Shoe Designer: how to become one, professional profile and training requirements

shoe designer


In this article we wish to provide a complete overview on the study path as well as the necessary formula to become a shoe design talent.

Shoe Designer: which tasks involves?

Shoe designers draw footwear for their own line or for the brand they work for and lend their skills, using their aesthetic and product knowledge in fashion, design and footwear. Shoe designers generally follow educational paths that allow them to become familiar with drawing and design software.

Read also: Software for shoe designers and technical drawing

Essential information to become a Shoe Designer

Shoe Designers use their knowledge of footwear trends, sample making, materials and design to conceptualize and develop new footwear. Aspiring shoe designers who complete a Bachelor degree or technical training program may have a competitive advantage in the labor market. It is above all through attending practical and operational classes that they can effectively learn all the techniques and secrets to become a successful shoe designer, so as to have the opportunity to showcase their talent within the job market.

Generally speaking, professional designers should also constantly develop and implement their own portfolio of work, containing their own collections, to show potential companies and brands their skills.

Career profile for a shoe designer

From conceptualisation to the final product, designers create shoes for new or existing shoe lines. Using their extensive knowledge of industry trends, design concepts, patterns and materials, they draw designs by hand or with the assistance of computer-aided design (CAD) software. Once the projects are completed, a prototype is created, perfected and used to create samples for industry fairs and portfolios. The level of practical involvement of shoe designers throughout the design process depends on their level of experience and the size of the company they work for.

Training requirements for footwear designers

Aspiring shoe designers can complete design-related study programs, but it certainly isn’t enough to own an in-depth education; as a matter of fact, a well-rounded  professional in the footwear industry should also have the right knowledge of footwear pattern making. To go into the details of shoe making, there are a few subjects and topics that will help you develop your skills in practice:


  • Making. From last analysis to proportional measurements, it is necessary that the professional shoe pattern maker and designer know how to cover the last with masking tape, remove it and flatten it on the cardboard to create the base shell. From this it will be possible to apply the necessary springs to prepare the standard for the specific model, as well as drawing the style lines on the flattened standard (being either the upper or lining standard) and finally get the pieces with all the technical details useful and necessary for cutting, preparation, stitching and lasting.
  • Knowledge of materials. In addition to the knowledge of proportional measurements of lasts and different systems used for measuring sizes and fits, it is necessary for professionals to know different materials, such as leathers. In detail, it is advisable for professionals to know which finishes are available on the market and how to use the same leather in the production phase, for example in cutting the different parts of the models into shapes, with the aim of optimising consumption while maintaining the aesthetics and quality of the footwear.
  • Prototype of the footwear. It is also important that the aspiring shoe designer and/or pattern maker know how to make his own upper, last it on the last together with the lining, glue the bottom, heel and sole and finally finish the shoe.


It should be noted that making is not a marginal knowledge and work of a shoe designer, but is in fact the crucial asset to understand the real composition of a shoe. Understanding this passage is fundamental to access the labour market, as skills related to shoe making are increasingly appreciated and sought after by employers.

Footwear designers. What to do after your studies?


It is certainly important to be able to put your skills into practice into work right away. An opportunity suitable for all is certainly to undertake an internship at a company or design studio. The advice we would like to give you is to present you to the interviews not only with an updated curriculum vitae but also and above all with your own portfolio, which include mood boards and in case of luxury very well accomplished drawings.

The shoe factory

Spending time in the factory is a core for a professional of the shoe industry. In environments very close to production you can deepen what you have learned about shoe pattern making during your studies. It is right inside the factory that a shoe takes shape and it is here that a designer’s sketches take on consistency.

Launching your own collection…YES, but not too soon

It makes sense to think that the end of your studies in shoe pattern making/making or design has as its ultimate goal the marketing of your shoe collection. But be careful not to jump too early and with little experience, as the risk of having a flop is undoubtedly very high. Let’s borrow a symbolic phrase from Sophia Webster, a well-known footwear designer:

“You have to make as much experience as possible and make mistakes, but with other people’s budgets”.

Building your own network

In fashion as in all work sectors, it is important to build relationships. Craftsmen, manufacturers and suppliers are the basis of the work of a professional shoe designer, as these figures are the very source of his craft and in part determine the success of the brand.

Tenacity, creativity and ambition

We want to conclude this article with these three keywords that should be the basis of all the dreams of a designer. The three nouns are and always will be the thread that binds and brings to the top the success of a person in the field of fashion.

Always remember that:

Success comes when opportunity meets preparation”.

Zig Ziglar

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