How Much Does A Prototype Shoe Cost?

How Much Does A Prototype Shoe Cost?


According to research, the global footwear market estimates a revenue of US$412.90 billion in 2024. Footwear sales amount to 14.5 to 19 billion pairs of shoes—about two pairs per person.


Based on the numbers, the shoe business is profitable if you start things right and do your research.


If you are starting a new shoe business or adding new designs to your existing brand, making a prototype is essential to get a replica of the final product.


But you’ll have to pay for the prototype. Hence, in this article, I will discuss all the shoe prototyping costs.


Having a prototype is the first step when launching a new shoe design. The cost of a prototype ranges from $300 to $7500. This cost depends on several factors such as design complexity and features.


Read further to know more about each aspect of Shoe Prototyping.

Importance of Prototyping in Shoe Manufacturing

Shoe prototypes are essential reference tools for shoemakers and designers. It helps the shoemaker to have an estimate of the total cost of making the shoe. Shoemakers and designers use prototypes to verify and check the quality of work and make adjustments where necessary.


Other advantages of prototyping include.


  • Prototypes give you a rough idea of what the final product will look like before deciding to proceed with mass production. You can detect problems early and reduce wastage.
  • You can use the prototype to request feedback from other people. They can also share if the design is pleasing and if you should modify it further.
  • Prototypes also help test the final shoe’s performance, fitness, and durability.
  • As a shoemaker, you can identify whether you have the machinery to make the shoe. If not, then you will be able to know which adjustments to make or whether you need to buy new machinery altogether.

Black service shoes

Figure 1: Black service shoes

Shoe Prototype Cost Breakdown

The cost of a new shoe prototype will depend on the designer. Some will charge you for the whole shoe, and others will charge per part. We show an estimated cost in the table below.


PhaseCost ($)
Shoe last0-800
Outer sole blueprint200-650
Solid model of outer sole design150-400
Preliminary sample50-100 (per pair).
Prototype50-100( per pair).

The Shoe Development Process

The days of making wood models are long gone. Unlike artisans, 3D modelers help digitally draw the shoe on a computer. They try to make the shoe as realistic as possible.


CAD software helps in making various modifications before settling on a specific design.

Several pairs of running shoes.

Figure 2: Several pairs of running shoes.

Should you Hire a Shoe Developer?

Yes, we recommend hiring a shoe developer. You often want to start a shoe line that consumers would be interested in buying. Shoe developers are professionals and have researched enough to know what the market wants.


Unlike you, shoe developers know what makes a shoe functional and are usually involved in the technical side. The shoe developer can incorporate your ideas and turn them into something functional.


They consult with the manufacturer if you want to move the prototype into production. The shoe developer ensures that the manufacturer is producing according to the specifications.


Most shoe manufacturers, such as HYD Shoes, have in-house shoe developers.

Getting the Prototype Made

Getting the correct person to make your prototype takes a lot of work. If your brand is famous, most prototype makers offer their services for free. A prototype maker will want to build their portfolio with well-known brands to the extent of providing free services.


However, the cost of hiring a prototype maker might still be manageable or high, depending on whether you’re using an independent or in-house prototype maker. Costs that the prototype maker might include is hiring prototyping equipment.

How Much Does A Prototype Of A Shoe Cost?
How Much Does A Prototype Of A Shoe Cost?

Figure 3: Sneakers

Prototype Development Timeframe

In most instances, a prototype design takes approximately 1-2 weeks, depending on a few factors. First, the prototype owner submitted their original idea. The prototype maker works on the pattern and the coloring.


The tooling process takes approximately eight weeks, and the initial sample, without any corrections, should be ready. It might take longer for the prototype to complete, depending on whether it will require more modifications. Most prototype processes take between 2-3 months to complete.


How Prototypes are Made


As the shoe owner, you submit the design documents to the manufacturer they want to work with. The manufacturer gives the design to their skilled team for new developments. The manufacturer will send you the contract if the team approves the design.


A Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) is essential if the design is originally yours.


At this stage, the manufacturer begins making the prototype.


Pattern and Shoe Last

A pattern is a technical shoe drawing that details the shoe’s material, color, shape, and dimensions. The shoe design uses the pattern to make a more detailed two-dimensional diagram.


A shoe last is a physical representation of the foot in mold form. Its primary purpose is to ensure the prototype takes the shoe’s shape. A new shoe model can be expensive; most manufacturers will use their previous ones to prevent you from buying a new one.


