My guide to Making Custom Leather Shoes in Hoi An

Hoi An, the Shopping Capital of Vietnam

Hoi An is recognized as the hub of bespoke shopping in Vietnam. A simple stroll through its old town is enough to convince anyone. The city offers a wide array of tailors capable of crafting custom-made garments ranging from elegant evening dresses to suits, not forgetting swimwear.

Moreover, Hoi An also stands out for its custom-made shoe production. There are about a hundred stores dedicated to this craft.

Although these shops offer similar products, including shoes and bags, and often seem to imitate each other, the quality of the items varies significantly. Thus, without some expertise in leather, assessing product quality can prove complex.

If you’ve ever struggled to find the ideal pair of shoes, whether due to color, size, or simply because of a high price, you’ll find your bliss in Hoi An. Here, a pair of custom-made leather shoes can cost much less than in the West.

Real Leather or Faux Leather?

vraie cuir hoi an

In Hoi An, it’s not uncommon to see signs proclaiming “Real Leather”. However, a closer examination reveals that this claim is not entirely unfounded, although it can be somewhat misleading.

To convince customers of the leather quality, sellers do not hesitate to test the flame resistance of the products by approaching a flame, as real leather does not burn, while faux leather does. This demonstration aims to reinforce the promise of quality and encourage purchases.

By handling the leather samples, you will notice that some are thicker while others are thinner. And this is where you will notice the issue; the thinner leather usually comes from China rather than Vietnamese or Thai leather.

Some shops also sell what they call “simile” or vinyl that resembles leather.”

Most shops in Hoi An source their leather from China, which is thinner, cheaper, and often of lower quality than local leather. Although still considered leather, it is less durable and more prone to tearing over time. This type of leather may be adequate for flat sandals but is best avoided for more structured shoes or handbags. As often, the price is an indicator of quality: the cheaper an item, the more likely its quality is low.

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Distinguishing Real Leather from Faux Leather

To identify genuine leather, rely on the smell: authentic leather is treated with natural dyes and should emit a natural odor. In contrast, treated leather can sometimes smell of chemicals or even resemble the odor of plastic. It is also good to know that some unscrupulous shops may paint their leather to make it appear of better quality.

Look for signs of a natural grain. If necessary, tilt it under suitable lighting to better observe. Lower quality treated leathers often lack the characteristic natural folds.

High-quality leather is characterized by its thinness and smoothness to the touch, while maintaining a respectable density. Beware of lower quality leathers which, being too thin, may remind you of the texture of vinyl.

Some Key Checks Before Your Purchase

In Hoi An, every leather shop offers a range of prices, from very affordable to quite expensive. Although the most costly items generally offer better quality, a pair of sandals at 500,000 VND (about 21 €) can also be durable. Take the time to examine the craftsmanship quality in various stores: are the stitches regular, or do they indicate rushed production?

The price can also vary depending on the type of lining chosen. Suede, although less expensive than leather, can be quite sturdy if of good quality. A cashmere lining will also provide durability, while a cotton or polyester lining may tear easily. Avoid plastic linings, as they tend to emit an unpleasant smell.

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Another crucial element to check when buying leather shoes in Hoi An is the quality of the sole. Some stores opt to glue the soles instead of sewing them, which can lead to detachment after only a few uses. The cost is also an indicator of quality: cheaper soles will wear out or detach faster. Do not hesitate to ask to see the soles and consider investing more for better material quality.

How long does it take to make a custom shoe in Hoi An?

Allow approximately 24 hours. This period may extend during the high season.

If adjustments are needed, which is common, expect an additional 12 to 24 hours depending on the extent of the adjustments.

Average Prices for Custom Shoes in Hoi An

I’ve noted the average prices in Hoi An:

  • Sneakers: $35 – $75
  • High-top sports sneakers: $45 – $85
  • Leather shoes: $45 – $85
  • High-top leather shoes: $50 – $110
  • Ankle boots: $50 – $110
  • Boots: $65 – $125
  • Sandals: $15 – $35

Custom Shoes in Hoi An: My Experience

Choosing Your Model

First step: select the shoe style you prefer, whether traditional or sporty, simple or elaborate.

In most shoe stores, you will have access to a catalog with hundreds of shoe photos. A paradise for fashionistas. Take your time to browse through the available options; you might well spend a good part of the day before finding the model that suits you.

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If you already have a specific idea in mind, do not hesitate to bring a photo of what you desire.

Note that although the reproduction of major brands is tolerated here, it may or may not cause problems when passing through customs in your country. Proceed with caution.

Choosing Your Leather

chaussure hoi an

The range of leathers and colors is extremely varied; we are far from the single standard model. When you enter a shop, you will be presented with dozens of types of leather and a spectrum of colors.

If the shop does not have the color you are looking for, the staff will not hesitate to accompany you to the neighboring store or even to a leather wholesaler to ensure you find exactly what you want.

It’s fair to say that almost all your wishes, even the most extravagant, can be met. Although I do not consider myself a fashion victim, I still spent quite some time making my choice.

Taking Measurements

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In practice, the measurement of your foot is done traditionally: you are asked to place your foot on a sheet of paper, on which the contours and dimensions are then traced.

This method may seem surprising if this is your first experience with shoe-making in Vietnam.

It may seem rudimentary, but it’s a simple and remarkably effective technique.


Plan for possible alterations. It’s rare to get your product right the first time. Count about 24 hours for trials and 48 hours for the final result. It can be faster during the low season.

Trials can be done at your hotel in Hoi An or Da Nang. A real star service, I tell you…

My Recommendation

friendly shoes shop hoi an

Personally, I recommend Friendly Shoes Shop, which is one of the few stores where both quality and service meet expectations, and their reputation is well-established. It is also one of the rare shops that stitches the soles, ensuring that your pair of shoes lasts much longer. Additionally, they do not use Chinese leather.

Uniquely, the shop offers a six-month money-back guarantee. Their motto reflects this commitment well: NO LIKE = NO PAY.

Another major advantage of this store is the clear pricing displayed.

The store is also recommended by the Routard and Lonely Planet, a further quality assurance.

Address: 18 Tran Phu Street, 15b Hoang Dieu Street, 44 Phan Boi Chau– Hours: from 9 am to 8:30 pm daily – Website:

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