When we discuss designing products, it’s crucial to recognize the significant role that footwear plays, similar to carefully crafted accessories or innovative gadgets. Fashion mavens know it’s the shoes, handbag, belt, and hat that make the outfit. But what matters as much as a great look? Super performance. How these pieces work on the body makes a huge difference to how the wearer walks, runs, moves, feels, and lives.

For those interested in creating sustainable, inventive, and high-quality products, D5 has compiled a guide for individuals aspiring to see their designs embraced worldwide.

Creativity is all that matters in most of the schools we researched, but their technical curricula are also top-notch. From staff comprised of industry leaders to the latest technologies, from workshops to traditional craftsmanship, you are sure to find your perfect academic match below.

University of the Arts London, London College of Fashion – MA in Footwear

The University of Arts London (UAL) is one of the most prestigious universities in the design world, known for its complete design programmes that range from fashion to furniture – and footwear design, of course. Its London College of Fashion encompasses a wide range of courses focused on craftsmanship, such as bags, artefacts, and accessory design, all part of its Craft Programme.

This Footwear Master’s Level course is part of UAL’s Craft Programme and is considered one of the most comprehensive out there. It understands footwear design as any design for the lower extremities, so its teaching and technical approach are suitable for any kind of footwear style. Through this Master’s, students are introduced to various industries, brands, and educational institutions, which gets them ready for the future as they learn all there is about research, networks, and the notions of shoe design.

Photo credit: Ideal Insight
Photo credit: Ideal Insight

Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) – Footwear and Accessories Design BFA

This program nurtures your personal design vision while teaching you the skills you need to create marketable products that consumers crave. With close ties to the industry — part of the multibillion-dollar global fashion system — we connect you with a wide range of networking and career opportunities. You’ll learn to create footwear, handbags, and small leather goods from concept to finished product, while exploring technology, advanced materials, and sustainability.

Footwear and Accessories Design BFA offers advanced, hands-on study of design, incorporating nontraditional and sustainable materials along with traditional ones. You’ll visit prominent showrooms, design studios, and production sites in the fashion and design capital of the world. A required internship provides industry experience and you’ll graduate with a professional-quality portfolio.

Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology – Certificate IV in Custom-Made Footwear

The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) is well respected among the academic community as one of the best in the fields of art, design, engineering, and architecture, among many (many) others. Their Fashion and Textiles courses help shape the world of design by educating the designers of the future, so it’s no wonder we decided to include their Custom-Made Footwear Certificate here.

This certificate is equivalent to 12 months in a BA, so it is the perfect choice for people who either want to further their design knowledge or those who don’t feel like spending 3 years studying but still want to learn all the skills they need to make it big in the design world. In this course, you’ll learn how to design and produce your own footwear, learning all the skills necessary to work in every stage of the construction process – design, cutting, and sewing.

Photo credit: John Goslings
Photo credit: John Goslings

University of Northampton – BA Honours in Fashion, Textiles, Footwear, and Accessories (Top-Up)

The University of Northampton (UON) is one of the youngest universities in the UK, however, it is already shaking the waters through its unique approach to education. Its main goal is to cause positive social impact in communities through its graduates.

Their BA Honours in Fashion, Textiles, Footwear, and Accessories offers quite a comprehensive array of subjects where the students are given the chance to upgrade their previous knowledge in design. For this reason, we advise you to already have a BA before applying, since not only would you find the course more enriching, but it would also be better for your CV and education overall. Through specialist workshops with expert staff and traditional and digital technologies, you are sure to learn all there is to the footwear industry while also exploring your own passions.

Photo credit: University of Northampton
Photo credit: University of Northampton

De Montfort University – BA Honours in Footwear Design

De Montfort University has been ranked as one of the best fashion schools in the world multiple times due to their innovative approaches to education. With a long history and major partnerships, it’s no wonder it is still one of the most sought-after universities for fashion designers worldwide.

As one of the oldest available courses in the footwear and, especially, cordwainer and pattenmaker industries (more than 100 years), their BA Honours in Footwear Design is definitely a strong choice for designers worldwide. With a very practical programme, students will be able to learn hands-on while receiving the advice of industry professionals and big brands, receiving not only invaluable insights on how the industry works but also creating a strong network for their future. . From drawing to illustration, biomechanics to prototyping, you’ll learn all the skills necessary to share your designs with the world.

