Footwear Design Training Programs and Requirements

Apr 24, 2020

Essential Information

Private art and design schools offer undergraduate training programs in footwear and accessory design. While associate's and bachelor's degrees are the most common options, some schools also offer certificate programs for specific types of footwear, such as athletic shoes.

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.

Associate's in Footwear Design

Associate degree programs in footwear or accessories design can be completed in as little as one year, since many programs are geared toward students who already hold degrees in fashion and are seeking specialty training in footwear design. Common course topics include:

  • The history of shoe design trends
  • Basic shoe styles, including moccasins and oxfords
  • Footwear design tools

Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Fashion Design

In BFA programs, students are usually required to complete core art courses on color and form. From there, they can take elective courses relevant to the design of create specialty shoes, such as boots or athletic shoes. They study closed-shoe design strategies and learn to manipulate leather for shoe design. In addition, many programs incorporate course in marketing and merchandising fundamentals. Some course topics might include:

  • Sewing
  • Pattern drafting
  • Sketching
  • General design

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the mean annual wage for fashion designers was $86,110 as of May 2019, and employment was expected to increase by 1% between 2018 and 2028, which is little to no change.

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.

Continuing Education

Fashion shows offer footwear designers the opportunity to study trends in color and style. Footwear designers can also use the internet to stay up-to-date with industry trends. Additionally, students can access information from the American Apparel and Footwear Association, which compiles statistical information and trend analyses on the footwear industry every year and then documents the information in its publications ShoeStats and Trends.

In conclusion, undergraduate programs in footwear design provide students with a fundamental understanding of artistic principles and train them to apply these concepts to shoes.

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