Why would I want to buy a pair of custom shoes?

Going from retailer to retailer to find the perfect shoe is like searching for a needle in a haystack. If you’re lucky, you’ll find it; otherwise, you’ll settle for something else, or you’ll give up entirely. A desire to streamline the process to find your perfect pair of shoes could be one big motivation behind why you’d want to buy a pair of custom shoes.

Custom shoe services, a.k.a. made-to-order shoe services, make what’s nearly impossible, possible. Using them, you’ll find exactly what you need and ultimately acquire the perfect shoe for you. That’s why you’d want to buy a pair of custom shoes, in a nutshell.

To learn more about custom shoe-making and how you might go about ordering your first pair of custom shoes, read on.

Custom footwear is generally handmade and never mass-produced

If you like handmade products, you’ll want to take a look at custom footwear. But when you do, be sure to check out their processes. Many times, makers will use the term “handmade” loosely; that is to say, they may use some artisanal techniques and supplement with automated machinery to cut time and costs. For true handmade footwear, however, skilled shoemakers cut the materials, dye the leathers to your liking and hand punch every perforation, to name a few steps.

In the case of true handmade footwear, artisans rely on traditional shoe-making techniques because they’re known to ensure long life. For example, Salvatore Ferragamo and Berluti often use a Goodyear welt—a layer of material sewn to the bottom of the shoe that allows for shoe resoling. Also, unlike off-the-rack footwear, custom shoes are brand new, which means they’re never made for the masses to try on, let alone mass-produced.

Because you pick the materials, the cost is variable

Surely if you’re looking for the perfect pair of shoes, you’ll want them to be custom because the services assure that you’ll ultimately have your vision actualized.

But it’s important to note that, as with all things custom, costs can, and often do, run higher than any off-the-rack shoe. The reasons for this are multifold, but I’d be remiss not to say that the materials play a big part in determining the final price.

The number of materials to choose from will vary from designer to designer, and many of the materials will range in price, so it’s impossible to rationalize any of them in exquisite detail. What I can say is this: Generally, the most cost-effective material is suede, followed by calfskin leather—a very smooth yet strong leather often used for high-end apparel. More expensive is hand-burnished leather, with the level of hand burnishing also affecting the cost, and exotic leather is by far the most expensive.

For any type of shoe, more hand burnishing requires more time spent on your shoes. An added finish to suede, like an oil rub to make the shoe look more weathered and worn, will also add to the cost, though it’s a less labor-intensive finish than hand burnishing. As far as exotic skins go, a pair of bespoke dress shoes in alligator leather can cost tens of thousands of dollars, to give a bit of perspective.

Depending on the designer, you may exercise your creative muscles further by mixing materials. To that point, using a more expensive material like hand-burnished leather along with a more economical suede option will generally be more cost-effective than a full hand-burnished customer order. It’ll also be ultra original.

There’s so much time and attention spent on your shoes

While clients make the calls on their shoe designs, it’s up to the artisans to execute those visions with accuracy and precision. No matter if it’s a dress shoe or a sneaker, there are countless steps the craftspeople must follow to make your perfect shoes, and so the time and care spent on them are also factored into the pricing.

A knee-high boot with frilly laces and zippers will surely cost more from both a labor and material perspective, while an ankle boot or a sandal with just a few cuts should cost less. A mule, or a backless shoe style, is usually less expensive because it requires less material.

A whole cut, or a shoe made with a single piece of leather instead of parts sewn together, is more labor-intensive but not always more expensive. For instance, although a mule is considered a whole-cut shoe, it’s made with a more basic pattern than a whole-cut oxford.

The sky is not the limit, but you have a decent amount of personalization options

Unless you’re going the way of bespoke footwear, custom ordering allows for only aesthetic changes to footwear. And for most consumers, that’s more than enough.

Custom shoemakers won’t measure your feet individually to change the shoe structurally, but they will give you the final say on fabric, color and shoe art (like personalized tattoos or engravings) for a given order. They also may offer an option to add rubber to the soles of your shoes for better stability and traction in wet weather and entertain requests for extra laces.

Because you forgo a dialogue with any given brand consultant in an online order process, you need to have a more precise vision of what you’re looking for in your perfect shoes, as you won’t be able to talk through any ideas with a brand representative.

If you’d like to learn more about how to order customized shoes online, click here.

You’re ready to order your pair of bespoke shoes.

Be sure to note, these are just guidelines for acquiring bespoke shoes. With over 20 years in the fashion industry, Esquivel Shoes takes pride in being a quality resource for shoppers. To learn more about bespoke shoes, made-to-order shoes or any of the products we offer, send us a message through this link. We’re here to give you peace of mind and help you make the best buying decisions 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.