Photo: Noriyuki Misawa


In the final part of our Fashion Masterclass series, Japanese shoemaker Noriyuki Misawa, 38, tells us how to pick out a shoe that best fits you, and what really makes bespoke shoes superior to off-the-rack ones. Misawa specialises in making bespoke shoes and conceptual footwear. His works have been exhibited in cities like Tokyo and New York, and at the Cannes Film Festival. He also conducts regular shoemaking courses here at

Read the first part featuring Angie Chen’s advice on shopping for second-hand luxury goods here , and the second part with Danilo Giannoni’s tips on buying bespoke jewellery here.


Photo: Instagram / @noriyukimisawa


How to choose a good pair of shoes

Buying good off-the-rack shoes boils down to luck. How comfortable a shoe is isn’t determined by its price, the quality of the leather, or even how much effort goes into making it. What is important is the last of the shoe. If the shape of the last used to make the shoe matches your feet perfectly, the shoe will be comfortable for you. You will never know if shoes will be comfortable until you try them on.

Shoes shouldn’t be too loose; they should grip your heels, and your toes should never touch the front. If they are too loose and don’t grip your heels well, you will adjust your gait and walk differently to make them work, and that isn’t good.

When shoes rub against your heels, it means they are either too loose or too tight. Too tight is better than too loose. When they are loose, it means you have chosen the wrong shoes. When they are tight – which can happen even if you buy bespoke shoes – and if they are leather, our feet will adapt to them. “I recommend you wear socks with them first and endure the discomfort for two to three weeks to break them in. The skin on your heels will also adapt and change to become a little bit harder. Your feet eventually adapt to shoes that are a little bit tighter, but never loose ones.”


Photo: Noriyuki Misawa


There is no such thing as comfortable high heels

“This is an impossible request. From my experience, the maximum height for heels that are both beautiful and comfortable is 75mm (slightly less than three inches).”

My favourite shoe designers

“What actually really moves me to buy a pair of shoes is how beautiful the shoe is, how excited I get and how it brings a smile to my face when I see it. That is why I really love Christian Louboutin. He not only makes very good-quality shoes, he also comes up with an artistic theme every season. That kind of constant effort is what I respect. I used to buy Louboutins just to admire them, and my goal is to design shoes that are as beautiful as his, but are still comfortable. Ditto for Manolo Blahnik.”


Photo: Noriyuki Misawa


Why bespoke shoes rock

“Ready-made shoes are like tools you buy and throw away once you are done with them. They are meant to fit a wide range of customers, and have to be designed to be comfortable for everyone to wear. While bespoke shoes consider every individual detail of the wearer – her body type, the way she walks, and her lifestyle. The leather used is also more beautiful and of a very different quality from what is used in ready-made shoes.

It’s possible to wear them for a lifetime and even pass them on to the next generation if you fix them whenever needed. I own and sometimes wear a pair of vintage bespoke shoes that was made 150 years ago.”

How to do bespoke

It’s important for the shoemaker to know what you are wearing them for, and your lifestyle, so he/she can design them with a looser or tighter fit, or make them harder or softer, depending on your needs. Are you planning to wear them for a lifetime, or just one season?

“For example, for office workers with a more sedentary lifestyle, I will make their shoes fit slightly looser compared to people who do a lot of walking, because they don’t need to move around much, and also because feet tend to bloat a little when you sit down a lot. For those who walk a lot, their shoes would tend to sink in more over time, so I will make them tighter. This is so their shoes won’t loosen even with repeated wear, and will not rub against their heel while walking and cause discomfort.” 

Trust the professional to make shoes that fit you best instead of giving very specific directions about how you want your shoes to be. But do tell him/her precisely which part hurts and which part is comfortable.


A version of this story first appeared in the November 2018 issue of Her World.

Interpretation Michiru Agarie