Do shoe designer use CAD?

In reading the boards here for a few months I have noticed that most shoe designers have really impressive sketching, photoshop and illustrator skills, but what about CAD? Is it important for aspiring shoe designer to be familiar with 3D modeling programs? I have noticed a few technical drawings for tread patters, and material call out in various individual portfolios, but nothing showing cut patterns, etc.

So what does a shoe designers deliverable to the manufacture look like? Would any one be willing to post one so I could see it? Further more would any shoe designer here be wiling to break down the % of time the spend doing the various stages of design?

The majority of shoe designers I have met don’t do much CAD. Alot of them do sketches and 2D layouts which are sent overseas to China or Vietnam. The contract manufacturing factory usually comes back with the CAD database. Wah Lah!

Generally we don’t use 3D. Everything is submitted to suppliers as an engineering drawing. Sole units are highly complex and need dedicated experts to work in 3D. It’s also slow and expensive for us. 1 Designer in a brand vs 50 full time CAd users in a factory. 3D is just not quick enough. We can move from a 2D drawing to a shell pattern pretty quickly too. There are some add on programs for Rhino to curl out shell patterns from 3D drawings but I have no idea how / who / if these are used.

I do kind of miss 3D though…

We don’t use 3D generally no, I was trained on shoemaster as a student, but TBH, it tends to be used in projects where fit is more important (I know Clarks use it quite heavily).

I’d say that Sneaker designers use the computer more than fashion footwear designers, there are plenty in Europe who have only ever used paper, when you have to generate a large amount of ideas in a short space of time, you can’t spend a day on a rendering - It’s not unusual to make 30 or 40 ideas then sample all of them!

A sample can be turned round in such a short space of time, theres no point in making 3D cads, the sample would be done in no time anyway.

If I do work in 3d, its drawing directly onto a taped up last, to get the proportions exactly right. This is then used to make the standard,from which all the upper patterns are cut. I can pattern cut, but its not cost effective for me to do so, it’s done in the factory,I may get involved in pattern work if the factory isn’t getting it right but it’s unusual.

When I designed sneakers for Ellesse in the mid nineties we didn’t even use Illustrator then! It ws all hand skeched and faxed off!

Theres an explaination of the design process (including a taped up last)that I go through and some specifications to the factory in my portfolio on there. (Link below)

You´re right shoenista,but it´ll be interesting to have 3-D CAD skills.

Under my experience,we do work with Corel Draw,(company rules),sketch,vector work,colour and plastic effect,an average of 1hour/1model.

I did some renders for my company trying to explain what Photoshop can offer to the company,to the presentations,they´re really impressed with the results.

But my bosses are a little bit worried about the time I spent making the renders,it was just 6hours,but if you compare it with the one hour/1model of Corel Draw,I think they won´t leave that program.

Everything is a question of time,less design time,more designs to get

Billy is right: if you take more than one hour a model, the client gets twitchy and starts worrying about the cost. Especially with freelance - I can’t hang about!

NB this doesn’t apply to performance sports - they can spend much more time…

:open_mouth: an hour per model wow thats some throughput.

Thanks for the insight guys (and gals)!

working mostly in the built environment I find the idea of not doing CAD work foreign.

Theres more than one reason it’s called Fast Fashion! :laughing:

You have to look at it these terms - how many new shoe styles do you see in the market place a year? How many new cars? Whats the longevitey of these products?

If we spent as long as other IDers on our products, the shoe shops would have bare shelves!

Footwear companies will often design and sample as much as 80% more product that they need.


In the company that I´m working for,we make a huge amount of designs every season,I´ve never counted before,but it´s like 1thousand models/season,(more or less),(several brands),2seasons…so you can imagine.

We do all fashionable styles,including running shoes,cricket shoes and basket shoes for children.

It´s really stressing,coz you have to run,but it´s fun and challenging,never know what are you going to do after one hour.

After doing some research on 3d modeling software I found this program called modo 302. You can model, paint, and render all in one program. You can also use it on MAC or PC. Check out this 3d model

After seeing this image I’d say 3d modeling isn’t a waste of time in the foot wear industry. The shoe looks pretty damn nice to me! Here are some more details on Modo.

