How It is Made

Strong from the ground up! At Softstar we are proud of our more than three decades of experience handcrafting beautiful, glove-like shoes that will carry you on your adventures in comfort and health. Our veteran team has enjoyed the timeless art and hands-on tradition of crafting durable and beautiful shoes since 1985.

All Softstar shoes are made from beginning to end in our historic workshop in Philomath, Oregon USA. You are welcome to visit and get a personal tour of the many steps that go into crafting our shoes, but if a trip to Oregon is not on your agenda then we hope you enjoy this virtual tour.


Sourcing and Design
Softstar quality starts from the ground up with our materials: sustainably sourced and eco-friendly leather, sheepskin and VibramTM soling. We are constantly looking for the highest standards of quality and sustainable practices in our vendors and are proud to carry the finest leathers and soling in the world. Our day begins inspecting every inch of incoming material for adherence to quality standards.
The first step in crafting your order is selecting the cutting dies from our array of unique patterns. We are passionate about designing shoes that mimic barefoot movement to promote free and natural foot function. Our shoes are crafted using age-old moccasin style techniques resulting in a supremely flexible and lightweight design. This non-lasted process has anywhere from 42-93 unique steps depending on the style you select.


Clicking and Cutting to Order
Elves who cut the pattern pieces out of leather are called “clickers”. This time-honored title is rooted in the sound made hundreds of years ago when the artisan’s hand-knife blade would click against the patterns. Today we use hydraulic presses and metal dies (think giant cookie cutters) instead of knives, but the term “clicker” has stuck. This position is highly skilled as experience is needed to “read” the hide to select the best leather portion for each piece of the pattern. Clickers can quickly ascertain thickness and stretch by hand feel and have keen attention to natural defects.
Every pair of shoes has between 4 and 16 pattern parts and pieces, including lining or reinforcements. Clickers respectfully try to utilize as much of a leather hide as possible to minimize waste with their clever Tetris-like skills. Click here to learn more on our sustainable production methods. More on our sustainable production methods.
Soles are cut individually from VibramTM sheet stock, tough bullhide leather or sheepskin fleece hides. Soling elves might also weld or attach innersoles, hand trim special sizes or buff rough edges. Because each pair is made to order, Softstar always has the ability to provide the size and width our customers need. The soles of our shoes are designed to imprint with your foot and take on your unique shape within hours of wear.


Shoes then move to our seamster team of elves who prepare the uppers for sewing. Elves will carefully inlay small leather motifs or hand punch designs into the leather per each customer’s unique specifications. Edges are skived (shaved to make thinner) and inner linings are precisely positioned for heels and toes. Sizes are double checked and leather pieces are tacked together to keep from stretching or moving during sewing.
Next, our talented seamsters sew the leather layers of the uppers together. Depending on the style, shoe uppers will pass from 1 to 7 elf stations with different types of machines: walking feet, zig-zags, post machines, furriers or grommet setting. Meet the (shoemaking) elves.
In the last sewing step, shoe uppers are carefully stitched to either a midsole or rubber outersole. Shoes with midsoles are sewn inside-out for hidden seams. Since variations in seams aer easily felt by sensitive feet, our seamster elves carefully measure seam allowances with careful attention to detail—often within 1mm of error.


Shoes are turned right-side out and expertly shaped on wooden dowels. This step ensures all stitching is stress-tested for durability while also inspected for shape and precision. Some shoes are then wrapped in a protective cover to prevent damage during the following gluing and pressing steps.
For shoes with certain Vibram outersoles, Elves carefully apply a specially formulated contact adhesive to the outsole and leather midsole. After a prescribed drying period, the upper is carefully placed and shaped by hand and then machine pressed at high pressure.
The final stage is to hand trim excess soling. Operated by hand, the trimming machines require precise hand-eye coordination using the same tools that have been used by shoemakers for hundreds of years. This step is a favorite on tours as a finished shoe emerges like a butterfly from a cocoon. Edges are buffed and burnished as final step.


Perfecting & Packing
Our customer service elves oversee the last step of inspecting your shoes for perfection. They double check your order for accuracy and completeness. We ship to all corners of planet earth each day and we want to make sure our customers are delighted when they open their packages.
We use minimal packaging to ship our shoes... just enough to keep them looking great. When possible, we ship using recyclable poly mailers. Shoes that require more protection are shipped in recyclable boxes, wrapped with tissue paper made from 100% recycled materials and cushioned with paper we reuse from either a local book shipping businesses or newspaper roll ends. We take pride in our sustainable practices.
We’re done with our shoes after they ship out of our shop… but they’re just beginning their adventures! They can’t wait to get on our customers feet and start exploring the world. We build happy Softstar fans one pair at a time.What to know more about us? Read on.