Skip to content

SME Guide

A Step-by-Step Guide to Shoemaking in Nigeria

Shoe manufacturing presents a promising opportunity for entrepreneurs in Nigeria given rising demand and the appeal of locally designed footwear. In this comprehensive guide, we walk through the key steps and processes involved in setting up artisanal shoe production using basic equipment and materials.

We cover sourcing quality leather, making shoe lasts, essential tools and machinery, designing for Nigerian feet, assembly techniques, packaging ideas, cost considerations and licensing requirements. Whether you want to launch your own footwear brand or manufacture for clients, this guide shares valuable insights for making shoes in Nigeria.

An Overview of Nigeria’s Shoemaking Industry

Footwear manufacturing has a long tradition in Nigeria’s cultural and economic history. Traditional artisanal shoemaking skills have been passed down generations, especially in historic hubs like Kano.

Beyond locally made leather sandals and slippers, demand for more contemporary, fashionable footwear is now booming driven by Nigeria’s large youth population. However, the bulk of modern shoe retail remains dominated by imports.

Locally made shoes only account for 15% of the formal footwear market. Yet the opportunities are vast, with annual demand estimated at 280 million pairs and rising. More entrepreneurs are now seeking to tap into the growing interest in made-in-Nigeria footwear.

Key Benefits of Local Shoe Production

Setting up local shoe manufacturing has many advantages:

Import Substitution – Curtails Nigeria’s dependence on imported shoes which made up 85% of formal footwear as of 2019.

Job Creation – Shoemaking provides employment and skills development for many artisanal workers.

Supports Local Leather Industry – Stimulates the local leather goods ecosystem.

Flexible Design and Customization – Ability to design shoes for Nigerian feet and sensibilities.

Affordability – Lower cost than foreign designer brands make locally made shoes accessible.

Foreign Exchange Savings – Reduces pressure on Nigeria’s forex reserves from footwear imports.

Made in Nigeria shoes are also perceived as unique, authentic and of a better fit. Supporting local artisans and sourcing leather sustainably also appeals to consumers.

Essential Parts of a Shoe

Before diving into production, it helps to understand shoe anatomy and key components:

Upper – The top part of the shoe that covers the foot including vamps, quarters, toe box and tongue. Made from leather, textiles etc.

Outsole – The bottom outer layer that contacts the ground. Provides traction and abrasion resistance.

Insole – Inner base layer that sits underneath the foot. Provides cushioning.

Midsole – Found between the outsole and insole. Absorbs shock and adds comfort.

Heel counter – Reinforces and stabilizes the heel section.

Shank – A stiff element between the insole and outsole that provides support.

Eyelets and laces – Allow fit adjustment and closure.

Toe box – Covers and protects the toes.

Welt -joins upper to the sole. Can be faux welt or allow re-soling.

Understanding shoe components allows for designing quality, long-lasting and comfortable styles.

Step 1 – Design and Create Lasts

Shoemaking begins with designing the shoe and shaping lasts. The last is the solid mould around which the shoe is constructed.

  • Start by sketching and conceptualizing the shoe design – style, size, colours etc.
  • Next, carve and form lasts from wood or plastic to match the shapes of your designs.
  • The lasts will be worn by the footwear, so make lasts that mimic foot dimensions.
  • Different lasts are required for left and right shoes.
  • Often lasts are imported. But you can handcraft your own.

The design process is key for visualizing the end product while lasts physically manifest the design to create the shoes over.

Step 2 – Select and Cut Upper Materials

The shoe upper comprises components like vamps, quarters, linings etc. Choosing quality materials ensures durable, comfortable uppers.

Leather is the most popular material for quality shoes owing to its durability, breathability and aesthetics. Consider leather origins and tanning process when sourcing.

  • Full grain leather is most durable option. Suede provides a softer feel.
  • Nigerian Kano and Sokoto states are known for leathercraft.
  • Ensure any dyes, finishes etc. do not contain harmful chemicals.

Measure the lasts and cut out leather sections needed for the vamps, quarters, tongue, linings etc. according to your design. Skiving helps reduce thickness. Allow seam allowances.

You can also use textile fabrics as uppers. Synthetics like PVC or mesh add durability and breathability in certain areas. Just ensure sections are cut neatly and accurately.

