A last is a form in the approximate shape of a human foot, used in shoemakeing to produce the fit of a shoe or boot.
Lasts are used by shoemakers in the manufacture and repair of shoes. Lasts typically come in pairs, and throughout their history have been made from many materials, including hardwoods, cast iron, and, more recently, high density plastics.
Lasts, used extensively in the making of footwear, are forms that are made to varying degrees in the shape of the human foot, depending on their specific purpose. Shoes, boots, sandals, clogs and moccasins. All footwear and all subject to a last shape. They come in many styles and sizes, depending on the exact job they are designed for. They range from simple one-size lasts used for repairing soles and heels, to hard-wearing lasts used in modern mass production, and to custom-made lasts used in the making of bespoke footwear.
Historically, lasts were made from a number of materials – typically hardwoods and cast iron. These are materials that will retain their shape, even when in contact with wet materials, like leather being stretched and shaped.
The material used to make modern lasts must be strong enough to withstand the forces of mass production machinery, such as that applied by the pullover machines when bottoming the shoe, and must also be able to hold tacks (known as “lasting tacks”) which are used to hold shoe parts together temporarily before the sole is added. Although hardwoods satisfy these criteria, modern lasts, especially those used by mass production factories in places such as China, are often made from high density polyethylene plastic (HMW-HDPE), which allows for many tack holes before needing repair. Such plastics also have the benefit that they can be recycled and remoulded when they wear out.
Wooden lasts are today generally used only for bespoke shoemaking.
Though a last is made approximately in the shape of a human foot, the precise shape is tailored to the kind of footwear being made. For example, a boot last would be designed to hug the instep for a close fit. Modern last shapes are typically designed using dedicated computer aided design software