A last is not unique to work boots. They are used to manufacture all types of footwear, From ladies’ fashion shoes to athletic shoes and work boots. A last is the form around which the upper of the shoe or boot is molded.
We’ve all experienced uncomfortable boots at some point in our lives. This is usually because the shape of your foot does not correspond with the shape of the last that was used to manufacture the boot.
When a boot is made, the leather (or other material) is cut and then stitched to fit over the last before being attached to the sole. The last is, therefore, critical to obtaining a comfortable fit. It determines how the boot fits around your foot.
How Does a Boot Last Work?
The word last is derived from the old English term “laest”, meaning footprint. Although, this term doesn’t accurately describe what a last is or how it is made.
A last is designed around the upper part of the foot and is made from hardwood, iron, or plastic. Mass produced boots use a last design based on generic foot shapes. This one-size-fits-all approach does not work well for all types of footwear.
Last designs are not all uniform. Some manufacturers may opt for a higher arch. This may work for some feet but not all. A poor last design will result in footwear that does not fit properly. In many cases, you may have to buy a boot that is one size larger than what you normally wear.
High-end work boot makers will use a database of foot shapes that has been researched over many years. They will often use several different last designs for various models in their range of boots. This means that you are more likely to find the perfect fit when buying from a manufacturer that invests in research and last design.
Essentially, if a last is not designed to fit your foot properly, you will always experience discomfort when wearing the boots or shoes. A bad design could cause foot injuries after long periods of use.
How Important is a Last for Work Boots?
Because work boots are worn for long periods under strenuous conditions, the last is crucial to your comfort and the health of your feet.
The most critical area of last design is to provide adequate arch support. Another thing to consider is the width of the toe area. A work boot should have a wide front section so that your toes are not restricted during the long workday.
If the last is not designed to provide the necessary support and comfort, you will experience pain and fatigue. This is obviously the last thing we want from our work boots.
Finding the Best Fit for Your Work Boots
Even though a last is made to a uniform shape, our feet are not all the same. Some people experience more difficulty than others when searching for a work boot that fits comfortably. If your feet are shaped closely to the average dimensions of most feet, it will be easier for you to find a boot that fits comfortably and won’t cause you pain.
Since not all lasts are designed to provide the same fit, some brands of work boot may fit better than others. Quite often, the solution is to buy a larger size to accommodate for differences in the last design. This does not always work but is a common practice.
You need to shop around and read work boot reviews to determine how well a particular type of work boot will fit. You will also want to consider other factors.
Even a boot molded around a fantastic last may not always offer everything you need. Flexible comfortable materials, like high-quality leather, will also contribute to the general comfort of your work boot. Ventilation is another factor that will influence comfort by keeping your feet cool.
Depending on your work boot requirements, you may have to compromise a little in terms of comfort vs safety. Steel toe caps, metatarsal protection, and reinforced work boot soles add weight to a boot and may also affect the flexibility of the boot. Since these are very necessary safety features, required for most industries, you will need to accept the inconveniences in the interest of your safety.
Many of the best work boot brands have invested in R and D to develop materials and designs that maximize safety whilst causing the least discomfort. It is always a good idea to pay a little extra for a good brand when buying work boots.
Custom Work Boots
For some people retail work boots simply aren’t an option. If you continuously find that off-the-shelf boots cause discomfort and pain, it is highly likely that the shape of your foot is not compatible with a last that is designed around the shape of an average foot.
A custom boot-maker will measure your feet and make a customized boot last that is perfectly molded to the shape of your foot. This will result in the most comfortable boot.
Unfortunately, custom work boots are expensive. Creating a last is a time-consuming and arduous task. In boot factories, a last will be used to make millions of boots. As a result, the cost factor of manufacturing the last is nominal for each pair of boots. When a last is made for a single pair of boots, the entire cost is added to the price of the boot.
If you have exceptionally high arches, or other features of your feet that are not common, investing in custom boots might be your best option, albeit and expensive one. It may not be easy to find a custom boot maker in your area, so you’ll need to do some searching.
In the end, the hassle and cost should be worth it. Comfortable work boots, based on a last that works for you, will make a massive difference in your daily life.