Shoe Prototyping

Chello Yall

I have some questions to ask to those in the game and outside of the game. Im working on a shoe project for school and was wondering what is needed to get your 2D work into 3D cad for a model shop to make. I have come across some web sites but wanted to know what you talent people do to get stuff made besides going over seas.

If anyone else had some 3D work such as IGS foot scans or something that would be good to.


The first thing I would ask- is what exactly are you looking to do: are you trying to have a one off sample, or do you just need to mock something together. Either way- it’s really not going to be that cheap. I would also need to know what kind of shoe your designing for your project (ie- hiking, athletic, casual, dress).

Here are a few thoughts though:
Patternmaking- this is a bit a a lost art, even the factories only have a few people talented enough to do it… but one thing you could do is create a template for the pattern. One method of doing this is to take masking tape or a medium adhesive tape and completely cover a similar shaped shoe to what you’re final shoe could be. You can then follow your design until you have drawn on a replica of the overlays, stitch lines ect. The tape can be carefully removed and reapplied to a more firm surface- like file folder card stock. Cut carefully around the patterns, then you have flat shapes which you can use to cut out the material.

Shoemaking- Once here with all your materials laid out, you can attempt to sew the layers of upper, overlays, foxing ect. At this point- you need a last to at least try to form the materials. (good luck here). But really, it’s a matter of heat and force to wrap materials around.

Final part- the sole. This is where you might get lucky depending on the kind of shoe you are designing. There are some places in the States, that can re-sole a shoe… such as dress shoe, and hiking boots. Vibram has a approval cobbler program- that might be a place to start, some Redwing stores offer the capability too.

Sorry to sound redundant- but all this would vary depending on the kind of shoe you’re designing. And just because I don’t want to catch a case- I WOULD NOT RECOMMEND TRYING THIS AT HOME! That means NO CONVENTIONAL OVEN, or anything of the likes. Hopefully you would be working on this around someone who has experience and can make sure you don’t stitch your fingers together, or sand off the tips of your fingers while trying to schive the stitch and turns.

With all that said- Good luck.! Offer a picture when you’re done. Oh- and try Poser for a foot model to work from… this is not quite a last, but maybe help get you closer to your needs.

It sounds more like he wants to make a 3d file to have a hard model milled out?

Is that correct? This is something that is more frequently done these days to get a quick look, but I doubt you are going to get any good 3d data to start as a frame work. I saw you where requesting some IGES files of feet… shoes are not built around feet, they are built around lasts which are abstractions of feet that in some cases date back a few hundred years. The shape of the shoe is entirely dependent on the last.

I would recommend buying a shoe that has a overall shape you like… not the design of the shoe itself, the shape of it.

From here you can pour plaster into the shoe. Line the shoe with a plastic bag, and pour plaster into that. You will probably have to cut the shoe off to get the plaster out. Sand and fill the plaster so it is smooth and you will have a close approximation to the last of that shoe.

You can slice that plaster last up so you can scan cross sections and re-construct the last in 3d to build your shoe around.

As far as your original question, a lot of what I deliver depends on how good the team is on the project and what the project is. With some modelers and pastern makers I can hand off sketches with a few hand drawn sections and they will get it. With other teams I hand off very detailed illustrator drawings with cross sections drawn to the last form, upper construction sections, all kinds of details…

my question would be “what do you want to achieve?”

If this is for a school project, is there a requirement that you need to do a 3D computer model? or just need a 3d physical model?

From my perspective, a 3d computer model is sorta a waste of time. Not that often in my experience will a full 3d model of a shoe design be done as most of the process is still done by old school drawings, sketches and patternmarking as has been mentioned. Outsole/midsole would have a 3d model for tooling, but thats a little bit different.

If you just need an appearance model, i would do 1 of 2 things-

  1. make the entire thing out of foam, clay or wood, and just paint it up to look like the appropriate materials. basically you would make a sculpture of a shoe that could show your design. You might not be able to get too accurate in dimensional shape, but you could also use a similar method to Yo’s last casting as a start if you wanted to.

  2. Go the hand made method as per jbhitman. For the outsole, you may want to go a more solid route in wood, possibly even CNC if you have the resources and could then 3d model this part, and do the rest by traditional pattern/shoemaking methods.

    maybe if you could provide some more background to the project or what you are trying to get, it could help.

My only additional comment is to remember that CAD or any technology is only a tool. I have seen to many young designers making things too complicated for themselves designing an upper in 3D cad for no reason, other then they can, when a 2d sketch would be just as useful in real life…


as far as i know (which is very little!) is the only part(s) of of a shoe that 3d data is necessary is the outsole and any molded parts? to answer your question, i believe you could use export to an .stl file to a 3d printer so if your school has a rapid prototyping machine you might be able to have it printed but i do not really think it is worth it, the end product comes out pretty rough and there is a limit to how complex of a part it can “print” you would probably be better off with foam core…

someone at work asked me why 3d programs were not widely used by footwear designers, i am explained quite awkwardly that 3d is time intensive compared and the return would not be that helpful being that most of the materials involved and the processes used to put shoes together are still very labor intensive…

though i think it would be cool if there were a 3d program that included a last library that you could draw over & manipulate like a zbrush type thing and could essentially “print” upper pieces…that would be sweet!

Thank you. Ok

This is a school project and we have to have a final model to display. I know 3d is not a HUGE thing in the shoe world. I have some detail Ill files that im working on and was trying to have that coverted into some type of 3D work.

The other thing is that this has been a rocky road with little to work around. I will post my stuff later on and maybe that will give a better picture.

What YO said is what im trying to do. I came by this website that takes your 2d work and converts it to 3D:

Im just trying to create a appereaces model and thank you for all the feedback guys and will keep yall posted.

Its a new type of lify style shoe.


A student won an IDSA IDEA a few years back with this hard model of a footwear concept:

I would just make it by hand… probably faster… carve a little renshape, it’ll be fun.

^^ agreed. definitely by hand would be likely quicker, more fun, and you would also probably learn more about the form and pattern than doing anything by 3d.

It’s also closer to what you may do as a designer in the industry, similar to drawing on a last or a taped up model. All the effort to be put into a 3d model is kinda a waste in my opinion.