What to ask for when getting shoes made
Have an idea of what you want when buying handmade shoes before you go. Otherwise you may be influenced by the sales person or spend a lot of time looking through random catalogs. This also means when you get to the stage of choosing leathers and negotiating prices, you won’t be exhausted. Do not be embarrassed about being clear about what you want or pointing out any defects you notice.
When you choose your leather, check the material isn’t plastic leather stuck onto cheap suede. If the leather does look cheaper, but you love the color or texture, make sure to ask for a strong lining and ensure the lining will be stitched on. Leather linings cost extra but if you get a plastic lining your shoes will start to smell very quickly.
Ask what soles the shoes will have and ask to see an example. Many places have cheap soles that will wear through or pull away no matter how well the uppers are made. Again, the better materials cost extra, but if you want the shoes to last longer, it’s worth it.
Have an idea of how much the shoe should cost going in and make sure the price you are quoted is fair. You can lose nothing by trying to negotiate, but if you push the price too low, be aware it could affect your final shoe.
To learn more about finding good leather products, read our In Search of a Leather Bag: Guide to Hoi An’s Bespoke Leather Goods
The First Shoe Shop $
Cheap and easy if you know just what you want…
The shop is a bit out of the center but has a charming visage with wide open doors and a hanging bougainvillea out front. All the product on display appears old and is certainly not suggestive of high quality handmade shoes. But forget the unfortunate display, The First Shoe Shop is a specialist in custom work, not buying off the shelf. The sales ladies are very friendly without being pushy and speak great English. When I asked to see their catalog they brought me a huge pile of unsorted magazine pages, so definitely go there with an image or a clear idea of what you want. If you are very specific about what you want, this is a great place for custom shoes for a lower price.
Add: 275 Nguyen Duy Hieu
Tel: +84 (0)235 3914 373
The Central Market $
Putting in the effort here could get you the best deal…
Many expats have become frustrated over the years with handmade shoes that didn’t last. The quality in the markets is actually equivalent to a lot of the smaller shops, and a lot cheaper. You can still choose your leather, style and specify what you want. It is a bit more of a gamble, but a gamble of $15 instead of $50 is maybe one you are more willing to take. The ladies in the market are far more pushy than in the stores, so go in knowing what you want and be willing to stand your ground on price and designs. If you are worried, ask to see some shoes that need to be collected by other patrons and make your own conclusions.
Friendly Shop $$
Highly rated, famous and a 6 month guarantee, what more do you want…
Friendly Shop is one of the best known and highest rated shoe stores in Hoi An. It sets its self apart with a 6-month money back guarantee, no matter where you are. In a town of quick-sale cobblers, Friendly is working hard to uphold their reputation. The store has a handful of welcoming women who will go through designs or materials with you. For simpler designs, it will only take 12 hours to produce a shoe but most shoes take a mere 24. This is your safest bet, and at a reasonable price, can you say no?
Add: 18 Tran Phu
Tel: +84 (0) 935 211 382
An Nam $$
If you are in a rush, get your shoes made the same day…
An and Nam are a couple that mean business. You will feel incredibly welcome and relaxed in this store surrounded by beautiful shoes. Their service is impeccable, including very clear English. In addition to the standard arrays of leather, they have a variety of buffalo leather which has a slightly different look and feel. It is thicker and spongier, great for boots, especially if you want something a little unusual. If you are in a rush, they can also produce a pair of shoes that can be ready on the same day, but the quality of your handmade shoes may suffer in the rush. For the best of every option, allow for a day or two.
Add: 647 Hai Ba Trung
Tel: +84 (0) 235 6505 799
Tu-Chi Leather Bags $$
Fairly priced and high quality shoes made with a personal touch…
This little corner shop feels like a family cobbler with a sowing machine next to the front door and piles of leather in the corner. If you’re looking for a knockoff pair of Birkenstocks, they have a variety made with good quality leather straps. Their leather samples are the standard array of thin leathers that require lining, but they also have rolls of raw, soft leather that are beautiful. This material doesn’t come at any extra cost, but they only have two shades of brown. The quality here is high, the prices mid-range and the experience very personal. The owner of the shop told me they only make shoes for people who can come for fittings to ensure that the fit is perfect, even if they have your measurements on file.
Add: 24 Phan Boi Chau
Tel: +84 (0) 905 662 109
Linh Shoe Store $$
A place where you can bargain your way to a good deal…
If you want to try your luck buying shoes off the shelf, this is a good spot to try. The display shoes look well-made and are available in a variety of sizes, even large ones. They of course offer handmade shoes, in any color or design you could request, and also have orthopedic options. Unusually, their custom shoes usually take two days to make and an extra day if you need an adjustment. The standard leathers on offer were of lower-end quality but with careful choosing, you could find some good material. Quality markers like leather soles or leather lining come at an extra cost. The staff are professional and friendly and more than happy to offer their opinion if you need help. For closed shoes or ankle boots in complete leather the price range is about $65-$85, but a silver tongue may earn you some savings.
Add: 16 Tran Phu
Tel: +84 (0) 905 181 457
Yaly Couture $$$
A luxurious boutique experience…
The two-story colonial villa that houses one of three Yaly stores is uncluttered and classy, with friendly staff stepping up to help you the moment you cross the threshold. The staff are patient and speak English confidently, happily answering all questions. They have comprehensive catalogs, sorted by style and gender, but are willing to use photos you provide, and have an incredible array of leather samples to choose from.
You will get the luxury experience but it comes at a price, with their fairly fixed guide starting with sandals at $50 and boots at $110. The quality is definitely good, but I am sure you can get equivalent quality for less. The main draw of Yaly is that you could have a pair of shoes, a suit, a silver necklace and silk sheets all made to your specifications in one location. So if you are going big, this is your place.
Add: 358 Nguyen Duy Hieu
Tel: +84 (0) 235 2212 474
09 Shoe Shop $$$
Custom specialists with incredibly helpful staff…
This is not a place for buying off-the-rack shoes, their thing is handmade shoes and they do them beautifully. The sales women are friendly, honest and patient with any questions about shoes or Hoi An in general. The choices can become overwhelming so let them guide you to intelligent choices if you are unsure. Their catalogs are rather random and you could be there forever if you don’t know what you are looking for. Instead of the standard rings of sample leather, they have neat piles of it at the back of the shop that you can just run your hands over and enjoy. This shop also offers buffalo leather if you are looking for something different.
Add: 65 Tran Hung Dao
Tel: +84 (0) 235 3863 573
High end shop with a limited selection that can be made to measure…
In among the designer clothes are a scattering of female boots, sandals and heels. They stock a variety of sizes, but for no extra cost, they will make one of their designs to your measurements. It is an interesting combination of off-the-shelf and handmade shoes. The choices are limited, in both design and material, but you will be able to see and inspect samples before you order a pair. Ideally they will have a pair in store that you can put on and happily walk out in.
Add: 57 Le Loi
Tel: +84 (0) 235 3 911 611
If you decide you don’t want to go the handmade route or are looking for a pair of trainers, checkout out our Guide to Ready Made Shoes.
So hopefully all your questions are answered, if not leave us a comment. Also be in contact if your favorite place didn’t make the list. Hoi An is so filled with hidden gems, we could not have found them all. Happy shoe shopping.
Photos: Mikha Zeffertt