Nike Trail Concept

I think maybe a reason mid-cut trail shoes are so rare is because, ultimately, the demand for a shoe that’s cooler and lighter tends to trump the desire for ankle support, especially when most trail shoes are bought for casual wear and light hiking. Could that be the case?

Traveler9, great point. In watching the “Just For Kicks” documentary last summer, I ascertained that 60% of the basketball sneakers purchased at retail are used casually–not on the hardwood or asphalt. I am certainly not besetting or assailing shoe companies with criticism, but certainly, if profits would be larger, would a company skimp out on performance possibilities to adress a more voguish, fashionable shoe?

In any regard, the Salomon GCS Pros look very interesting and comfortable.

These are a couple of my favorite designs:

Montrail D7:

Tecnica Escape Low:

My comment about casual wear was just an add-on. I think customers are looking for lighter cooler shoes even for performance purposes. Another factor is that mid- or high-cut shoes are simply more foreign to track/running sports than in court sports.

Hey Guys,

Any comments on my sketch? Am I headed in the right direction?



Your proportions are better, but it looks more like a court shoe or crosstrainer than some of your earlier ideas. I don’t think the piecing is working very well on this one either. Here’s why, I think…

Running shoe piecing—both road and trail—is typically designed with more logical, trussed piecing. Most overlays (or straps), whether curved or straight, in a running shoe connect to some other element of the shoe that benefits from that connection. This is because a typical running shoe has mesh panels, and requires very strategic trussing between high stress areas.

Court shoes, by contrast, being made mostly of leather, can function fine without those truss structures, and are better suited for more organic piecing like you used in this sketch.


I think this thread has become loaded with images of trail shoes and I am not sure if its answer your questions or helping.

When looking at all your designs I could go in many directions with feedback. But am not sure if that is going to help. for me would be helpful/ could be helpful for you as well is to start from the beginning before the sketch and start to put this together.

couple questions:
I think to start with who is wearing your shoe.
is it for a male or female/ age
what activities are they doing?
how long or often will they be doing these activities.
climate/ cold/ hot/ wet/ dry/
common issues or injuries connected with activity

the list goes on…but I think you get the idea. We all can keep this thread going with you posting a sketch and then a post of a shoe on the market an cycle continues. I think to make more progress it will be good to better understand what we are trying to accomplish and why.

what I am getting at is what research has been done for the shoe aside from looking at visuals that other brands have done. dig deeper and begin to answer some of the questions mentioned above and I think you will start to see problems. With these problems you can begin to solve them with your designs. This is more of a now to 5 yr design approach. You could explore the future of outdoor footwear as well and you might take us into a new world, one that maybe is reacting to a now rapid changing environment.

what are some of your thoughts on materials?

would be helpful on your posts also to maybe list 4-5 things that your sketch is trying to solve or tech call outs. example solutions to better fit, durability, flexibility, breathability, cost, customization. with this I think would create more detailed feedback from us. We will be able to put more attention to details and work them out together.

as you mentioned in your first post about trying something outside of basketball I think this is a good move and better to see you challenging yourself.

be well


One trick I find in designing any type of shoes for a particular category is first finding out what “defines” shoes in that category. Already lots of the things have been mentioned (proportion, pattern, materials, colors, collar height, toe cap shapes, etc.). Once you learn the often repeated shapes, forms, etc. then it is that much easier to use these in new ways, redefine common elements and mix new with old.

One “rule” i usually guide new designers with, I call “3 new, 3 familiar”. I suggest that if you use 3 common things in a shoe tied to that category (such as proportion, construction, color, a toe cap, materials, etc.), and mix it with 3 “new” things, then the shoe will be balanced between understandable/commercial and different/innovative. Too much familiar and the design is boring and doesnt stand out, and too much new and the design is too challenging and doesnt relate to the consumer or product category.

As a start, I find this is a good way to get a feeling for the “rules” and mix creativity with reality.

Too often, I find younger footwear designers have this balance off, and go either too far out (anit-gravity, magic fastener, space boot looking designs,) or too safe (looks like everything already out there). Finding this balance is important I believe to channel your creativity into useable, fresh, portfolio work.

Here’s a challenge (i’m actually also working on this exercise for a tutorial for my blog- will post the results soon)-

  1. take an existing design from any type of shoe.

  2. redraw this shoe to fit in different categories (ie. running, basketball, trail, court, etc.) changing the pattern as little as possible but still making the new design fit to the category.

start this exercise with just linework. Its more difficult if you dont use color.

Doing this, you will quickly find out the things that can make any design “feel” right to the product category. A good way to decode a product category and product DNA.