Mockup shoe

The mockup shop is a simple sample of how the end design will be. It is primarily made of low-quality materials and is not good enough to be worn. The manufacturer can tell from the mockup whether the design will produce a good shoe.


Before proceeding, the manufacturer does make a point of showing you the mockup shoe. Now, this time, do last-minute modifications or disapprove of the design.


Preliminary Sample

After approving the mockup shoe, the next step for the shoe developer is to create a preliminary sample. The sample only intends to give a close impression of the shoe design.


It might need things like unique decorations and logos. Once the preliminary sample is complete, you need to compare it with the original design to see if there is a close resemblance.

The prototype

After two or more revisions from you and the manufacturer, you will likely have the final version of your design. In all similarities, the prototype should be the exact copy of your design.


Sneaker design

Figure 4: Sneaker design


Why make a prototype?


A prototype helps you to decide if your shoe design can produce an actual shoe. Creating a real-life shoe (prototype ) is the only way to determine that. You can make some improvements to the prototype and create another one.


It is cheaper to make improvements on one prototype than when you have a mass production of ready-made shoes. Because this is a ready-made shoe, you can request a model to wear the prototype to get an accurate picture of the shoe.

Tips to Consider for Shoe Prototype Design


When you decide to make a prototype, know it’s not simple. However, following the tips below, you can have a well-designed and functional prototype.


  • Have a straightforward design: For the design to understand what you want, it’s crucial to have a clear sketch. You can draw sketches showing the show from different angles. Include the type of material you want for each part, not forgetting the shoe dimensions.
  • Include internal parts:You should also have sketches of what these internal parts of the shoes will look like. However,  involve a shoe designer if you need help to sketch the design well.
  • Look for a suitable prototype maker:The ideal prototype maker should be from a company specializing in footwear. You won’t have to pay to hire tooling equipment as the company has theirs.
  • Inform the prototype maker of the purpose of the prototype:It is always important to inform the prototype maker whether you want the prototype for mass production of shoes later or if it’s a one-off project.
  • Engage a local prototype maker:It is cheaper to engage a local prototype maker than one in a different country. That way, you will avoid paying shipping costs whenever a manufacturer sends you a sample.

Tennis shoes vector design

Figure 5: Tennis shoes vector design


What is the Overall Cost to Start a Shoe Brand?


Starting a shoe brand might be cheaper than most people think. There are several costs one is likely to incur. It’s essential to research and get a rough estimate of how much it will cost to start a shoe brand so that some costs stay on track.


Grouping the costs will help you identify how much you’ll need to spend at each stage.


Product Costs

These costs will be specific to the actual production of the shoe. Some of the costs include.

  • Tech Packs: The technical packet is a group of detailed specifications you’ll give your manufacturer. You can get these tech packs for as little as $100.
  • Prototypes and samples: The cost of making a prototype is between $300-600. You’ll need prototypes to get a rough idea about the shape and size of the actual shoe. The cost of samples is usually lower than that of the prototypes. Some manufacturers might even refund the sample fees if you order in bulk. Sample charges might be half the price of the prototype, $150. The cost of both prototype and sample will depend on the type of manufacture and the shoe design.
  • Production/stock will depend mainly on your agreement with your manufacturer. However, an estimated budget and proper research are crucial before settling on any manufacturer.
  • Packaging: The cost here will mainly depend on the type of packaging you want. Customized packaging will cost more than your usual bubble wrapping paper.

Marketing Costs

People must learn that marketing is critical, especially if you are a new business. While it’s not cheap, it will make your products to be known much faster.


Identify a few marketing strategies, and depending on your budget, you can start with two or three. Several marketing strategies are cheaper, such as marketing using your social media profiles.

 Sports shoes

Figure 6: Sports shoes

Professional Costs

These are costs you’ll incur for hiring professionals. Registering your business and hiring accountants and even lawyers are some of the professionals you’ll need.


You should become more familiar with some legal aspects when starting a business. Not adhering to them might get you into trouble with the law, which will be costly.

Miscellaneous Costs

You might be unable to plan for some costs, but they might occur. The best thing is to budget for them to avoid delays in starting your business. Most miscellaneous costs include.

