Footwear product developer

Footwear product developer article illustration


Footwear product developers provide interface between design and production. They engineer the footwear prototypes previously created by designers. They select, design or re-design lasts and footwear components, make patterns for uppers, linings and bottom components, and produce technical drawings for a various range of tools (e.g. cutting dies, mould, etc.). They also produce and evaluate footwear prototypes, grade and produce sizing samples, perform required tests for samples and confirm the customer’s qualitative and pricing constraints.

Footwear product developers typically do the following tasks:

  • Collaborate with design teams to understand and interpret footwear design concepts and translate them into technical specifications
  • Conduct research on market trends, materials, and technologies to inform product development decisions
  • Create technical drawings, specifications, and 3D renderings using computer-aided design (CAD) software to communicate design concepts and details to manufacturers
  • Source and evaluate materials, components, and trims suitable for footwear production, considering factors such as quality, functionality, and cost-effectiveness
  • Collaborate with engineers and pattern makers to develop prototypes and samples, making necessary adjustments and modifications based on design, fit, and performance feedback
  • Conduct fit and wear tests to ensure footwear products meet comfort, functionality, and performance requirements
  • Work closely with manufacturers and suppliers to monitor and oversee the production process, ensuring adherence to quality standards, timelines, and cost targets
  • Collaborate with marketing and sales teams to provide technical product information and support product launches and promotions
  • Stay updated on industry trends, new technologies, and regulatory requirements related to footwear design and production
  • Manage project timelines, budgets, and documentation related to product development activities

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to footwear product developer:

footwear technologist
footwear product engineer
footwear product designer & developer
product developer, footwear
footwear product designer and developer
senior product developer footwear
footwear product development engineer
footwear product technologist

Working conditions

Footwear product developers work in office settings, design studios, and manufacturing facilities. They may spend time in workshops or sample rooms to collaborate with pattern makers and production teams. Travel to manufacturing sites or trade shows may be required. The work environment is typically fast-paced, requiring the ability to manage multiple projects and meet deadlines. Collaboration and communication with cross-functional teams, including designers, engineers, manufacturers, and suppliers, are essential.

Minimum qualifications

A bachelor’s degree in footwear design, industrial design, fashion, or a related field is typically required for a footwear product developer role. Strong design and technical skills, including proficiency in CAD software and knowledge of footwear construction techniques, are necessary. Familiarity with materials sourcing, manufacturing processes, and quality control standards in the footwear industry is important. Previous experience in footwear design, product development, or manufacturing is advantageous. Excellent communication, problem-solving, and project management skills are essential for success in this role.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Footwear product developer is a Skill level 3 occupation.

Footwear product developer career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to footwear product developer.

leather goods product developer
footwear quality control laboratory technician
footwear quality technician
leather goods quality control laboratory technician
footwear assembly supervisor

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of footwear product developer. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of footwear product developer with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

footwear designer
footwear product development manager
leather goods designer
footwear quality manager
leather goods product development manager

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of footwear product developer.