Photo credit: CPMG Architects
Photo credit: CPMG Architects

Parsons School of Design – Shoe Construction

At Parsons School of Design Shoe Construction elective course aspiring designers will immerse themselves in the intricate world of shoe design and craftsmanship. From stitching to sole-making, students will craft their first prototypes, paving the way for future footwear masterpieces.

In this hands-on journey, expect to stretch your creative muscles and build a sturdy foundation in both design principles and technical know-how. While no prior shoe-making experience is required, a basic understanding of patternmaking is recommended.

Savannah College of Art and Design – M.F.A. in Sneaker Design

We couldn’t miss the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) on our list, as so many of our interviewees have passed through its doors. This prestigious university offers more degrees and specialisations in art and design than any other university in the world, which makes their courses highly complete and the student life fun and diverse.

Their M.F.A. in Sneaker Design promises to teach everything from prototype to production, from marketing to merchandising, and from design culture to global distribution. With this masters degree, the graduates have the tools needed to either start their very own footwear brand or join a major company. As no detail is missed, you are sure to learn more about your passion for shoe design while learning the niches and mainstreams of the industry.

Arsutoria School – Shoe One-Year Diploma

Arsutoria has been training shoe and bag designers in Milan, Italy, since 1947, connecting students with industry leaders and giving them all the tools they need to become one. As the name of the course states, this is a one-year course, however, don’t get scared by the name since it is one of the most complete out there – normally, short is concise, which is probably the best when you want to let your creativity have full reign.

In this one year shoe design course, you’ll learn about traditional artisanal techniques, digital tools, and design culture, all of which will help you figure out what works best for your particular vision. In the first 10 weeks, you’ll learn how to design a shoe, both by hand and digitally. Next, you’ll learn how to conceive prototypes for several types of shoes for a total of five intense weeks. Afterwards, you’ll be able to work on one of your early designs for five weeks, finishing everything up with an eight-week intensive class on 3D design softwares – the whole package!

Photo credit: Arsutoria School
Photo credit: Arsutoria School

Accademia del Lusso, School of Fashion and Design – Shoes & Accessories Design

Accademia del Lusso is located right in one of the most exclusive fashion neighbourhoods in Milan, providing, therefore, much more than just a stellar education. Here, the students are introduced to the industry early on, are put into small classes so the teachers can get to know them individually, and are allowed to completely personalise the course contents. The intent is for students to discover what they love and to feel connected to their dream while always being pushed by the Accademia del Lusso to turn passion into a profession.

The Shoes & Accessories Design course lasts an intense one year and provides students with the skills, knowledge, and expertise required to work for major brands worldwide. From trend research to colour research, from pattern making to branding, students are introduced to the “ins and outs”, graduating prepared to face any challenges the fashion industry might pose them with.

Photo credit: Turismo Roma
Photo credit: Turismo Roma

Accademia Riaci – Shoe Design

The Accademia Riaci is located in Florence, Italy, the capital of Renaissance art, and has been open since 1983. Its founder, Maestro Raymond Riaci, wanted to create a school where students could drink from the creative genius of the best Italian artists and learn the irreplaceable techniques that have been around for centuries. Now a vibrant institution with a student body from over 50 countries, the Accademia inspires people from the many fields of art: design, crafts, languages, and more.

In their one-year Shoe Design course, students will create a collection of their own, where they can make all of the creative and logistical decisions. From learning how to research all the information needed to launch a collection to studying colour theory, from learning about market trends and the uniqueness of every material, students are expected to follow their free ideas and, eventually, learn everything needed to start working as professionals.

Photo credit: Accademia Riaci - International School of Arts, Design, Cooking, and Italian Language in Florence, Italy
Photo credit: Accademia Riaci – International School of Arts, Design, Cooking, and Italian Language in Florence, Italy

Italian Fashion and Design Academy – Shoes Design

Yet another Italian design school, the Italian Fashion and Design Academy (IFDA) is located in the heart of Milan and is recognised internationally for its courses and masters in the fashion and design spheres. Here, students mingle with industry-leading companies and professionals, combining this unique advantage with classes taught by some of the best professors out there.

