" What does footwear design entail"

It is difficult to describe footwear designers in one short sentence, as what they do vary from company to company, and country to country.


In essence it is a person who creates footwear through contribution of just an idea or through variouse processes which contribute to the creation of new footwear to realise an idea. The important part is that this idea or processes need to be based on solid technical footwear principles.  Following are the processes a shoe designer should be able to execute and also the knowledge the designer should have.

Creating the footwear concept

The footwear designer must have the ability to sketch footwear and put the concept down on paper. Sketching is therefore an essential part of the work. 

The Footwear Design School has tried and tested methods through which we teach learners to sketch footwear. 

Attention to detail and knowledge of fashion and trends is extremely important. The school provides up to date fashion trends to its students on a monthly basis.

Concepts can be done on CAD systems like Romans CAD (which the school has the South African agency for) but is too expensive for the individual or small business.

It also does not have as good lines as the manual system.

Designer keep to your Shoe lasts

The shoe designer bases all his designs around the internal volume of the shoe. This volume is determined by a shoe last. The designer cannot work outside this parameter hence the afrikaans saying “skoenmaker, hou by jou lees” or “shoemaker, keep to your last”

The shoe last, not only determines the size and fit of the shoe, but also the heel height and toe shape. Each type of footwear’s last has its own characteristics and the designer needs to know which shoe last he needs to obtain, and how to check it.

Very few designers have the ability to make their own shoe lasts, so the designers usually outsource this operation.

The Footwear Designer and shoe patterns

Good patterns are essential for good footwear. In larger companies this operation is sourced out to patterncutters.

A good designer will however insist that he makes at least his own standard “W” which is a 2D version of the lasts surface.

He will also do his standards which is a copy and manipulated version of the standard W with the style lines of the shoe on. These style lines are the details that will appear on the shoe. These lines are what makes the difference between a good Italian shoe and something from the east.

Even if patterncutting is outsourcedin larger factories, the designer still needs to know exactly how to do it so he can design footwear that is easily manufactured, comfortable and strong.

Bad patterns will cause a multitude of problems, for example, a pattern that is only 3 to 5mm  too small will cause the toe of the shoe to curl up and the shoe will collapse and not retain its shape. Incorrect patterns will also cause bad fitting shoes.

Pattern cutting is thus a key skill the designer must possess.

Patterns can also be done on CAD


There are a multidude of different materials used in footwear, from leathers to synthetics. 

Each materil  has it own characteristics. Just amongst leathers we have a multitude of different hides and skins that are tanned a mutitude of ways and again all finished differently.

The same goes for Synthetics and woven natural materials like cotton.

The designer must stay up to date with all these materials, experiment with them and be able to communicate with the suppliers in order for them to produce the correct products.

When it comes to functional footwear like safety boots these materials get more and more high tech and complex.

The designer therefore has to know how all these materials are manufactured and what their properties are.

The footwear designer and components

Components are an essential part of the design of a shoe. Most styles are designed for a sole and not the other way round. The designer must be able to put his concepts onto paper so that a sole manufacturer can make the model for them. 

Very few designers make their own sole models and moulds but need to know the process, so he knows what is doable and what is not.

Trims like buckles, are also designed and outsourced to trim manufacturers.

The designer and shoemaking

Expecting someone to design and aeroplane if he does not know how an aeroplane works would be rediculous. The same goes for footwear.

The designer needs to understand exactly how shoes are assembled in the manfacturing prosess. It is therefore also essential that the designer is aware of all the things that might go wrong in the factory, so that he can design around it.

We at the school teach the students every step of the process so that they can assemble the shoe themself.

The footwear designer and research

This is probably one of the favorite 

Young cobbler with unfinished boot sitting by his workplace and looking at camera

Footwear designers and Technologists are a niche market skill which is very rare in South Africa. It requires the ability to create concepts, put these concepts down onto paper and transfer the concepts into 2D patterns and from there on into a prototype. 

There is currently a shortage for good designers and technologists who can employed into retail as well as manufacturing sectors.

There are a multitude of opportunities for footwear entrepereneurs in South Africa. From small start-ups to large investment opportunities. 

Freelance designers with a good eye for the market is always in demand in the footwear industry. Small scale start-ups have proven very successful over many years and have delivered a multitude of multi millionairs. 

Just in the last five to seven years we have seen a multitude of small brands rise from no where of which our students are the leaders.

Due to the exchange rate and local demand for localised products this is becomming a more viable business by the day.

The is no hobby as satisfying as making footwear. Once the first shoe is made, the bug has bitten.

From just a sideline hobby to keep you busy or an retirement hobby for some extra income, shoemaking is the utimate answer. 

We have allumni that are retired and making shoes for fun and to keep the motor skills going and the brains alive.


Our Pricing

10 Month Part Time Satuday Classes

R5000 p/m

Starts: Jauary and June

  • All stationery

  • All tools

  • All materials

  • Online learning access

  • Ongoing Assistance

  • Light lunches

8 Week Full Time Morning Classes

R50 000

Starts: January, April, August, October

  • All stationery

  • All tools

  • All materials

  • Online learning access

  • Ongoing assistance

  • -

  • -

Make-a-Shoe Workshops

R1 500 to R 3 000

Workshops are hosted on special request.

  • Variouse styles to choose from

  • All materials and components

  • Light lunch and refreshmants

  • All fun and smiles


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