Fact Checked

What does a Shoemaker do?

Daniel Liden
Daniel Liden

A shoemaker is a professional who makes, designs, and repairs shoes. Shoemaking, a traditional handicraft profession, has been largely replaced by industrial manufacturing. The shoe manufacturing industry is able to produce shoes at a much greater rate than individual shoemakers can, therefore shoemakers are now quite rare.

Historically, a shoemaker was called a cordwainer. Many people believe that the proper historical term is cobbler, but this is a misconception. A cobbler is specifically one who repairs footwear, not one who makes it. Modern shoemakers use many of the same materials as have always been used in the shoemaking profession, such as leather and wood.

A shoemaker makes, repairs, and designs shoes.
A shoemaker makes, repairs, and designs shoes.

When making a shoe, a shoemaker will typically use an item called a last. A last is an object shaped like a human foot around which the shoemaker can make his footwear. By using a last, a shoemaker ensures that the shoe is properly sized. He can also ensure that both shoes in a pair are the same size and shape.

Shoemakers utilize a wide variety of materials in their shoes. Leather is among the most common because it is durable and easy to shape to a foot. Other materials include wood, rubber, plastic, and jute. Usually, a combination of these materials will be used to optimize durability and flexibility. Sometimes, shoemakers use the rubber tread from tires to make the soles of shoes.

Shoemakers may focus on summer wear.
Shoemakers may focus on summer wear.

There are many day-to-day practicalities that shoemakers must deal with in their profession. Shoemakers must take measurements of customers, gather materials, calculate costs, and cut materials into shape. They also repair shoes on a regular basis. They need to be sure that they know exactly what to do with the damaged shoe, lest they do further damage.

Flip flops are a popular style of shoe worn to the beach.
Flip flops are a popular style of shoe worn to the beach.

A shoemaker may make and repair several different types of shoes. Traditional types of shoes are sandals, clogs, and moccasins. Often, people wrapped furs around their feet and wore sandals over them. Moccasins are simple and durable shoes, usually made with leather. Clogs, traditionally, are wooden shoes stuffed with straw to keep feet warm.

Although there are few remaining shoemakers, the shoemaking profession will likely be around for quite some time. Many non-industrial parts of the world still rely on shoemakers. Also, some people still like the knowledge that their perfectly-fitted shoes were designed and made by a professional who invested his own time into crafting a pair of shoes specifically for their wearer.

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Discussion Comments


My dad has one leg that is shorter than the other so he has to wear a lift on all of his shoes. He has all of his shoes custom made with the appropriate lift added on to his right shoe.

Because of this he doesn't have nearly as many pairs of shoes as most people have. This is much more expensive than just going out and buying a pair of shoes. He can't just go to the store and take advantage of a great deal of a pair of shoes.

Sometimes he can have a lift added on to a shoe that has already been made, but the shoes are much better quality if he has them specifically made. There are not many places that do this, so that makes it even tougher for him to find shoes.


We live close to a Dutch community where they still have at least one shoemaker in town who will make a pair of wooden shoes for you.

They have a tulip festival in this town every spring, and this is probably their busiest time. Some people will have a pair of wooden shoes made just so they can wear them one time a year at this festival.

If you were to watch their parade, most everyone in the parade is wearing a pair of wooden shoes. This shoemaker does not rely on making shoes as his income, and has other sources of income coming in.

He has just been able to find a niche market for a few months out of the year that brings him some business and keeps his customers happy.


There is a local shoe repair shop in my town where I have taken shoes to be repaired. They have the capability of making a pair of shoes for you, but most of their business is in repairing shoes.

They also make and repair saddles along with shoes, and I love the smell of leather when I walk in their shop.

If I have a nice, high quality shoe, it is cheaper to get it repaired than to go out and buy a new pair. I don't think people would want to spend the money to have all of their shoes made by a shoemaker.

It would also not be a very profitable business for someone living in America today. I know many people who never have a pair of shoes repaired and just go buy new ones instead of repairing them.

At the rate my family goes through shoes, it would cost too much money and probably take too long to have each pair custom made.


Whenever I hear the term 'shoemaker' it reminds me of the Elves and the Shoemaker story I heard while growing up. Today it seems like such a foreign concept to think that each pair of shoes used to be individually made.

When I think about the number of shoes I have in my closet, there is no way I would be able to afford them if each pair was custom made.

When my parents were growing up they only had one or two pairs of shoes. When they outgrew them, they were passed down to their siblings. My kids have a closet full of shoes and still feel like they need new ones all the time.

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    • A shoemaker makes, repairs, and designs shoes.
      By: tiero
      A shoemaker makes, repairs, and designs shoes.
    • Shoemakers may focus on summer wear.
      By: Alexey Belikov
      Shoemakers may focus on summer wear.
    • Flip flops are a popular style of shoe worn to the beach.
      By: mettus
      Flip flops are a popular style of shoe worn to the beach.
    • Mules are a popular type of shoe that are also referred to as "slip-on-shoes."
      By: goce risteski
      Mules are a popular type of shoe that are also referred to as "slip-on-shoes."