  • Footwear and leather goods marketing planning: The principles and methods used in creating a marketing plan and how a company can best position itself compared to its competitors, taking into account the specifities of the footwear and leather goods market.
  • Pattern grading: Know about cutting patterns accurately and grading the patterns to obtain the size series in case of mass production. Know how to mark notches, holes, seam allowances, and other technical specifications. Make adjustments and obtain the final patterns for cutting in order to compensate any identified problems during sampling.
  • Footwear materials: The characteristics, components, advantages and limitations of a wide range of materials used in footwear production: leather, leather substitutes (synthetics or artificial materials), textile, plastic, rubber etc.
  • CAD for footwear: The architecture and functionality of 2D and 3D computer assisted design software systems for footwear.
  • Footwear manufacturing technology: Footwear processes technology and machinery involved. The footwear manufacturing starts in the cutting/clicking room , cutting the uppers and bottom components. The upper components are joined together in the closing room by following a precise order of specific operations: skiving, folding, sewing etc. The closed upper, the insole and other bottom components are brought together in the assembling room, where the main operations are lasting and soling. The process ends with finishing operations in the finishing and packing room.
  • Footwear creation process: Footwear creation projects starting from inspiration to technical design and manufacturing by following several stages. Latest trends in footwear materials, components, processes, and concepts.
  • Footwear quality: Quality specifications of materials, processes and final products, the most common defects in footwear, quick tests procedures, laboratory tests procedures and standards, adequate equipment for quality checks. Quality assurance of footwear production processes and fundamental concepts on quality including footwear quality framework and standards.
  • Ergonomics in footwear and leather goods design: The principles used in the design of various styles of footwear and leather goods for the correct anatomic and ergonomic proportions and measurements.
  • Footwear components: Footwear components both for uppers (vamps, quarters, linings, stiffeners, toe puffs etc.) and bottoms (soles, heels, insoles etc.). Ecological concerns and the importance of recycling. Selection of suitable materials and components based on their influence on the footwear style and characteristics, properties and manufacturability. Procedures and methods in chemical and mechanical processing of leather and non-leather materials.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of footwear product developer.