Wow, Mark and Rich just dropped MAD SCIENCE up in here! That may be the 2 most noteworthy paragraphs on design that I have ever read! Great job guys and soak it up, Ben!


here’s and example of that excercise i just did in about 5 min. based on your upper design. you can see i changed the design just a bit for each type of shoe, and hinted at materials with just some light shading.

hopefully you get the idea.


Wow, that is some amazing advice guys. I seriously feel obligated to design the best trail runner ever after you took the time to share all of that.

Mark, good critiques. I really didn’t think through those questions before I started. I figured they would answer themselves. Bad decision I guess. I put some thought into the questions you asked.

  1. The shoe would be for men.
  2. The activities would be running, and hiking on trails and non-concrete surfaces. The shoe should also be versatile enough so that you can wear it casually on concrete/wood, etc…
  3. The wearer would probably wear the shoe for an hour a day. They may also wear the shoe casually, so the shoe’s outsole shouldn’t have any features that could damage any everyday surface.
  4. I figured the climate would be very hot and humid, so ventilation and fit would be key.
  5. Having run on trails myself, I must say MY most common injuries are sprained ankles. The varying terrain can cause some stability issues. I think the shoe should also have a mid top version, and even a supportive heel counter and base to prevent these issues. I’ve also found that shoes with mesh toes tend to tear pretty quickly on trails. I think maybe a perforated toe would prevent that issue but still provide ventilation.

Overall, I would say the main focuses of this design are: Durability, support, stability, ventilation, versatility, and fit.

Ryan: You brought up a good point. Form will always follow function. and in looking back at my most recent sketch, it looks like I was trying to draw something that LOOKED like a trail runner, but it wouldn’t actually function very well as a trail runner.

Rich, awesome critiques and interesting excercise idea. I gave it a shot. I chose MD’s Jordan B’Loyal as the shoe to base the pattern off of:

and here’s my sketch:

I tried to address the main issues that I brought up above in response to Mark’s critiques.

Thanks for the critiques everyone, they help a ton!


I chose MD’s Jordan B’Loyal as the shoe to base the pattern off of:

I thought Kim G designed the B’Loyals…

I chose MD’s Jordan B’Loyal as the shoe to base the pattern off of:

I thought Kim G designed the B’Loyals…

You’re probably right Rich, for some reason I had the impression that MD designed them…

nice sketch! that’s hot!

i could certainly see a trail runner coming out of that. no comments really to improve it. you can try some different concepts and variations, but what you got there is a super pattern and has a good, lightweight trail feel to it.

might need a few more lugs on the outsole side view, but the proportions and upper and sidewall work well together along with the forms and balance of mesh and overlays.

great job! much improved.

now take what you’ve learned in the excercise and keep pushing forward with variations. a good way to progress is to take one element out of your sketch and then maximize it.


Thanks Rich! Do you think it would be inappropriate to continue to develop this sketch into a full design, given that it’s heavily inspired by an existing design?

thats the beauty of the method. i guarantee you that if you developed this style and went full into colors, materials, etc. that in the end nobody would ever know where it was inspired from. even already, i think that anyone would be hard pressed to know the origins.

taking inspiration like this isn’t copying, but using forms, shapes and pattern to your advantage.

i say run with it!


Alright cool. This weekend I’ll try to work on the outsole lugs, and tighten up the materials etc…thanks Rich!

How does this look for the finished design?

It has a breath mesh quarter for ventilation. I added the lace ghilleys for better lockdown and to make the shoe look more like a trail shoe. The stitching on the ghilleys extends down on to the quarter. Bigger lugs have been added to the outsole. The forefoot/midfoot overlay would be made out of a nubuck-esque material. I’m not sure exactly what it is, but it’s used on a lot of trail shoes. Does anyone know the name? Perfs are used instead of mesh to prevent tearing in the toe. The piece surrounding the eyerow is 3M, as is the piece surrounding the toe box. The heel has a semi-transparent heel counter, and the midsole extends up to cradle the heel.

That’s about it…what do you think?

richard thanks for posting those sketches it really helps to see what an actual working sketch looks like as opposed to always seeing renders or more finished drawings. When you say 5 min for those sketches, do you mean 5 min per sketch?

nicely developed design.

will add some more comments later. one thing you may want to consider is the placement/size of the swoosh. would likely be better on the quarter overlapping some panels. in reality, it would be pretty small placed on the toecap as you’ve shown it.

the sketches i showed were really just quick thumbnails. probably 5-10 minutes for the whole page. i wasnt really looking at the clock.

presonally, i normally start with sketches like these or even more loose. generate a lot of concepts quickly for evaluation. im not one much for rendering. dont have the patience.


Good point Richard. Here’s an updated version with a bigger swoosh among other changes.