moreover, experienced artisans rely on traditional shoe-making techniques, because they’re known to ensure longevity. Such an approach generally includes cutting the leather or fabric; sewing together the necessary pieces; mounting the materials onto the shoe mold; attaching soles to the shoes; and adding details like a shoe tattoo.

Ready to order a pair of luxury sneakers?

Just remember: There are a few major variables to consider when defining a pair of luxury sneakers. The brand on its own doesn’t make a great pair of sneakers, even if it’s widely deemed a reputable or a heritage brand. Rather, it’s the quality and the reputation of the brand’s offerings, i.e., the elements afforded to make a beautifully constructed and visually appealing product, that define its excellence and luxury status.
And as always, these are just guidelines for purchasing luxury sneakers. With over 20 years in the fashion industry, Esquivel Shoes takes pride in being a valuable resource for shoppers. To learn more about our sneaker collection or any other products we offer, send us a message through this link. We’re here to give you peace of mind and help you find the best sneakers for you.

George Esquivel

George Esquivel

George is a Southern California-based designer and craftsman who designed his first pair of shoes in 1994 and began honing his craft thereafter. For over 20 years, he’s operated his namesake brand, Esquivel, which specializes in handmade shoes and accessories. In the last decade, George served as Creative Director of renowned luxury bag and luggage brand Tumi Inc. and as Creative Consultant for Italian heritage brand Fratelli Rossetti, and has collaborated with many others for his own brand. George was a 2009 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalist, and has been a CFDA member since 2010. When he’s not working alongside his team of artisans at his atelier, Esquivel House, in Downtown Los Angeles, George is enjoying time with his wife and high school sweetheart, Shelley, and their three grown children. He also loves mountain biking and hosting good friends for dinners and fêtes.