Home shoemaking is a super exciting venture when you think of every possible custom design. But there are always concerns surrounding the capability of sewing machines in making shoes.
Sewing shoes is far different from clothing because it involves bulky fabrics like leather and canvas. These can stretch a regular machine to its limit causing poor quality stitches, needle breakage and generally take a toll on the machine’s functioning.
So, what are the best sewing machines for shoes? Heavy duty or industrial grade sewing machines are ideal for shoes. You could use your normal sewing machine by changing to a leather needle, but only if the shoemaking is a one-time thing. To sew shoes regularly and professionally, a sewing machine for shoes is recommended.
If you are venturing into DIY shoes or looking to upgrade to a better shoemaking machine and need help choosing one, we’ve got you. In this post is a detailed buying guide and reviews of the best sewing machines for shoes.
Sewing Machines For Shoes – Buyer’s Guide
Just like purchasing any other equipment, choosing a sewing machine should be a well-thought-out process. It is too huge an investment to go wrong and render it useless for shoes.
To find a shoe sewing machine that is reliable and performs outstandingly, you must consider the following things.
1. Machine design
Depending on your exposure you might be familiar with one or several sewing machine types. The normal tabletop sewing machine is the most common.
However, you need a specific type of sewing machine for shoes. An industrial grade sewing machine is the best sewing machine for shoes and also the most expensive.
It is constructed with the necessary threshold for sewing shoes en masse. These are usually motorized for speed and efficiency and are great for a workshop. Another option is a heavy-duty sewing machine. As the name suggests these are heavy and powerful machines.
Most of them are old school and mechanical. They are perfect for home as well as professional sewing and can be multipurpose too.
You could also choose a patcher sewing machine. A patcher sewing machine is different from an ordinary tabletop machine. It can be handcrafted or branded and is hand-driven using a crank.
The patcher sewing machine is optimized for sewing all types of shoes even those that seem impossible to handmake like boots. It has the post arm that really gets into the rounded toe area of shoes without trying so hard.
They are fairly priced too, particularly the handmade ones but lacking in quality control therefore very crude. You’ll need basic mechanical aptitude or pay extra and have someone assemble and tune this type of machine for you.
2. Fabric Options
Shoes can be constructed from one or a combination of materials. Hence your choice of sewing machine must be powerful enough to plow through multiple layers of various fabrics, particularly rugged ones.
Common shoe fabrics include leather, faux leather, jute, denim, canvas, nylon, and rubber. These are tough materials that can frustrate you by causing jamming, skipping stitches, and even breaking the needle if not compatible with the sewing machine.
Ensure that the fabric you intend to sew shoes with is within the sewing machines’ threshold.
3. Strength Of The Body
Today, modern sewing machines are made from lightweight metals and even plastic frames and components to make them weigh less, be portable, less cumbersome, and stylish.
However, for shoes, we suggest looking beyond aesthetics. Go strong, heavy, and sturdy. This is because sewing shoes is a demanding task that can be strenuous on a sewing machine and very easily damage delicately constructed parts.
It would be best if you had a robust, sturdily built sewing machine for shoes. An iron body is an excellent choice for durability. Other smaller parts that also feel the weight of such a heavy-duty task should be made out of stainless steel.
4. Adjustable Walking Foot
Ordinary sewing machines may not come with a walking foot, and that’s what you need to sew stubborn fabrics hassle-free. A walking foot is a larger presser foot with more feed dogs that make it powerful enough to tackle thick materials.
You can buy one separately and install it in normal sewing machines, but the best sewing machines for shoes come with a walking foot.
In addition to checking that you have a walking foot, you must also ensure that it is adjustable, rotating an entire 360°. You’ll then have an easier time stitching all around and maneuvering the curves than if you were turning the shoe physically.
5. Type Of Needle
Sewing machine needles are available in a range of sizes. The smaller ones being sizes 14-16 and the thicker ones for leather going to sizes 20-22.
Not all sewing machines are built to accommodate a variety of needle sizes. Some come with the standard needle and cannot be replaced with other sizes.
Check that the sewing machine you are contemplating purchasing can fit long and thick needles. You need these for sewing shoes as thinner needles will fail to pierce through thick fabrics and may break.
6. Stitch Length
Lastly, consider the maximum stitch length the sewing machine is capable of making. You want strong, even, and consistent quality stitches which would be impossible if the machine makes only short stitches.
Short stitches cannot hold thick fabrics let alone multiple layers of them or a sole. Assess the sewing machine’s stitch settings and whether the stitch length is adjustable to at least 6mm. Even better if it can go longer and get to 9mm or 10mm in length.
The sewing speed is also of utmost importance. A high-speed sewing machine gets you done with the shoe sewing projects much faster which is key for a shoe business that thrives on timely delivery.
But even more critical is the ability to control the speed. You need to be able to slow down the speed to sew accurately around corners. Manual or mechanical sewing machines for shoes give you this kind of control.
Best Sewing Machines For Shoes
The market has a lot to offer when it comes to shoe sewing machines that deliver. Pinpointing which ones they are is the challenging bit especially for beginners.
