September 5, 2019

Best Shoe Designing Skills Needed, Shoemaking or Drawing?

Shoe designing and being a good shoe designer you don't need perfect drawing skills, what you need is shoemaking skills that will help you to design shoes. The conventional opinion that to be a shoe designer and for designing a shoe, you need to have great drawing skills.

It is misleading. 

In this post, I will show you that designing shoes that are beautiful and comfortable should be achieved with shoe making skills and pattern making skills.   

 I will show you how being a technically skilled person in shoe making, will help you to become a better shoe designer and designing shoes just the way you want.

Shoe Designer Must Be...

Yes, it says that to be a shoe designer you need to know the fashion trends, to have knowledge about different materials suitable in shoe design etc. But the truth is that most of the shoe designers follow the leaders in the footwear sector and just copy what they have done. 

This is what they mean by saying ‘’know the fashion trends’’. To know the fashion trends you need to search what BIG shoe designers made, visit  different shoe fairs like ‘’MICAM’’ and others, search for new materials at ‘’LINEAPELLE’’, for example. Yes, you can do it, to know what's going on in the footwear and fashion world, but this is not what will make you a real shoe designer, in my opinion.

To be a remarkable shoe designer and not to be just a copy-paste of what your colleges ‘’great shoe designers’’ have done, gain real shoe making skills. 

Now, to explain how certain skills can make you a better shoe designer, I made a simple graph.

 Here I show you the common levels of designing shoes in different footwear making activities.

The higher number, better shoe design skills person has.

Then I will demonstrate to you that it doesn’t matter which level you will want to gain, your technical skills will help you to design shoes.

shoe designer progress graph

Let’s start from the top! Design skills that shoe designer at the factory must-have. 

1.Show Designer At Shoe Factory 

To explain it better, I want to give you a small example from my experience working as a shoe designer in some Italian factory. 

I met there a chief shoe designer that knew all technical shoemaking steps more than actual pattern makers, shoemakers and every other technical person involved in the process of making shoes. 

When I started to work with this shoe designer I already knew well pattern making and some shoemaking techniques.  But during my work with this shoe designer, I was surprised to realize that many of my shoe designs were technically difficult to make and sometimes impossible, in the sense of mass production. 

See some of my shoe designs that couldn't fit in the production, because they were too complicated and required a lot of time to produce.

Shoe design of boots on heels
Sveta Kletina High heel boot design

My knowledge of the technical process of making shoes and knowing of shoe pattern-making helped me but not enough. I spent some time working together with the chief shoe designer until I understood the requirements of the factory.

If I would be a shoe designer that knew only how to draw and didn't know anything about shoemaking process, I would spend a lot of time as a stager. I wouldn't be working as an independent shoe designer that creates products needed for the factory.

This is one of the important aspects of being a footwear designer in shoe manufacture. This is an example of being capable to create something that is easy to do in big quantities.

By being a shoe designer at the factory you need to know every step of the shoemaking conveyor of this shoe factory.

It was an example from my experience and maybe it can help you if your dream is to be a shoe designer at some footwear company. 

So to become a good shoe designer you need to have good technical knowledge that you can gain in a few shoemaking schools, like Arsutoria, for example.

If you want to find best shoe school for you to learn footwear design check this post ‘’11 Criteria for choosing the best school to learn footwear design’’. I listed here the most important criteria, in my opinion, you should take in your account in choosing a good school to learn footwear design.

2. Designing Shoes And having Your Own Shoe line  

I am sure that not everybody of you desires to be a shoe designer at some factory but wants to design shoes and to have your own footwear line.

Even if you plan to hire some shoemaker to make shoes you designed or to find a shoe manufacturer to produce for you, you still should have a good knowledge of the entire shoemaking process. 

Let’s see why you, as a shoe designer, need to have a full understanding of the process.

The Money factor, Time, Satisfaction, and Results

All these 4 factories I placed together as they are closely related to each other and I can separate them.

Yes, it is not new for you, I am sure, that money is a big factor in any production. 

So, your technical shoemaking knowledge can save you a lot of money, because

  • When designing a shoe, you can understand how much leather your shoe pattern will need and you can change it according to your budget
  • If you will design shoes with a complicated pattern, it will cost you a lot in production. So you can change the shoe design if you don’t have enough budget for it.
  • You should know that only the development of the prototypes of your shoes is A BIG BIG investment and I am not talking here about the production itself.

To start making your footwear line you should make shoe prototypes.  This is how you will check your shoe design, will find all needed components suitable for your footwear, like soles, heels, leather, etc and will check the comfort. 

