How to build a sole: the 8 steps of design and construction


The footwear sector offers a great range of choice when it comes to soles for shoes, from safety shoes, trainers, orthopedics, up to the classic sneakers. There are countless different types that we are able to find on the market, but have you ever wondered how the production process of a sole develops?

With this article we want to explain it to you and make some clarity!


Example of a Commodo Sole for Sneakers.

When we talk about a shoe, it’s essential to know that the main part of it is identifiable in the shoe last, which will determine the entire volume of the foot, from the fit, the tip, the height of the neck up to the style, consequently it is quite clear how everything must develop from it. But let’s proceed in order:

Step 1

The first point from which you have to start is certainly the initial sketch of the shoe. It is essential, as it is based on primary technical and aesthetic elements, which take into account design and volume;

Step 2

From the sketch we move on to the second phase, which is translatable in the birth of the shoe last. This is the moment in which all the volumes and measures that are necessary in order to make a shoe as comfortable and wearable as possible for the final consumer, will be evaluated and analyzed;

Step 3

The third stage is the one in which we will move in the evaluation of the details and pieces that will be central in the composition of the upper, we will therefore define a series of characteristics such as materials, linings, accessories and colors. A factor that, however, should never be underestimated, is that all these components will add volume;

Step 4

Once the thicknesses have been defined and the first assembly test has been carried out, it will be possible to advance in the direction of the fourth phase, the definition of the precise perimeter of the sole which must match the complete shape of the upper. This operation is called determination of the inner sole footprint;

Step 5

It is during the fifth phase that the real design of the sole begins. Based therefore on the feasibility, determination and choice of materials indicated to proceed with the production of that specific type of product, and after taking into account factors such as lightness and strength and once the template, design and shape have been determined, we will proceed by referring to the initial sketch of the shoe that was the first step of our process. The design of the mold will take place according to the characteristics and particularities of the equipment useful in order to complete the realization, the materials that will be operated and the printability of the final product;

Step 6

Arrived then at the sixth phase, we will continue with the production of the maquette, a prototype that will be made with different materials than those chosen, but which will have as its main objective the simulation of the final sole;

Step 7

Once the maquette is finished, the next step will be the production of the pilot mold. The pilot mold is basically the central number of the shoe-size range, usually we talk about size 37/38 for women, 42/43 for men and 31/32 for children. However, we must not underestimate an issue of considerable importance. When we talk about sizes, in fact, we are referring to the Continental European System, which is obviously not the only one. In fact, we have alternatives such as the English or the US systems, and it’s a key element because based on the average length of the feet for which the shoe is suitable, with the sizes of a different shoe-size range, the pilot mold would also change;

Step 8

We have therefore reached the final stage of our process. Once the prototype of the mold has been defined, the first sampling will then be carried out, the first real simulation of industrialization. What will occur is therefore that, after the final approval of the prototype, we will finally arrive at the production of the whole series, depending on the chosen shoe-size system.


Mold of Taiga International Trading

In sum, this is the standard protocol of the technique useful for the production of a sole, but it is good to know that very often all these steps are circumvented. We refer to those cases in which footwear manufacturers already have shoe lasts and or shoes and are therefore looking for a sole that can be adapted to it. Or even other situations in which there is a pre-existing sole and in which we will proceed with the construction of the shape, model and volume of the shoe.

However, these are obviously compromises that are often reached for reasons of economy and that sometimes can affect the quality of the final product.

If you are interested in the topic or need a consultation, do not hesitate to contact the advisors of  Taiga International Trading, who have developed more than thirty years of experience in the sector, at the e-mail address or at the telephone number 0733897346 or consult our online catalog in the section Soles and Heels for Footwear Manufacturers!

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