Be sure to watch the 2 minute video.

nice model, but useless really.


I really don’t understand how 3d modeling is useless in the shoe industry? If you have an experienced fast modeler it can be utilized to save time before building a prototype sample just like in any other field of ID. With a 3d model you can understand the proportions, shape, and contours of an object a lot more than a 2d rendering.

I’m not in the shoe industry, so I guess I don’t understand. Maybe 3d modeling isn’t worth the time.

really its just that it takes a lot of time, and doesn’t help much. typically, a 2d illustration is more than enough to get a feel for the product, and a real sample pullover can be made quite quickly (within a week) from the drawings/specs. 3d models (at least as far as I know, and most commercial modelling software) also doesn’t help generate any useful pattern info that can be translated to pattern-making (usually its just the skillful eye of a pattern maker, taking into account things like lasting stretch, material types, etc.), so the geometry isn’t of use downstream in sampling/production as it would be in an injection molded product (where the model can also be used as a basis for tooling CAD).

in the end, lots also have to do with the infrastructure and speed of the industry. as mentioned, it is often the case where many products are designed, then sampled, and review goes from there. also given that most production (for athletic at least) is done in asia, where the labor cost for sampling are far less than paying a designer to model up some cad… not to mention the costs of the apps and having an experienced, fast cad guy on staff.

i dont know, but wouldn’t be surprised if perhaps some of the larger companies (ie. nike, etc.) may use 3d modeling at some intermediate stage for a high profile product, but for the large part, it just doesnt have enough value for the majority of the industry in my experience…


You do have a point, but as the original poster stated the sole has to be modeled in 3d.

Shoe patterns are cut by making a standard which is actually 2D, so 3D isn’t going to help the pattern cutter.

As everyone says, it’s time - I can have a range of eight shoes ready for the factory in a day, they can have the samples done by the end of the week.

A real shoe in your hand is always going to be a lot better than a 3D CAD.

You cannot fit or wear trial a CAD, essential stages once you have the sample in your hands - a 3D CAD does nothing except delay the critical path - most of my clients work on tight enough timescales as it is.

Having said that, was contacted by someone last year who was considering using 3D on their womens fashion etail website, in order to offer styles that had not been sampled yet. But I can see that that’s not a good idea either - until you’ve made the sample, you’ve got no idea if the design will fit , or what you adjustments you’ll need to make - you could end up manufaturing a shoe that no one can walk in!

I think the best use of 3D in footwear would be to put a little in your portfolio - its not gonna hurt and would give it some wow factor, but don’t expect them to want you to do it once you’ve got the job!


Now I see your point, I totally agree. Its just like sewing gloves for the hands, you want a perfect fit. You wouldn’t want to model a glove in 3d then work off that model. The glove would most likely NOT fit properly, hence the statement, “fits like a glove” can be applied to the footwear industry as well.

Thanks for the enlightenment on how things actually get accomplished in the footwear industry.

so is a pull over just as it sounds? The shell of a new shoe pulled over an existing shoe?

this is a very talked about topic among many of my design friends that are still students, they have the same arguments that have been stated here, but it has already been said that it pretty much comes down to time and money, if we were really in a crunch i could just send a nice clean line sketch that takes 10 minutes to do and have a prototyped upper back from china in the next week, and the cost of all that would be MUCH less than paying someone in house the rate that it would take to model it in 3d, which from what i’ve heard the people that are doing nice 3d work now on footwear are spending over a week to get it looking the way it should.

All of our work in cad for outsoles is done in the factory for a fraction of the cost. And besides all of that the people who are not designers who will be looking at prorotypes can see the best 3d model in the world and will just be like “ok, cant wait to see the sample”.

yup, sole is done in 3d, eventually by the tooling shop. 2d drawings are provided and then they convert to 3d taking into account the last shape, requirements for shrink and such for the different materials, etc.

again, im sure some companies may do it 3d, but most often (even at the larger companies to my knowledge), the majority is done 2d by the designers and 3d by the fty. again just a time/cost thing, when a 3d guy in china is way less costly than one at HQ.