  • Taxes/ customs/ VAT: Custom, VAT, and taxes are costs you’ll incur if importing products. In most instances, each will be a percentage of the total cost of products you’re importing.
  • Exchange rate: You might be dealing with a different currency from your manufacturer. The exchange rates differ, and you might incur fees when paying invoices.
  • Shipping costs: If your manufacturer is overseas, such as China, you’ll only incur shipping costs. There are several shipping costs; discussing them with your manufacturer before placing your orders is essential.



1. How much do prototype shoe samples cost?

Shoe samples cost between 50-90% below retail. However, it depends on the type of shoe and the store selling. The samples cost more if they are authentic designer samples. Sometimes, you might get samples that didn’t go into production and are usually cheaper.


Other cheaper samples are fashion sample pieces because they are of poor quality or are mockups.

 Converse shoes

Figure 7: Converse shoes.

2. Is shoe-making profitable?

Shoemaking can be profitable. However, it also depends on several factors, including market demand, how you price your shoes, competition, and production cost. Evaluate market demand by checking which shoes do well in a particular area.


Consistently innovating new and creative shoe products will help you stand out. Branding and delivering quality shoes will give you an edge over your competitors.


When pricing, ensure that the shoe price covers the production cost and leaves a profit margin. The shoe’s price should be reasonable and should not attract customers.

3. What is the most expensive shoe design?

The Moon Star shoe design is the most expensive for $20 million. The shoe designer is Antonio Vietri. Solid gold makes the heels. Diamonds make the shoe decorations, while meteorites make the glittering top.


Moon star shoe design

Figure 8: Moon star shoe design

4. Does Nike do samples?

Yes, Nike does do samples. They also sell these samples to the general public. Nike factory outlets are the easiest place to find these samples. While you might not get the sneaker samples, you’ll likely find the general shoe models.


Most of the samples are about $50-60. A more challenging way to get Nike samples is from the R&D or someone who gets the samples directly from the Nike factory.

5. Are custom shoes in demand?

The market for custom shoes will rise to US$ 10.98 billion by 2030. Consumers custom-design their shoes to fit their preferences. The demand for custom shoes is growing as people want a unique design only for them.


Various brands now offer online shoe customization platforms. HYD Shoes offers private label services.

6. Are custom shoes expensive?

Yes, custom shoes are more expensive than general models as they require more time and effort to design and produce. The price average can range between $400 to $2000.

Lebron James basketball shoes

Figure 9: Lebron James basketball shoes.

7. How do I patent my prototype shoe?

First, conduct a patent search to determine if a patent exists for another similar shoe.


If you are considering patenting your shoe prototype, keep records from the time you drew the first sketch, any notes done, and even a person you talked to about the shoe. You’ll need all this information during the patent application process.


Take photographs during the various processes, date them, and have at least people watch you sign. You can then submit the multiple documents electronically on the U.S. PTO website. There is a certain fee to pay before submitting the documents.

8. Are shoes in high demand?

The demand for shoes keeps on increasing. Changing lifestyle habits and the need for comfortable shoes have led to considerable growth in the shoe industry. Some shoes offer therapeutic effects, and their demand grows as people become aware of them.


The need to keep fit has also seen a massive rise in the demand for athletic footwear. Women’s footwear has also shown considerable growth potential due to more women becoming financially empowered. Remember that women tend to have different shoes for different occasions.


Budget-friendly branded footwear has also contributed to the demand for shoes. Advanced technology has also made the innovation of more comfortable footwear possible, which has resulted in colossal shoe demand.

9. What is the profit margin on shoes?

The profit margin for shoes for a wholesaler is 35%, and for retailers, it is approximately 20-30%.


Building a brand image and focusing on customer retention will likely boost your profit margin. When you provide value for your customers, you’re more likely to get repeat sales and referrals from new clients.

Women's sandals.

Figure 10: Women’s sandals.

10. Can I make money selling shoes online?

Selling shoes online is very possible. Start by studying the market carefully before starting an ecommerce store. Choosing the right ecommerce platform is critical to make good money selling shoes online. Shopify, Magento, and Bigcommerce are some of the best ecommerce platforms available.


Alternatively, you can sell shoes on eBay, Amazon, StockX, Etsy and Craiglist. Sell high-quality shoes. Choose shoe brands with high demand.


You can find shoes to sell online from brand stores, Facebook marketplace, discount stores, garage sales, and thrift stores. Look for shoes at lower prices to make profits. Take good photos to post online, as that’s what people will base their buying decisions on.




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