Step 3 – Prepare the Insole

The insole forms the inside base that the foot rests on. Material choices include:

  • Leather – Offers rigidity and support
  • EVA foam – Provides cushioning
  • Felt – Absorbs moisture to limit odour

Trace the shoe last on chosen material then cut to shape. Prepare the insole before assembling upper as it helps hold sections in place.

Insoles can also be directly adhered onto preformed EVA foam shapes rather than fabricating from scratch.

Step 4 – Attach the Upper

There are a few techniques for attaching and closing the upper:

Turnshoe Construction

This involves stitching leather upper over the last right-side out, then turning it inside out over the sole. It allows hides to be stitched aesthetically before turning. Simple and artisanal.

Carovar Construction

Here the upper is first wrapped and stitched inside-out over a temporary sole shape. Then the moulded sole is attached. This secures the upper firmly for better shaping.

Cemented Construction

The upper and sole are attached using adhesives rather than stitching. Allows using thinner leathers. Common in modern mass production.

Stitched Construction

Uppers are stitched directly to the midsoles and outsoles using durable welt stitching rather than adhesives. Allows re-soling. Very durable.

Assemble the upper on the last temporarily using tacks. Then apply the chosen method to attach and close the upper more permanently before adding soles.

Step 5 – Attach Soles

Leather, rubber, or man-made polymer soles can be used.

Leather soles provide flexibility and feel but wear quicker. Rubber soles are more durable and provide traction but can feel rigid. Polyurethane soles balance durability and flexibility.

Stitch, nail or glue soles to the uppers according to shoe construction method:

  • For turnshoes, glue or nail sole to closed uppers.
  • For carovar construction, directly inject moulded soles.
  • With cemented construction, adhere flat soles.
  • For stitched shoes, welt and stitch leather or rubber soles.

Reinforce joints using fillers like wood pegs. Allow adhesives to cure fully before finishing.

Step 6 – Add Heels and Accessories

Heels lifts can be created by:

  • Tacking heel stacks from leather, wood or TPU layers
  • Attaching carved solid wood or rubber heels
  • Moulding TPU heel counters for stability

Pin, nail or glue heels securely. Fill gaps if needed. Attach any hardware like eyelets, buckles, ornaments using screw posts, rivets or adhesives.

Step 7 – Finishing and Detailing

Apply edge paints and finishes to give an attractive look while sealing the leather. Common finishes include:

  • Wax polishing for sheen and protection
  • Acrylic latex/polyurethane for gloss and water resistance
  • Oils to condition and moisturize leather

Brush, spray or roll finishes on the footwear. Pad any harsh edges. Ensure proper curing or drying. Polish and buff for an attractive look.

Attach laces through eyelets or integrate velcro straps, zips etc. according to the design. Stuff with paper to help hold shape if needed.

Essential Shoemaking Tools and Equipment

Some key tools for small to medium-scale shoe production include:

Lasts and Stands – For shaping shoes as per designs

Knives – For cutting and skiving leather

Scissors – For trimming threads and fine-cutting

Awl/Punch – For making holes for stitching

Hammer and Nails – For tacking components together

Cutting Dies – For accurately cutting sole shapes

Stitching Wheels – For closing and attaching uppers

Glue Guns and Brushes – For adhering parts and edges

Finishing Sprayers – For applying paints and sealants

Polishing Equipment – For buffing and shining completed shoes

Electric motors and presses can mechanize production by attaching to tools to improve efficiency and quality.

Advanced Machinery Options

Some more advanced machinery options for larger manufacturers include:

Cutting machines – For precision cutting of leather components using hydraulic presses

Skiving machines – To uniformly thin leathers to the required thickness

Closing machines – To stitch upper components together consistently

Lasting machines – To mould and attach uppers over shoe lasts

Sole attaching machines – To attach soles to uppers with speed and pressure

Edge finishing equipment – For spraying edges neatly with paints/sealants

Conveyor ovens – For curing adhesives at set temperatures

While artisanal workmanship is charming, machinery improves productivity for commercial-scale shoe manufacturing with consistency.