  • Create solutions to problems: Solve problems which arise in planning, prioritising, organising, directing/facilitating action and evaluating performance. Use systematic processes of collecting, analysing, and synthesising information to evaluate current practice and generate new understandings about practice.
  • Use CAD for soles: Digitise and scan the lasts. Work with files in various CAD systems. Produce 3D models of soles and create 2D computer aided designs. Grade and obtain the size series. Prepare technical specifications for manufacturing. Produce 2D and 3D computer aided engineering designs and technical drawings of moulds for vulcanised and injected soles. Export the files of the virtual models to 3D printers, CAM or CNC systems.
  • Distinguish accessories: Distinguish accessories in order to determine differences among them. Evaluate accessories based on their characteristics and their application in wearing apparel manufacturing.
  • Create patterns for footwear: Produce the mean form or shell, a two-dimensional representation of the three-dimensional shape of the last. Create scaled patterns for uppers and bottom components by manual methods from the designs.
  • Practice innovative thinking in the footwear and leather goods industries: Innovate and create in the footwear and leather goods sector. Evaluate new ideas and concepts to turn them into marketable products. Use entrepreneurial thinking in all stages of the product and process development to identify new business opportunities for the targeted markets.
  • Implement footwear marketing plan: Implement marketing plans according to company specifications, complying with market demand.
  • Create technical sketches for footwear: Be able to use various sketching and drawing techniques, including artistic representation, by hand or by computer, being aware of proportion and perspective, to sketch and draw footwear, lasts, soles, heels etc., both as 2D flat designs or as 3D volumes. Be able to prepare specification sheets with details of materials, components and manufacturing requirements.
  • Create mood boards: Create mood boards for fashion or interior design collections, gathering different sources of inspirations, sensations, trends, and textures, discussing with the people involved in the project to make sure that the shape, design, colours, and the global genre of the collections fit the order or the related artistic project.
  • Perform market research in footwear: Perform market research on the company’s customers, selecting and applying the right marketing strategies for footwear industry. Apply the mix of marketing (product, prices, promotion, and distribution) to contextual conditions of the company. Forecast how various factors as environment, technological innovation, buying behaviour etc. influence the marketing and merchandising of the footwear produced by the company.
  • Apply development process to footwear design: Understand the needs of the consumer and analyse the fashion trends. Innovate and develop the footwear concepts from an aesthetic, functional and technological point of view by using a wide range of methods and techniques, selecting materials, components and suitable technologies, adapting new concepts to manufacturing requirements and transforming the new ideas into marketable and sustainable products for mass or customised production. Communicate visually the new designs and ideas.
  • Reduce environmental impact of footwear manufacturing: Assess the environmental impact of footwear manufacture and minimise environmental risks. Reduce environmentally harmful work practices in different stages of the footwear manufacturing.
  • Develop footwear collection: Transform footwear design ideas and concepts into prototypes and, finally, a collection. Analyse and check the designs from various angles like functionality, aesthetics, comfort, performance and manufacturability. Manage the development process of all the footwear prototypes in order to meet the customer’s needs and to properly balance quality with production costs.
  • Communicate commercial and technical issues in foreign languages: Speak one or more foreign languages in order to communicate commercial and technical issues with various suppliers and clients.
  • Distinguish fabrics: Distinguish fabrics in order to determine differences among them. Evaluate fabrics based on their characteristics and their application in wearing apparel manufacturing.
  • Use CAD for heels: Digitise and scan the lasts. Work with files in various CAD systems. Produce 3D models of heels and create 2D computer aided designs. Grade and obtain the size series. Prepare technical specifications for manufacturing. Produce 2D and 3D computer aided engineering designs and technical drawings of moulds for vulcanised and injected heels. Export the files of the virtual models to 3D printers, CAM or CNC systems.
  • Use communication techniques: Apply techniques of communication which allow interlocutors to better understand each other and communicate accurately in the transmission of messages.
  • Make technical drawings of fashion pieces: Make technical drawings of wearing apparel, leather goods and footwear including both technical and engineering drawings. Use them to communicate or to convey design ideas and manufacturing details to pattern makers, technologists, toolmakers, and equipment producers or to other machine operators for sampling and production.
  • Prepare footwear samples: Create, test and verify prototypes or samples of footwear against a predefined set of criteria throughout all stages of the manufacturing process. Revise the initial design concepts and implement technical improvements.
  • Develop footwear and leather goods marketing plans: Be able to develop marketing plans and provide directions for marketing strategies of the company, as well as be able to identify potential markets and to perform marketing activities to promote the footwear products of the company.
  • Work in textile manufacturing teams: Work harmoniously with colleagues in teams in the textile and clothing manufacturing industries.
  • Apply fashion trends to footwear and leather goods: Be able to stay up to date on the latest styles, attending fashion shows and review fashion/clothing magazines and manuals, analysing the past and present fashion trends in areas such as footwear, leather goods and clothing market. Use analytical thinking and creative models to apply and to interpret in a systematic way the upcoming trends in terms of fashion and life styles.
  • Use CAD for lasts: Be able to digitise and scan the lasts. Work with various 2D and 3D CAD systems and use the software to adopt and transform the shape of the lasts according to dimensional requirements of the customer. Making 2D templates for controlling the shape of the new last. Produce technical drawing and prepare technical specification sheets for manufacturing. Grade the last. Export the files of the virtual model to 3D printers, CAM or CNC systems.
  • Use IT tools: Application of computers, computer networks and other information technologies and equipment to storing, retrieving, transmitting and manipulating data, in the context of a business or enterprise.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of footwear product developer. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of footwear product developer. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Operate 2D CAD for footwear pattern engineering: Be able to read and interpret design specification to transfer 3D virtual models, computer made drawings and handmade sketches into the 2D environment of the CAD software. Flatten and work with digitised shells. Use scanners and tablets. Produce, adjust and modify 2D designs of all patterns, including technical specifications, for various footwear construction types with 2D CAD systems. Grade and make the nesting. Produce technical sheets.
  • Create 3D CAD footwear prototypes: Be able to read and understand visual elements and technical design specifications from hand-made or computer-made sketches, pictures and drawings. Digitise or scan the lasts. Create the design upon the shape of the lasts according to dimensional requirements of the customer. Perform 3D footwear modelling by using various functionalities of the CAD software such as producing, manipulating and testing virtual images for computer aided 3D artistic and technical design of footwear. Produce alternative designs and develop virtual models and collection lines. Make presentation boards and catalogues.

ISCO group and title

3119 – Physical and engineering science technicians not elsewhere classified

  1. Footwear product developer – ESCO
  2. How To Become A Footwear Product Developer – Career Info – Yellowbrick
  3. Featured image: Image by PIRO from Pixabay
Last updated on May 17, 2023