Creating a Shoe

Hi guys! I was wondering if anyone had any ideas or could help me out with creating a prototype of a shoe for a school project! For my final school project, I am designing a basketball shoe and was hoping to be able to actually create it if possible. I am a college kid so I would like to make it as cheap as possible, but I do know it will come with a cost. Just thought it might be worth at least checking out! Thanks guys!

Do you have a concept fleshed out?

Yes! I am creating the shoe for Jewell Loyd. If you don’t know, she is the Point Guard for the Seattle Storm. I will have the final design within the next few weeks.

What is the purpose of your prototype? Is it for visual appearance only? Is it for look and feel (IE must be in proper materials for the upper, but tooling might not be rubber/foam), or is it a functioning prototype? If you are not making it yourself it is going to be expensive. The only way to make it not expensive is to do most of it yourself.

If the model is for appearance only I’d recommend just 3d printing it.

If you want actual materials you will have to source those materials. Then I would buy a similar sized shoe and do a tape up. A tape up is when you cover the shoe in masking tape and the draw the new design overtop. Then carefully cut the tape up off the shoe, cut the pieces into individual part, flatten them out and you have a rough pattern. Add some stitching allowance and you can cut and sew a new upper. This will be very challenging if you haven’t done it before. The tape up part is easy, but sewing a new upper and lasting (attaching) it to a 3d printed foam tool is difficult. There are several shoe making courses that would likely help:

A few examples of tape ups I googled.

I am mostly looking for a prototype to shoe functionality. Since the shoe I am designing is projected to release in 2024, and a lot of the materials are Nike specific materials (Flyknit, React cushioning etc), I won’t actually be able to get my hands on those materials. I think that the tape up method would work pretty well! I might just use simple but similar materials to get the functioning I want to show. I would love to actually create it, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that I would need access to materials I simply can not get right now.

  1. Prototyping functionality is going to be near impossible. Even a sample made at a shoe factory is typically tough to test as may not have the correct processes that require expensive molds and materials.

  2. The materials you mention are out now. I’d bet there will be something better and newer in 2024. If you are designing for the future why are you limiting yourself to materials that were probably developed 5 years ago?

  3. I’d also suggest 3D printing, or learning how to sew (machine) and last by hand. You might be able to at least proto the pattern and test some sort of fit and function outside of the materials and advanced tech.

  4. What is the brief for the project? What does your school want you to achieve? I’ve seen several school projects where the students desire to make a shoe is not a match with what they are supposed to be learning or far surpasses the available time or goals of the project…

…If you’ll have your final design in a few weeks, how long have you worked on it? How long is the prototype phase? The project? What process have you gone through in design so far?


All good points posted. After your concept is fleshed out, I would try to find a comparable sneaker silhouette and create a tape up.

Next I would flatten that tape up and cut your upper panels and pick the materials that closely match what your trying to make. Gives you a chance to practice sewing. Etc.

As far as your OS, its cheaper to 3d model, foam-mock or even make a clay model. Keep in mind your hand make concept will be for aesthetic purposes only as people have said prior. The whole exercise will give you a better perspective and insight into designing footwear. I would learn as much as you can about duty structures, designing for percentage as well as costs. All are extremely important for a career in footwear design.