Designing Quality Shoes for the Nigerian Market

Beyond technique, good design ensures shoes appeal to Nigerian tastes and feet. Keep these tips in mind:

Analyse Local Feet

Foot sizes, widths and shapes vary geographically. Learn Nigerian foot morphology and design lasts suited for the market.


Ensure uppers, linings and soles allow air circulation to keep feet cool and fresh in a hot humid climate.

Moisture Wicking

Utilize natural fabrics that can absorb sweat and leather finish to repel water. Avoid non-breathable synthetics.


Generous foam or air cushioning provides comfort for walking on uneven roads. Test shock absorption.


Include arch support and a firm heel counter for foot stability. Essential given many Nigerians walk long distances daily.


Incorporate durable rubber soles with grippy tread patterns tailored for urban and rural terrain.

Easy Care

Minimize seams. Choose stain-resistant leather. Finish edges smoothly to prevent snagging and enable wiping clean.


Go for flexible but firm soles that allow natural foot movement when walking rather than stiff boards.

By keeping Nigerian feet and lifestyles central to the design, your shoes will excel in comfort, performance and appeal.

Quality Control and Testing

Meticulous quality control ensures any footwear defects or issues are identified and fixed:

  • Carefully examine every pair under a bright light after assembly. Mark any flaws.
  • Check adhesive bonds by flexing and twisting soles. Redo if any parts loosen.
  • Evaluate seams and stitching under magnification for gaps or fraying.
  • Scratch and scrape at edges to check finish adhesion. Redo coats if needed.
  • Test fit on forms or feet of varying sizes. Adjust lasts and repairs issues.
  • Evaluate components for blemishes, uneven colouring, grit etc.
  • Verify dimensions like sole thickness, heel height etc. post assembly.
  • Test wear and tear by having people walk in the shoes on different surfaces.

Thorough testing requires time but reduces returns and complaints regarding Nigerian-made shoes.

Product Packaging Ideas

Good packaging protects shoes during storage and transport while presenting them attractively to customers. Considerations for retail footwear packaging include:

  • Shoe boxes – Sturdy boxes preferably with brand print and designs. Various paper or cardboard options are available.
  • Tissue paper – To wrap each shoe before placing it in a box. Prevents scuffing and absorbs moisture.
  • Stickers – For sealing boxes after placing shoes and tissue wraps. Custom-branded stickers add flair.
  • Bags – Plastic or paper bags help carry the packaged box. Include brand logos, art or product information.
  • Tags – Hang tags detail shoe name, size, material etc. They convey product highlights at the point of sale.
  • Silica sachets – Absorb excess moisture during shipping or storage to prevent mould.

Consider optional additions like personalized notes, special offer leaflets, “Thank You” cards etc. to delight customers.

Registering and Licensing Your Shoe Business

To legally manufacture and sell shoes in Nigeria, key requirements include:

  • Business Registration – Register your business name with the CAC to formalize your shoemaking enterprise.
  • SON certification – SON product certification ensures your shoes meet applicable Nigerian Industrial Standards.
  • MSME registration – Sign up on the MSME portal to access government support schemes for small businesses.
  • Safety and compliance – Follow regulations around factory safety, worker welfare and environmental impact.
  • Taxes – Register for company income tax and VAT compliance with the FIRS.
  • Leather certification – Only source leather from tanneries registered with the Leather Council to ensure best practices.

Formalizing your operations builds credibility and public trust in your brand. Ensure you comply with all regulations.

Cost Considerations for Shoe Production

The key cost elements associated with setting up shoe manufacturing in Nigeria include:

Machinery and tools – For production, cutting, stitching, polishing etc. Prices range from ₦50,000 to ₦5 million.

Workshop setup – Renting production space, furniture and storage costs ₦200,000 to ₦1 million annually depending on location and size.

Raw materials – Leather, soles, adhesives, lasts etc. Budget ₦1000 – ₦3000 per pair. Resole materials cost less.

Labour – Salaries for artisans and technical specialists range from ₦50,000 – ₦150,000 monthly.

Packaging – Boxes, stickers, tags, paper etc. add ₦100 – ₦500 per pair.

Marketing – Online advertising, brochures, fairs etc. have recurring media costs.

Utilities – Power, water, waste management and internet connectivity are ongoing overheads.

Transportation – Logistics for material deliveries and product distribution.

