How Shoe Lasts Work for Athletic Shoe Construction

Shoe lasts
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A shoe last is the form on which a shoe is constructed. The shape of the last determines the shape of the shoe that is made on that last. The shoe last determines the toe shape and heel height as well as the curvature of the shoe.

Shapes of Lasts on Athletic Shoes

Lasts may be straight, curved or semi-curved. A podiatrist might recommend wearing shoes of one of these kinds. The shoe store or website might not list which type of last is used for a model of shoe. You may have to inspect the sole yourself to figure it out.

Straight Last

Straight refers to the shape of the shoe. A straight last shoe is symmetrical relative to a line drawn on the bottom of the shoe from the middle of the heel to the middle of the toe. Athletic shoes built on a straight last are most often designed as ​motion control shoes, with motion control elements added. This results in a heavier shoe.

Semi-Curved Last

A semi-curved last has a slight curve inward at the insole. It is good for those with normal arches and runners and walkers with a neutral gait who do not overpronate. It is often found in stability shoes and neutral shoes.

Curved Last

A curved last curves inward at the insole. It is good for those with a high, rigid arch. Lightweight shoes and racing flats are often built on a curved or semi-curved last.

Lasts in the Shoe Construction Process

Lasting also refers to the construction technique used on the shoe last to attach the upper to the midsole. In construction, shoes may be board lasted, slip lasted, combi-lasted, or strobel lasted.

Slip Last: In shoe construction, the shoe upper is pulled over the last and then attached to the midsole. You can see a seam running down the center of the footbed if you take out the insole. The resulting shoe is lighter and good for those with rigid feet who need more motion.

Board Last: In shoe construction, the upper is attached to the bottom of a flexible board on top of the midsole. It makes the shoe more rigid and stable and suitable for those who under pronate or overpronate. This method isn't used very often for modern athletic shoes.

Combination Last or Combi-Last: In shoe construction, the board method is used in the heel and the slip method in the forefoot.

Strobel Last: This has become the most-used lasting type for athletic shoes. The upper is attached to a layer of material that is glued onto the midsole, much like board lasting but lighter and more flexible.

Shoe Companies and Lasts

New Balance Shoes builds its models on lasts with specific characteristics for heel height, instep height, toe box depth, and forefoot width. By listing which last is used, wearers can choose similar models once they know which fits them best.

Other shoe companies may do the same. Discuss what shoes worked best for you with the staff at a company shoe store and they may be able to steer you to shoes built on the same last.

1 Source
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  1. American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine. Footwear - running shoe anatomy.

By Wendy Bumgardner
Wendy Bumgardner is a freelance writer covering walking and other health and fitness topics and has competed in more than 1,000 walking events.