Is my shoe design ready for production?

The answer is “NO!”  Your shoe design is NOT ready for production. Once you have a beautiful shoe design on paper it’s time to think about the details needed to start the DEVELOPMENT process for your shoe.

Shoe Design vs. Shoe Development

Shoe development is the transformation of your drawings into a real specification the factory will use to make your design. There are many questions you need to answer to complete your design. These are the extra details that don’t show in a shoe design drawing but will define the real character of your shoe. The shoe design details will determine the price of your shoe. The same design can be made for $79.00 retail or $159.00 retail depending on the material specifications. The material questions would generally be asked before the shoes are designed, and often they are answered by the (PLM) product line manager, not the designer.

Shoe Design Questions

1.  Do I want my shoe design to be Sleek or Puffy?
The thickness of the collar foam and tongue foam can be 10mm, 30mm, or more. The padding for your shoe can be zero for a super sleek look.


2.  Do I want my shoes to be stiff, crisp, and refined or designed to be soft, flexible, and casual? The shoes can be board lasted for a firm feel or Strobel lasted for flexibility.  Firm midsole 55˚ EVA foam or cushy soft 35˚foam? The upper reinforcement can be thin and soft or firm and thick. The heel counter and toe counters can be firm 2mm molded Syrlin, softer non-woven, or nothing.


3. Do I want my shoe to break-in and show wear? Plastic-coated action leather will keep your sneakers white or black forever, a waxy pull-up leather will show creases and scuffs.  Smooth leather or textured leather? Washed canvas or waxed?  Natural or synthetic-looking materials?

4. Do I want my shoe to be ultra-light? The outsole can be an all EVA foam with no rubber but at the cost of durability.

5. Is my shoe a functional sporting shoe or a fashion shoe? These are built differently!
A casual shoe may lack support and fit loosely while a performance shoe must fit well and be supportive.

6. How much do I want this shoe to cost? Suede leather or action leather (fake full grain) costs US$1.20 per square foot, nu-buck leather can cost $3.00 per sq/ft, and fancy full grain leather costs $4.00 to $10.00 per sq/ft. or more depending on grade, thickness, and quality.

7.  Do I want my shoe to have a fabric lining inside or leather? Smooth Lycra or terry cloth for a sporty gripping feel?

8.  Depending on the cost of the shoe, I need to consider the footbed type. Die cut EVA, or PU foam? Lightweight molded EVA footbeds are heavier but very plush. There are many options for footbed designs, single layer to triple density with gel, or die-cut EVA with a latex wedge. Prices range from US$.50 for a simple EVA die-cut to over $4.00 for a molded PU footbed with plastic inserts.

If you can answer these questions in detail your design can really come to life!

Shoe Material Design Guide

Footwear material selection.

We have written an entire book dedicated to footwear materials. Each chapter covers a specific shoe material type. You will learn how each material is made, the options available, and how to specify the material correctly. We have information on shoe leather, textiles, synthetics, shoelaces, glue, reinforcements, hardware, logos, midsoles, outsoles, and more!

We have included annotated cross-sections of over 30 different shoe types. You can see exactly how each material is used inside real production shoes. Look inside basketball shoes, running shoes, track spikes, hiking boots, work boots, high heels, cowboy boots, and many more!  Check it out!