Keeping production lean and localizing sourcing helps optimize costs when starting out. Prices come down at scale.

Pricing Your Shoes

Pricing shoes involves balancing production costs with customer willingness to pay:

  • Luxury leather shoes can retail for ₦20,000 to ₦200,000 based on design, materials and branding.
  • Casual or synthetic shoes range from ₦5,000 to ₦15,000 offering an affordable segment.
  • School shoes sell for ₦2,000 to ₦5,000 driven by bulk institutional contracts.
  • Tailored bridal shoes can fetch premium rates of ₦100,000 upwards per customized pair.

As your brand grows, you can target higher margins through direct consumer sales. Multi-channel distribution also helps test pricing sweet spots across segmented markets.

Run promotions like discounts, bundle deals etc. during peak footwear seasons or festive sales. Offer free customization for bulk orders.

Pricing competitively helps local brands gain market share. Localising production keeps costs lower than imported shoes.

Sales and Distribution Channels

Some of the major sales channels for made-in-Nigeria footwear include:

Direct retail – In-house branded stores. Gives the highest margins but needs investment and operations capability.

Third-party retail – Shelf space in footwear stores, boutiques or fashion outlets. Provides market visibility but may require revenue sharing.

Institution sales – Bulk supply contracts with schools, hospitals, hotels etc. Generates volume but low unit margins.

Trade fairs – Exhibitions targeting fashion industry buyers provide orders, publicity and feedback.

E-commerce – Online product listings, social media marketing and dedicated websites help drive direct sales. Requires fulfilment capability and digital skills.

International export – Opportunities in markets like the UK, Caribbean, and SA where the “Made in Nigeria” perception carries cachet.

As production scales up, exploring multiple distribution channels will help maximize market reach for your shoes across diverse segments.

Avoiding Common Pitfalls                         

Some common mistakes to avoid when manufacturing footwear in Nigeria:

  • Using poor quality leathers and materials that crack or fail prematurely.
  • Failing to anatomically match shoe lasts to Nigerian feet leading to fit issues.
  • Focusing excessively on imitation and copying existing designs rather than innovating.
  • Skimping on product testing and quality control resulting in defect escapes.
  • Not complying with regulations and standards in a bid to save money.
  • Inadequate safety investments and workplace practices in production unit.
  • Choosing overly complex or ornate styles that become expensive to produce at scale.
  • Assuming demand rather than proactively doing market research and seeking consumer feedback.
  • Expanding production haphazardly without sufficient working capital and inventory management.

By avoiding such pitfalls through careful planning and experience, your Made in Nigeria footwear has strong prospects of succeeding and claiming market share.

Optimizing Chances of Success

To maximize your chances of sustaining a profitable shoe production business, focus on:

  • Mastering technical manufacturing skills and quality
  • Seeking mentorship from experienced shoemakers
  • Rigorously testing products before launch
  • Building your brand story and identity
  • Registering intellectual property like designs and logos
  • Leveraging social media and e-commerce for sales
  • Offering differentiated designs suited to Nigeria
  • Collaborating with footwear suppliers, retailers and schools
  • Exhibiting at trade fairs to attract large orders
  • Investing surplus into upgrading machinery and tools
  • Taking feedback and being responsive to consumer needs
  • Contributing to local skills development

Shoe manufacturing can thrive with disciplined execution and bringing Nigeria’s natural craftsmanship to the fore.

The Growth Potential Ahead

With expanding demand, low existing local supply and import substitution benefits, shoe production in Nigeria offers strong growth potential. Entrepreneurs who build capabilities, scale cautiously and deliver quality have tremendous prospects.

Associations like NISMA and Leather Institute provide technical and regulatory support for new makers. Government schemes like Youth Entrepreneurship Support also aim to catalyse the space.

As more support ecosystems emerge for Nigerian artisanal manufacturers, Footwear has the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of proud made in Nigeria fashion brands.

With dedication to mastery and business fundamentals, Nigeria’s next generation of shoemakers can tap into its strong cultural heritage and affinity for footwear to drive value creation that stands the test of time.


1 thought on “A Step-by-Step Guide to Shoemaking in Nigeria”

  1. Pingback: 100 Profitable Business Ideas to Start in Nigeria - SME Guide

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *