Bespoke shoemaking is a demanding profession, requires incredible precision and good aesthetics. It’s also extremely hard work. Unfortunately, the number of specialists in this field, unlike for demand, is decreasing; not only in Poland, but worldwide. Bespoke shoes users may be disappointed and frustrated, as it is not easy to find an experienced technician. Believe me though, neither it is to become one. It requires a lot knowledge to design a pair of shoes, which are comfortable, well fitted and with adequate correction applied, not to mention their aesthetic qualities.
And here comes someone who brings hope in a broadly defined bespoke shoemaking industry. Meet George Lawrence from Buchanan Orthotics in Glasgow, an expert in prosthetics, orthotics and bespoke shoemaking. George has had, probably completely unconsciously, a tremendous influence on the name of this blog! We had met at the BAPO conference in 2019 and although I remember our conversation quite well, there was something else what really stuck in my mind. George was very polite, but also constantly correcting me when I was saying orthopedic shoes instead of bespoke (pol. robione na miarę). What an attitude, full of respect and passion.
Since then I really wanted to share George’s work as an inspiration here in Poland. The aim of this article is not to point out anyone’s skills though, but to show a general problem here and elsewhere. In order to be able to make a comparison, here is a random google search of corrective shoes for adults:
Patient no. 1:
Gentleman in his mid forties with all toes amputated except from big toe with a silicone prosthesis and bespoke footwear. The shoe had a slight rocker sole as the Silicone Prosthesis has a Carbon plate from the heel to the met heads which stiffened it slightly and the rocker helped the patient whilst walking.
The second picture shows patient’s bespoke footwear, classy and extremely smart model, Oxford Brogue.
Patient no. 2
Lady in her mid sixties with leg length discrepancy on the right and bilateral moulded insoles. The raise was 40mm at heel, 25mm MTB and 10mm at toe.
If you have ever seen limb length discrepancy footwear, then you are surely in love with this pair, just like myself. For those who haven’t: usually a raise is attached to the bottom of the sole, which looks like a massive platform wedge. Heel raise is sometimes divided and a part of it is hidden inside of the shoe in order to minimise the visible sole height. Unfortunately, materials used are often very heavy, which causes patients to lift one of the legs with additional weight while walking. There are a few solutions to this problem and luckily, they are used more and more often now.
This pair of boots though? This is an absolute masterpiece and definitely a dream for people with leg length discrepancy.
Patient no. 3
Lady in her seventies with drop foot on right. Supplied with carbon fibre AFO with dorsiflex hinge on lateral side and bespoke boots.
Finding a pair of boots which you can slide an AFO easily into with additional space for the ankle joint may be a challenge. Additionally laces were used for increased adjustability so that shoes can be tightened for stability or loosened in case of swelling over the day.
Patient no. 4
As George said, there’s nothing special about these apart from bilateral moulded insoles. Patient wasn’t happy with colour to begin with so he stripped them back then re-dyed with a patina finish.
What most patients would probably agree with is that’s quite exceptional to have their shoes re-dyed because of colour preferences. Not with demanding, time consuming orthopedic… or rather bespoke footwear for sure. ;))
Those are a Derby facing but a Gibson style due to the stitching across the toe cap.
Patient no. 5
Not footwear, but a different example of leather goods. A patient in his late twenties who lost his leg in a cycling accident. He asked George for something a bit different. Here’s a leather prosthetic cover, inspired by Quentin Tarantino’s film, Reservoir Dogs:
This example shows that genuine leather is not only a perfect material for classy, smart-looking products, but can also be a great alternative for truly cool crafts. Do you like it?
We believe that patients who have come across this article will not only understand bespoke shoemakers a bit more, but will also regain hope that bespoke footwear can be comfortable and stylish at the same time. And for all specialists reading : we are waiting for your star leather beauties and hope that you will treat this article as an inspiration or a little challenge! This is especially addressed to the younger part of this difficult, but such a grateful profession.
Author of the article: Małgorzata Serafin
About the specialist:
George is a Senior Technician specialising in Prosthetics, Orthotics and Bespoke Shoemaking. Currently he works with Buchanan Orthotics as a Quality Development Specialist. George started his varied career over twenty-five years ago at Stracathro Hospital as a shoemaker-fitter. Following from this he became an Orthotic Technician at Dundee Royal Infirmary NHS Tayside. George also worked at the NCTPO, University of Strathclyde. Subsequent to this he worked at Perth Royal Infirmary, NHS Tayside as a Senior Lead Orthotic Technician.