The human foot must not be compressed except in its reaction with the ground. That is, any compression side to side, top to bottom, or front to back is the opposite of foot health. In order for the foot to become strong and remain healthy, it has to exist in an environment of zero compression. To achieve zero compression, all of our shoes are made upon straight “last”. The last is a feature never seen by the consumer: the wooden form (last) that determines the volume of space inside the shoe is removed at the end of the drying time. The last defines everything. Determining what last is appropriate for a given foot is the science or art of Euro-Pedorthics.
The Last Comes First – The Myth of Size
The last is the solid wooden or plastic form and is the beginning of the search for the appropriate relationship between a foot and the shoe it lives within. The history of shoes is in fact the history of last making. In days gone by in many cultures throughout the world, shoemakers carved the lasts necessary to produce the shoes of each individual who came to their shop.
My great-great uncle Jake’s Royal Shoe Shop, founded in 1903, operated exactly like that. He would keep your last at his shop to be ready for the next pair of shoes or in the case of children, modify or re-carve a last for growing feet. These days in Europe, last making is taken very seriously and in the case of Germany, requires extensive education and apprenticeship.
Lasts are not sculpted renderings of feet; they are stylized metaphors of a foot type and a sophisticated last is produced by a great many measurements. Size, however, is an illusion.
Think of the foot as a three-dimensional block. To find a good ‘fit’ or last for a given foot the question to pose is “what empty space (shoe) allows the foot to exist without compression, as if it were barefoot”? And then, "What last can we make a shoe upon to fulfill this mission for your foot?” Size, on the other hand is a two-dimensional measurement. A three dimensional solid form cannot be expressed in a simple, linear two-dimensional measurement. Size is simply a number on a box to tell us that a given shoe is proportionally larger or smaller in volume from the one next to it on the shelf. You do not have a foot or shoe “size”. Each of your feet is a solid form and each shoe contains its own volume of space determined by the last that the shoe was made upon. The fit is that relationship between your foot and the available space in your shoe.
Since lasts are approximations there is not just one appropriate last for every foot and conversely, some lasts are appropriate for many different foot types or foot volumes. That is, several different foot types can be adequately housed in a shoe made on one given last. And when one last is not ideal, another may be perfect. This can be illustrated best with a cereal box. Take a cereal box that holds 400 grams of cereal. If we pinch the short sides of the box, the long sides bow out to make room for an additional 50% of cereal, or 600 grams total. If we pinch the long sides together we are hard pressed to put even 200 grams inside. The perimeter of the box never changed but by pinching the sides of the box we played with the volume of available space.
Last makers and shoe manufacturers play with volume when they create new patterns and styles of shoes. At Zócalo Shoes, we work with only custom-modified footwear with integrated orthotics. We personalize the internal volume of each shoe to further refine the predetermined volume given by the manufacturer, through modification of each shoe’s integrated orthotic. When we have finished personalizing your Zócalo Shoes, each of your feet has its own, specific environment. Zócalo Shoes Euro-Pedorthics blends European craftsmanship with state-of-the-art products and materials.