Well, if you are in the market for a machine that custom-makes shoes without stalling on you, check out this round-up of the best sewing machines for shoes!
|1.||Consew Walking Foot Upholstery Machine||Metallic frame, 3,300 spm, mounting table|
|2.||JUKI DNU-1541 Industrial Walking Foot Sewing Machine||2,500 spm, auto bobbin winder|
|3.||Janome HD3000 Heavy-Duty Sewing Machine||Metal frame, 860 spm, free arm|
|4.||FamYun Hand Cobbler Shoe Repair Machine||Crank powered, designed for cobbling|
|5.||ColouredPeas Shoe Repair Hand Sewing Machine||Jam-resistant, walking foot, crank or motor|
|6.||SINGER | Heavy Duty 4423 Sewing Machine||Stainless steel, 1,100 spm|
|7.||Pumplus Leather Sewing Machines Hand Stitching Machine||Free arm, walking foot, vintage style|
|8.||ECO-WORTHY Sewing Machines for Leather||Vintage style, free arm, walking foot|
|9.||Sailrite Heavy-Duty Basic Walking Foot Sewing Machine||Heavy duty, basic model, for thick fabrics|
1. Consew Walking Foot Upholstery Machine
First place is Consew 206RB-5. It is a full-sized heavy-duty mechanical machine with a tough metallic frame that will keep you away from the repair shop for a long time.
It looks old school but do not let appearances deceive you into dismissing it. The machine is more capable of professional shoemaking than most modern fancier models are.
Consew runs on a Servo motor hence is quieter than the typical industrial machine. It is also super fast making 3300 stitches per minute.
The stitch length is adjustable to 10mm and that’s the longest you can get if you look around. There’s also a stitch lock that prevents the set length from shifting while sewing due to vibrations.
This sewing machine comes readily assembled with a mounting table. It is also equipped with a walking foot, thread winder, inbuilt ruler, and lamp.
It accommodates needle sizes 16-23 which is within the ideal thickness range for heavy fabric sewing as with shoes. The foot lifts to 14mm providing enough space for thick assemblies to go through.
The thread stand has room to hold two large cones. And with an oversized bobbin that holds plenty of thread, you can go on and on enjoying uninterrupted sewing.
JUKI DNU-1541 Industrial Walking Foot Sewing Machine
Next is the Juki DNU-1541. If you are no beginner to sewing machines, you do know that the brand is reputable for quality construction using the best Japanese technology.
The sewing machine is a mechanical one boasting a high speed of 2500 stitches a minute. The stitches are adjustable to 9mm in length effectively binding thick layers of fabric.
It runs on a 110V industrial clutch motor but can also be replaced with a Servo motor upon request for a quieter time.
It has a standard walking foot (front and back), an automatic bobbin winder to save you time, and a self-lubricating system that keeps it running smoothly.
A mounting table is also inclusive of the purchase and comes pre-assembled. The sewing machine, motor, and table all weigh a whooping 250 lbs which is insanely heavy. So, you need to be sure of where you want it placed.
This is an industrial grade sewing machine that is seriously strong and can run all day every day without hiccups. It is not for the hobbyist but for someone looking to invest in a workhorse to do tons of shoes professionally.
Janome HD3000 Heavy-Duty Sewing Machine
Janome brand is a force to reckon with in sewing machines and so is the HD 3000. It is perfect for anyone not after an industrial grade shoe sewing machine; just something heavy-duty and mechanical that does the job at home.
Among the many home sewing machines, this one is capable of handling the pressure of shoemaking without falling apart. It is sturdily built with a full metallic aluminum body construction for both frame and components.
Compared to the Consew and Juki, it is small in size but big in performance. The sewing machine is pretty fast with an impressive speed of 860 stitches per minute and you can adjust the stitch length to 6.5mm.
Although it doesn’t come with a walking foot, there are plenty of cool features for a faster smoother workflow. There is an adjustable presser foot and free arm to ease maneuverability while sewing shoes. The foot lifts extra high too.
Other features include an automatic bobbin winder, built-in threader, and lamp. And there’s a bonus pack full of accessories for this and many other projects.
It accommodates a range of standard and thicker special needles like leather needles hence versatile for both clothing and shoemaking. It is the perfect sewing machine for shoes if you are looking for a multipurpose sewing machine.
There are however too many dials and settings to adjust and tune the machine to make it do what you want. You are better off reading and mastering the manual first.
FamYun Hand Cobbler Shoe Repair Machine
FamYun is not your regular tabletop sewing machine. This is a patcher sewing machine specifically designed for cobbler work.
It is a manual handmade machine powered by cranking. Therefore, it may appear a little rough around the edges due to deficient quality control, but the performance is incredible.
The frame is made from heavy cast iron to withstand the demands of heavy jobs like sewing shoes. It is virtually unbreakable and can last through a decade.
The needle is replaceable with any needle between sizes 14-22 to accommodate thin and thick fabrics. Also, you can thread the machine using commercial thickness threads of up to 5mm thick.
