I have been wondering for a while about the idea of interchangeable footwear. I've been doing a little research on how current brands have been pulling it off, and its not very inspiring. The most common way and conventional way of being able to change the upper on a conventional outsole is through a zipper which is sewn onto the inside of the outsole sidewall.
Has anyone ever thought about this market or considered a more interesting way of approaching this idea?
Surely the idea of changing your upper to a nice fresh hi-top from a low chuck tayloresque style without the visual distraction of a huge zip running around the sole would be a pretty cool and ultimately useful purchase for alot of people.
I've seen a lot of concepts, a few brought to market. Nothing successful. I think it is one of those things that is better in theory than in practice.
Footwear is not something that is that expensive if you want to have different styles to complement different looks. The practicality of limiting design by modular elements (ie. can't change outsole or last shape) and the complexity of having to swap parts out and compromise on design to allow for some sort of mechanism accordingly make it a non-starter.
The one concept that comes to mind was the F-50 tuneit. I actually had the system back in highschool.
It came with a couple of different uppers (Different materials, colors), insoles (stability, speed, power), and studs (soft, hard, firm ground). The idea was that you could mix and match the parts to get your custom feel. One flaw was that the studs kept unscrewing, but nothing a bit of loctite didn't fix.
1) cost: to do anything interesting with mechanically interlocking (at least that I thought of) just made tooling so cost prohibitive that you might as well of bought several pairs of shoes.
2) distribution: how do you sell the parts. It is relatively easy to sell in a shoe, but where do you sell parts of shoes. This is not a very good reason mind you, just a reality of the big footwear retailers.
3) patience and persistence: to make sense the product needs to be in the market for an extend period. There is no use buying into a system if that system disappears in a season or two.
The original concept here was to have a modular shoe with three main components, a rubber outsole the mechanically snap fit into a TPU foot form and an inner bootie. Each part could be traded out. The cost of the TPU mold was pretty insane.... it was also the most beautiful mold I had ever seen!
There were a few follow on products that never really saw the light of day.
I was already aware of the Nat2 brand and their interchangeable style and i totally agree with Richard and Michael, that they don't look good. The system they use is so badly executed that it looks cheap, and too bulky. They've essentially got two shoes in one but both on the outsole at the same time which makes it too out of proportion as there is way too much fabric and layering of components going on. I've been approached by a clothing company to come up with some ideas for this type of product ,to compliment their classic, minimalist feel on clothing. I want the shoe to look and feel as natural as possible and to not compromise on the overall look and simplicity because of the interchangeability. I'm thinking of developing 2 initial products. Both uppers on the products will disconnect via zip [still thinking about this one] at the most forward point of the eyelet/facing panel and zip round to the other side to remove the upper. This means that the outsole will have the toecap/vamp connected and possibly tongue [this could be interchangeable too] as i think if the toe/vamp is lasted onto the sole the shoe will look much more conventional from the wearers perspective and also on display which i believe is important. The first consideration is a lo top which i'm thinking should have a common projects "achilles" look, which will transform into a rather nice hi-top. The second option is going to be same construction, but again two different uppers styles, but due to the panelling on these styles the other two uppers from the first option will not fit this kit. So all in all you have 4 footwear styles [for the time being] across two kits. Development process will begin soon...
It depends entirely on the size of the component. I've opened a TPU mould recently for a heel stabiliser which will be used on an EVA running shoe which was a couple hundred dollars. We then need to open the size run for production as the stabiliser obviously gets bigger each size you go up. We've opened production moulds for a tech running sole as well which was around 10K dollars.
TPU tools typically are pretty inexpensive for a component. Often with a heel piece they are the same part from left to right shoe, so there are some savings here as well.
With the Newson shoe, the mold had to fit the entire shoe, so it was quite large. To get all of the circles radiating in every direction, it was a 5 part mold, with a solid core. Duplicate that cost for the left and the right shoe, now duplicate that cost for each size of the shoe... $$$ Now make molds for the inserts as well that mechanically snap in...not sure what the dollars and cents were.