Mailorder Bespoke Shoes

The idea of having bespoke shoes produced through a mail order process would have never crossed my mind. Having gone through the multiple fittings, fitter’s model, and fine tuning of the Last, there is no way I could see this being done through a mail order process. That was until I was introduced to the concept of sending my feet to the shoe maker.

I was contacted by a representative of Adler Shoes a while ago to see if I would be interested in writing an article about their shoes, and their bespoke process. After doing a little research I thought it would be quite interesting to try their process out.

The package containing the casting socks and other materials arrived a couple weeks later. And, I have to admit, that at first I had a little trepidation about trying to make the casts. The kit came with latex gloves and plastic sleeve socks, along with the casting socks.
AdlerKit

I put off making the casts until the following weekend.

It wasn’t as hard as I had feared, but it wasn’t as simple as putting on a sock either. Once the casting sock is soaked in a bowl of water it becomes progressively sticker before it dries. The plastic sleeve socks and the latex gloves keep it from sticking to your hands and leg hair, but not from sticking to itself to some degree and making the process a little more challenging.

From this experience I derived a number of suggestions to make the process less challenging.

First, make sure to use very cold water, this slows down the curing process while you are putting on the casting sock so it is a little less sticky, and it gives you have a little more time to get it on. Also make sure to use the plastic sleeves as they are absolutely necessary.

PlasticSleeve

Second, you have to roll the sock on. In the US the typical men’s dress sock comes in crew length, so it is common for men to stick their thumbs inside the sock and pull it up around their foot and ankle in one motion. Over the calf (OTC) socks must be rolled (or compressed) so that you start at the toe and roll the sock up around the foot and leg. You must roll the casting sock up around your foot and ankle.

Third, even though it looks like there might be a heel in the sock because of the way it is folded, there is not. Find the seam across the end of the toe of the sock and use that as your guideline.

Fourth, have a comfortable place to sit while putting on the sock, and be sure to use something to protect your floor from the sock, and your sock from the floor.

Actually, I think the best advice would be to have your spouse or a friend put the sock on for you. It will actually be much easier, but make sure they know how to roll a sock on to someone else’s foot (perhaps practice with a real sock first). My wife opted out on this suggestion, so I put the socks on myself.

SockOn

Fifth, once both socks are on be sure to stand up, and stand still, for about 6 minutes (instructions on timeframe and process are included with the kit). Have your cell phone close by in case someone calls. This gave me a chance to catch up on some current event news on my smart phone while I waited.

Sixth, after the casting socks have cured you will need to cut them off your feet. You may want to use safety scissors (with the blunt rounded tip). I used regular pointed scissors, but I was careful not to poke myself. Be sure to have your scissors within reach because you will not want to (and should not) walk with the casting socks on.

You will want to cut the socks from the top down to your heel, next to your ankle. Pull the cast away from your leg gently while wiggling your foot. Try to keep from cracking the cast across the heel. The more intact the cast the better.

CastSide

Once the casts were off I used the rubber bands, I had used on the plastic sleeves, to hold each cast together. I then boxed them up and shipped to back to Adler Shoes. Since I live in the United States I was able to send them to their Chicago processing center.

CastsComplete

Now I just had to be patient and wait the 3 months it takes for Adler Shoes to create a set of lasts based on my foot shape, and hand build a pair of shoes around them. This timeframe is much shorter that a typical bespoke build time that takes around 9 to 12 months (sometimes longer).

Once Adler Shoes has the foot shaped casts, forms are made, trimmed and modified as needed with the result being a set of lasts that represent the shape and size of each of my feet. It is important to note that no two feet are alike (not even your own two feet). It is typical for one foot to be almost a half-size larger than the other, and the other being thicker than the longer one. This issue is addressed with bespoke shoes. My shoes will not be my typical US 11.5 D, but rather fit specifically for each foot in size Glen.

Adler Last Large

The shoes are 100% handmade from the template production for each individual shoe to the leather cutting to the upper stitching (where they do use Singer) but then, their master cobblers do their magic with old fashioned hand tools. Even the Brogue holes are punched by hand with precision hand tools made in Germany. The finishing is also done by hand by their experienced finishers.

There are a number of shoe styles to choose from, as well as an array of colors and skins, from calf to crocodile and a number of animals in-between.

Adler Collection Small

This is just a sample of what is available. For more detailed information, and to get your own bespoke shoes, please visit Adler Shoes

The average price of a pair of Adler shoes is around $500 to $600 USD with the exotic leather getting up into the $1.5K range.

After waiting for what seemed like forever, I finally received my bespoke Adler shoes. And, although it seemed like forever, the shoes actually arrived within 3 month (almost to the day) from when I sent in the casts. Given the quality and craftsmanship that goes into the shoes, 3 months is actually a pretty quick turnaround.

The shoes are beautiful.

New Shoes

The fit was great, the shoes were comfortable, and after a day’s wear they were just as comfortable as when I first put them on. I suspect they will continue to be comfortable as the years go by.

I wanted to compare the Adler shoes to similar shoes I own to give you an idea where the shoes fit into my collection. I put them between an Allen Edmonds shoe and an RTW (Ready To Wear) Berluti shoe, which is quite a range. And, even this is not a direct comparison since the Allen Edmonds and this Berluti are machine built shoes.

Compare

I felt that the Adler Shoes were a great value for the price because you get truly hand built shoes, constructed from quality material by master cobblers and craftsmen, built on lasts created from your own feet. And, while I would have to admit that a bespoke Berluti would be a superior shoe, it would also cost around 10 times what an Adler shoe would cost.

I love my Adler Shoes!
MyAdlerShoes

2 thoughts on “Mailorder Bespoke Shoes

  1. Some points.

    1. In making bespoke lasts, you have to put the foot in the usual poised position for the person concerned. This is simply due to the fact that the foot is a flexibly articulated assembly. Doing measurements or using casting socks/impressions/etc with the foot in an arbitrary relaxed pose will most likely result in shoes that are ill-fitting however good they look.

    2. There is more to making custom lasts than mere external volumetric surveying of the foot. While many of the issues affecting people will be solved by precise survey of the foot in its poised attitude, others will not. Things like flex points of the foot to a large degree determine the dimensions of the upper quarters. Some people will never be comfortable in a long instep style like an oxford. Others will not feel right in a short instep Derby style. Likewise with closeness of fit which is something affecting shoes as much as clothes.

    3. The world already has lots of people prepared to make custom shoes for $500 upwards. New techniques to do the same really add nothing to the common man or woman’s affordable choice. And $500 is way over the limit of affordability for I should think 95% of the population.

    I feel that there is something however in the general technique that could be improved by using more effective measurement processes and perhaps more intelligent materials. But it is no use till the cost of a pair is below $100.

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