Making custom shoes by hand to help people with disabilities

Ronya Hormann

Ronya Hormann 1996 –

A certified orthopedic shoemaker who was raised on the Bruderhof, Ronya entered the field because it allowed her to combine two interests: making shoes and helping people with disabilities. 

I first got into this through my dad. He’s made shoes as a hobby for as long as I can remember. At one point I asked him, “Hey, can you teach me to do that?” That’s when he started me on the basics: patternmaking and building lasts. Finally he helped me make a pair of shoes for myself. 

I just finished a three-year apprenticeship in Germany. The program combined on-the-job learning with courses like basic anatomy and physiology. We sold custom-made shoes, orthotics, and braces to everyone from athletes and the elderly to amputees and people with foot deformities caused by diabetes. 

There’s a lot of new technology coming into shoe­making. Things like CNC routers, laser cutters, and 3D printers. But every time I learn about a new technology, I find myself thinking, “How can I do the same stuff with my hands? How can I find a simpler way?” Part of it is that as a child, helping my dad at his workbench, I was too young to use his power tools, so he taught me whatever I could do with my hands, or with simple tools. I think it’s important to have the know-how before you depend on high-tech stuff.

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