It can be a long process, especially if you just send your drawings and don’t come to the manufacturer to be involved in the process.

So you will not be able to change things right away by being there. That's why it will make the process of shoe prototype developing much longer.

As a result, you will waste time and it is not the worst thing here. 

The worst thing will be that you will get not shoes that you designed, but something else, close to it.

 Because of the many technical issues your shoe manufacturer will encounter in the making of shoes you designed, he will resolve them according to his understanding.

So you will be far away from being satisfied with the results you will get!


That’s why your shoemaking skills will help you to design shoes and it will save your MONEY, TIME and you will BE SATISFIED by RESULTS, for sure! 

Many students that finished my 1-year program opened their own footwear line after practicing in shoemaking. For example, Conrad from South Africa.

I am very proud of his success and want to share it with you. Here are few of his authentic handmade shoes and his page on facebook to get an inspiration from his shoe designs.
I also encourage you to explore the works of another student of mine, Marcia Brown. Discover more about her success in our featured interview: "Shoemaking Courses Success! From Zero-Knowledge to Making Shoes Professionally".

student work
student work conrad
student work conrad

There is even more safe, less expensive and shortcut way how you can develop your own footwear line! If you want to know more about it, comment below this article “I want to become independent shoe designer” ! 

If you want to have an idea on how to design shoes efficiently for your own shoe line read this article ‘’Effective approach to design successful footwear collection’’ . More than this, you can check my Footwear design course, where I teach how to design shoes through pattern making. 

Then don’t forget that you need to SELL your product and it is a profession by itself. That’s why you already can learn few tips of shoe marketing that wrote a friend of mine, Pete Julienne, in this post ‘’Shoe  Fair’’

 Pete is the Co-founder & Director of Sales and Marketing for Nomad Footwear, so don’t miss this opportunity to learn from a professional!

3 . Design and Make Shoes as a Hobby! 4. Just Making Shoes  

This two activities placed together because, in my opinion, there is no difference between them.

If you want just to make some shoes and you think that you don’t need to design shoes, you are wrong! 

If you want just to make shoes, it still means that you need to design them, to apply a shoe design on the shoe last.

 And here your shoemaking knowledge will help you to design on the shoe last any footwear type correctly, even if it is very simple flat ballet shoes or sandals.

The fact is that shoe designing on the last requires technical knowledge.  To design even a simple throat line of flat shoes you need to know where you can draw it on the shoe last to have comfortable footwear that will not slide down from your feet or will not hurt you! 

Same thing with your desire to design your own shoes and make them as a hobby!

So designing shoes, as you can understand, requires your full understanding of the shoemaking process and not just drawing shoe sketches on the paper! 

At some point, you even don’t need to make beautiful shoe drawings, even if you want to work at some footwear company as a shoe designer.

For example, Giuseppe Dzannoti, a famous Italian shoe designer, doesn’t make beautiful shoe drawings, in my opinion. He makes a very character, expressed drawings that are not technical at all BUT he knows how to make beautiful shoes.


It doesn't matter which level of shoe designing you want to achieve, you need to have a full comprehension of making shoe process because it will help you to design your shoes!

So all these activities that I placed in the graph at the beginning of this post lay on one straight line and actually must look like this

footwear designer work graph

There is an opinion that when you know too much, all technical things about shoemaking you are limited in your creation as you can’t imagine beyond shoemaking rules BUT...

BUT I think that when you have this knowledge you are free to break, to overcome all these common shoemaking rules and can design shoes and make whatever you want!

With all this have been said let’s check now in practice how you can improve your shoe designing skills by expending your shoemaking knowledge.

Note: Don’t worry you will be rewarded for reading such a long article! I prepared for you very useful, as always, shoemaking video tutorial. So keep reading!

To show you it better, I chose sandals. They are one of the shoe types that is considered as one of the simplest types and at the same time can be with thousands of design variations.

Best designing skills needed, shoemaking or drawing?!

Yes, sandals are one of the footwear types the upper part of which can be constructed only from straps, or from straps and upper that covers some part of the feet or most of the feet or can be like a boot with straps. 

If you know how to work with all these design possibilities, your freedom in shoe designing is unlimited. 

So the more shoe making techniques you know the more shoe design variations you can use! 

I already taught you how to construct 3 different types of sandals upper that you already can use in your shoe designing:

All these sandals upper types you, for sure, have seen and know that they exist.

But there is another sandal straps type that I called ‘’soft straps’' that you, as a beginner in shoe designing, don’t know what is it.