The shoe sewing machine comes with a walking foot that feeds thick fabrics really well. There is also a free arm that allows the shoemaker to get into all nooks and crannies of shoes.
You can throw any type of shoe project at it, from lightweight sandals to stubborn shoes like boots, heels, and sneakers. The machine will handle it.
However, to reap the full benefits of this sewing machine, you need patience and the will to do your own research to learn how to set it up and make it work.
There’s also a significant amount of cleaning up to do as the parts are shipped very greasy. Being cast iron, heavy greasing is necessary to prevent rusting.
ColouredPeas Shoe Repair Hand Sewing Machine
Another good patcher-type sewing machine for shoes is this model by ColouredPeas. There are multiple versions of it, but the 10-bearing version gives the most outstanding results.
It is much faster and runs smoother than previous versions with fewer bearings. Its spindle and shaft are optimally shaped for jam and resistance-free operation.
The machine has an omnidirectional walking foot. It will tightly and evenly sew assemblies up to a maximum of 0.48 inches thick.
Once wiped down, set up, and tuned correctly it does a fantastic job in sewing shoes. It is easy to use, and it can be motorized if you wish.
It is perfect for those getting into the business of shoe sewing (and other thick products like bags and belts) but are on a budget and can’t afford the hefty-priced industrial sewing machines for shoes.
Like its predecessor, it doesn’t come ready to use out of the box. You need some self-initiative to dig more online and work out how to fine-tune it.
SINGER | Heavy Duty 4423 Sewing Machine
It is no surprise that the brand name Singer always turns up in sewing machine reviews. They manufacture some of the most amazing sewing machines in the market.
This one right here seems to be up to the task of sewing shoes. The 4423 is a heavy-duty treadle-powered sewing machine.
With a full metal frame and stainless steel parts, it is seriously strong and fast. Its speed is rated at 1100 stitches per minute.
It has a built-in needle threader to speed up your work and comes with a pack of high-quality accessories.
Its maximum stitch length is 6mm which is ok for shoemaking. You just have to purchase a walking foot as it only has the basic presser foot. You’ll also need a thick needle and the right thread to sew shoes. Experimenting with the sewing machine is key to finding what works.
It is a great choice for a multipurpose sewing machine as it has nicer features and stitches than shoes actually need. You could buy it for clothing and other projects and sew a shoe or two occasionally, but it is not ideal for undertaking this type of work on a continuous basis.
Pumplus Leather Sewing Machines Hand Stitching Machine
Another cobbler sewing machine designed specifically for both shoemaking and repair is the Pumplus by Fisters. It is a vintage-style machine set on a tripod with timeless technology that is reliableand effective.
It is quite heavy, weighing 24 pounds. But it is this robust metal construction that makes it nearly indestructible regardless of the frequency of usage.
The shoe sewing machine comes with an adjustable walking foot and free arm. There’s more room and freedom to maneuver whichever direction which makes it ideal for boots, heels, and other thicker shoes.
Unfortunately, the Pumplus is only compatible with a standard needle, but you can make adjustments to get a commercial needle to work with it. It also works with nylon and cotton wire.
Combine all these features with its high swing speed (which you have full control over) and sewing shoes will be a breeze. The biggest drawback is that it is a self-assembly sewing machine that requires a significant amount of time delving into online tutorials.
It is also quite rugged, which is typical of such machines. You have to get into some serious filing and polishing to prevent your thread from cutting or hurting yourself.
ECO-WORTHY Sewing Machines for Leather
The ECO-WORTHY cobbler sewing machine shares the same design as the Pumplus, only bulkier. It weighs around 25 pounds.
It is a full-bodied metal construction sewing machine thereby sturdy, hard-wearing, and extremely durable. You can make any type of shoes with it be it leather boots, canvas shoes, rubber shoes, heels, etc.
It also has an adjustable walking foot and a free arm for those stubborn nooks and crannies.
Even better, this patcher sewing machine accommodates thicker needles. It enables you to switch the standard needle with a leather needle or other thicker needle.
Like the rest of the cobbler sewing machines, it arrives in a mess, covered in heavy grease and a couple of raw edges. But once you clean it, smooth out the burs and set it up well, it is a diamond in the rough and worth the sweat.
Sailrite Heavy-Duty Basic Walking Foot Sewing Machine
Sailrite sewing machines are among the best for heavy-duty sewing. Originally made for marine sails and covers, this machine sews through thick fabrics like a dream.
The LSZ-1 is solidly built and innovatively designed with a power-plus balance wheel to be twice as powerful as traditional flywheel machines.
Its maximum variable stitch length is 6mm for the straight stitch. It also comes with a walking foot and has a ⅜ inch foot lift.
Although it is pretty basic in features, the sewing machine is a workhorse. You can sew canvas shoes, sandals, denim shoes, light leather shoes, and other light footwear without struggling.
However, there are some key missing features like a free arm for more challenging shoes like boots or sneakers.
Regardless, it is a remarkable choice with lots of tools, accessories, and a detailed setup guide.