Sole design


I’ve been a footwear designer for about 7 years working on casual and formal footwear but one area I have not spent a great deal of time perfecting is sole design, namely producing a blueprint.

Can any one give me any advice on a good source to learn this.

Are there any web sites or books that give advice on this, i’m sure i must not be the only person who requests advice on this.

Please help.

scott wills

Scott_ I would be surprised if you find much online, but it is pretty straight forward, especially in lifestyle. Essentially combining basic drafting (orthographics, projections, sections, dims) with footwear best practices (rubber and foam thicknesses, last draft, traction patterns, flex zones, construction types [vulc, cold cement…]). Typically they don’t have to be all that dialed in. I just make sure my last draft is correct, my thicknesses are accurate, side walls have enough bonding margin, and key design detailes are measured. From here the factory should be able to send back a really dialed detailed BP (blueprint) for you to review and redline.

One easy way to start is to ask the factory if they have a BP of a shoe with the same construction on the same or similar last. If they can give you that, you have a great template to start from.

Some basic drafting and architectural drawing books are great to have around as well to see how they dimension things up and draw sections.

Thanks yo, thats a great piece of feed back.

If any one reading this would like to post any examples of sole design layouts that would be a great help.

Great site run by two great designers.



It’s one of those dark arts that they don’t teach you…

I was lucky enough to be coached by a certain Mr Brambilla (ex of Clarks, back then he was at Lacoste and is now at Merrell?)

Things I have learned.

You really, really should get the last as it’s more difficult to get it right without one.
As Yo says, collect every blueprint that you can get your mitts on.
Ask the factory ‘how they prefer to work’ ask if they have any examples of tech specs for outsoles that they liked from other designers that they could send you for your reference. Ask them for old blueprints because you want to see thier way of working.
Scan in the bottom plate from the last and trace it in illustrator for the basis to do your outsole bottom on. ‘Show grid’ and ‘show rulers’
Photograph the last from the side, lateral and medial views, toe and heel views. Place these images in illustrator and trace them, then place the lateral and medial sides either side of the bottom plate, scaling them, using guides 'til they marry up with the bottom plate. This way you will get the proportions of the last. I always say to always ‘cheat’ with shoe design, becauseyou’re not selling artworks, you are trying to make good samples. I’m a stickler for proportion and usually work from photos of lasts as templates for whatever I’m designing, so I can get it spot on.
Use this as a foundation for your tech spec.

If you can’t get a last, try to find a shoe similar in proportions to what you are worknig on and scan that in and work from that instead. That way no artistic license will come into play.

As YO says, you can get all the minimum tolerances measurements from blueprints and copy them without compromising your design.
Bear in mind guidelines for outsole design, Satra issue guidelines for outsole design, if yuor client is a satra member pehaps you could get these? It’s good to bear them in mind.

You don’t need to be able to draw to blueprint standard, you just need to get all the information accross to the factory in an understandable way so that they can make the blueprint.

Will post some pics when I’ve a better internet connection.

You might even be able to get screen grabs of the last in orthographic views if the factory has the last data in 3d… they probably do because they will have to build their 3d file off that at some point.

Hi Shoenista & Yo

Thanks all the information is a great help and shoenista if you do find time to upload some images that would be great.

again thank you