Footwear Design Training Programs and Requirements

Footwear designers are fashion designers who specialize in the creation of shoes, boots and sandals for men, women and children. Private art and design schools often offer focused footwear and accessories design training programs at the undergraduate degree level.

Overview of Footwear Design Programs

Training in footwear design begins at the undergraduate level with a fashion-focused associate or bachelor's degree program. Many fashion design companies and retailers hire footwear design professionals with an associate degree; however, some prefer, if not require, candidates to have a bachelor's degree. A combination of experience and education may often be substituted for a 4-year degree. Experience in the field is vital, and most trained footwear designers start out in assistant or entry-level positions and work their way up.

Formal Education

While associate and bachelor's degrees are the most common training avenues for footwear designers, some schools also offer certificate programs for specific footwear designs, such as athletic shoes. At undergraduate degree levels, footwear design students gain skills in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, two common applications used in the footwear design industry.

Associate Degree Programs

Associate degree programs in footwear or accessories design can be completed in as little as one year, since many programs are geared toward fashion degree-holders who seek specialty training in footwear design. Students learn about the history of shoe design trends in shoe fashion, basic shoe styles, including moccasins and oxfords, and footwear design tools, such as lasts (foot-shaped shoe forms), heel heights and sole shapes.

Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Fashion Design

Generally, BFA majors must complete core art courses on color and form, as well as courses in sewing, pattern drafting, sketching and general design before advancing to elective training in footwear design. Fashion design majors can learn to create specialty shoes, such as boots or theater footwear. They study closed-shoe design strategies and learn to manipulate leather for shoe design. Students also learn marketing and merchandising fundamentals.

Job Experience

During college training, students benefit from fashion industry internships, in which they undertake real-world footwear design training. Interns may shadow and assist designers, product developers and marketing representatives, learning about creating, exhibiting and selling footwear. Graduates of footwear design training programs find jobs in design firms, manufacturing firms or specialty design houses. Entry-level jobs, such as assistant footwear designer, involve drafting patterns, researching materials, making fit corrections and sketching. With product design experience, shoe developers can freelance or work within a company as senior footwear designers or line developers.

Workshops and Seminars

Footwear organizations, such as the American Apparel and Footwear Association (, often sponsor 1-day workshops or 2-3 hour seminars. Topics range from customs regulations to design trends. Both domestic and international fashion and footwear conferences and expos are also common and generally last for several days. Expos are a way for independent footwear designers to market their shoes and network with industry professionals.

Additional Professional Development

Fashion shows offer footwear designers the opportunity to study trends in color and style. Footwear designers can also look to websites for a number of resources, such as e-bulletins, and news articles. Additionally, the American Apparel and Footwear Association compiles statistical information and trend analyses on the footwear industry every year and then documents the information in its publications ShoeStats and Trends.

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