Knowing this type, such an easy and simple (you will be surprised to discover it later in my tutorial), will change your way of shoe design, for sure, and expend your possibility to design shoes! 

The more you know in shoemaking the more shoes you can design!  Keep it always in your mind!

Let’s learn first what is this soft sandal straps are and how to design sandals using them!

Soft sandal straps are your best friend in designing of the sandals

1. Soft sandal straps are straps that have very soft construction because they have the only upper part and doesn’t have a lining. They also are assembled without using any glue as it usually is with other shoe upper types.

That’s why using this construction in your sandal making you can create very easy many different soft design elements, like folds, knots.

sandals design

Now, I prepared a shoemaking tutorial with full step by step explanation on how to make this sandal straps type. 

Watch it, learn it and keep reading the article, because below I will show you where and how you can use it in designing of different sandals and will prove you again that your shoemaking knowledge can help you in your shoe designing.

2. How the knowledge of this shoemaking approach can change the way you design sandals

This is one of the banalest and simplest shoe designs you can make using this technique right away after watching the tutorial above. 

It consists of two wide soft straps with the loop in the middle made from the narrow strap. To make these cute sandals it will require from you about 1 hour but the result is unbelievable! 

Because of the soft construction that these straps have and small loop in the middle, the folds are created by itself without any gluing and difficult pattern-making.

You can make the same design of the sandals with folds using more common shoe making approach with gluing of the folds and with difficult pattern construction but why?

To get an idea of how it could be done with gluing of the folds you can watch  this tutorial ‘’How to make shoes: making pattern with folds’’

3. Different soft design elements that are easy to make

This is another example of how your knowledge of such simple shoemaking and pattern making technique can help you in your shoe designing and expand your creativity.

This sandal looks very complicated but they are not. 

Let’s learn how it is built:

  • Make 3 soft straps, not too wide but long enough to tie a knot in the middle 

  • Add for fastening a strap in the ankle area that can be without extra 2 straps I added in this design

The only condition you have here to tie these knots is to use very soft leather! 

You see, how it is easy but what a great outcome you have in this shoe design when you know this shoe construction.

This sandal design is more complicated than previous because of the back part but to make these 3 straps with folds is still an easy task.

Let’s learn how to make these folds inside of the soft straps:

  • Make soft straps ‘’1’’ exactly as I explain it in the tutorial. Make them just a little bit longer to consider their reducing because of the folds creation

  • Divide each of these straps into 3 equal intervals and mark each interval with the straight line

  • Cut 6 narrow straps ‘’2’’ ( for pair it will be 12)

  • Prepare thick thread (it could be number 10) 

  • Place each of the narrow straps along straight line you marked on the soft straps. Of course, you should do it one by one. 

  • Make hand stitches in the middle of the narrow straps through soft straps.

  • Pull the thread to make folds, reinforce the thread by a knot under narrow straps. Attach the ends of the narrow strap in the inner part of the soft straps.  The narrow straps will make a loop around the soft straps, so they must be long, don't forget it.

These narrow straps’’2’’ in the middle of each interval of the soft straps we need to have in order to make good finishing of the hand stitching. 

It is possible to use different shoemaking approach to make this sandal design but we are talking here about easy and clever ways you can use in your shoe design!

These 2 examples of the shoe designs are only the tip of the iceberg- your designing possibilities you have by knowing this simple shoemaking approach.  

4. Easy to do ‘’complicate’’ shoe designs

If you think that this shoemaking approach good only for the creation of some folds or other soft elements, you are wrong! 

Using this shoe construction you can make many other different shoe designs very easy and clever! 

Compare these two designs A and B

Although these shoe designs look similar they have different construction and as a fact, they are designed differently.

In the first example A, the sandal pattern has a simple construction and the design looks very clean and interesting.

This shoe design consists of two separate uppers: 2 wide soft straps and 2 elegant straps with folding. 

To make this shoe design you can use the knowledge that I already taught you here and in the previous post How to make Elegant sandals straps

In example B, the shoe design has different and more complicated construction. To make it you need to have certain skills in pattern making. 

I think these few different designs of shoes proved you that designing of the shoes can be better if you have shoemaking skills. 

This is how you, in my opinion, can have the freedom to design any footwear type with no difference if you want to be a shoe designer or want to make shoes as a hobby! If you want to learn the entire process of making shoes, read this article:"How to make shoes".

Join My 20K Subscribers Community!

Weekly I share with my subscribers actionable shoe making content. By enrolling in my list you will be the first to know about my new shoe making courses and special offers I have.

About the author 

Sveta Kletina

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}