IFDA’s Shoe Design course not only teaches students how to create any type of shoe they desire, it also allows students to attend workshops and seminars with prestigious professionals who can give them all the tips they need to enter and succeed in the footwear design industry – plus, a little network never hurts anybody.

Text: Leonor Gomes

We’re thrilled to announce an enhanced offering for emerging winners in this year’s edition of the Global Footwear Awards. Renowned sneaker industry figure Sean Williams, boasting over 37 years of experience, and also a respected jury member of the Global Footwear Awards, will provide an exclusive masterclass to the “Emerging Footwear Designer of the Year”. 

The Masterclass will center around the theme of “Culture – Impact and Purpose,” offering two comprehensive courses aimed at expanding the perspective of emerging winners in design. The focus extends beyond individual design considerations to encompass the broader impact that design can have on the world, encompassing aspects such as usage, evolution, and sustainability. After the Masterclass, there will be a “Creative Council” session to review the portfolios of young talent, discuss their design goals, and guide them in their next career steps.

As co-founder of the SOLEcial Studies sneaker industry education program and a trusted consultant to brands worldwide, Williams brings unparalleled expertise to this initiative. His guidance will be invaluable to emerging designers, offering insights and strategies to help them navigate and elevate their careers in the competitive world of footwear design.

Read the interview with Sean Williams for more information on his educational projects.

Passions often fuel our conversations and endeavors. For Sean Williams, that passion is sneakers—a subject he’s been deeply engaged with for over 37 years. You might wonder, “Why sneakers?” But as Sean would tell you, there’s no such thing as having too many shoes. His fascination began at the age of 13, and nearly four decades later, his obsession is still burning as bright as when it all started.

However, Sean’s enthusiasm didn’t stop at just collecting sneakers. With time, it grew into a full-fledged career and business, a development that might raise eyebrows. Nevertheless, Sean is keen to share his journey and shed light on why his love for sneakers runs so deep.

Engaged in various social initiatives, Sean Williams is a highly regarded figure in the New York City sneaker scene serving as a trusted consultant to sneaker brands globally. Additionally, he co-founded the innovative SOLEcial Studies sneaker industry education program and played a pivotal role in creating the first-ever sneaker talk show. Beyond his consultancy work, Sean’s role as an exhibition curator has brought his passion for sneakers to audiences worldwide, with his public art exhibitions captivating over 10 million viewers to date.

sean williams
Sean Williams

Everything started when he made a deal with his mother to receive a new pair of sneakers every marking period if he kept his grades up. “In New York, we have four marking periods,” explains Williams. In this way, he had the opportunity to collect more sneakers than his peers. “Usually, you would have two pairs of sneakers – one for outside after school and one for school, for the gym. And if I kept my part of the deal with my mom, I would get four additional pairs per year,” adds Williams.

Following that, Williams immersed himself in work, a move that only fueled his passion for sneakers even more. This newfound momentum not only enabled him to indulge in his love for footwear but also provided the opportunity to delve deeper into this niche interest. It was this shared passion that ultimately led Williams and his friend, Dee Wells, to establish OSD (Obsessive Sneaker Disorder), “the first sneaker podcast talk show in the entire industry,” elaborates further Williams.

When asked how this happened, Sean Williams answered:

We (Dee Wells and I) felt it was the right time for it. His experience made him believe that it was time for people to have somewhere to express their love of shoes. A magazine already existed. But there was no talk show. There were of course forums and people were blogging about this but there was no talk show available. Dee came up with the idea for us to do the show. And it became wildly popular. At our peak, we were getting 10,000 to 12,000 audio downloads per week.


OSD (Obsessive Sneaker Disorder) provided an opportunity for individuals to have a platform and voice their passion for shoes without fear of judgment or stigma. “We accomplished what we set out to do in the first place,” mentions Williams. According to Williams, in America, collecting certain things might seem odd. He explains that in the past, collecting sneakers wasn’t common, leading to judgmental questions like, “Why do you need so many shoes?”

However, Williams and his partner, Wells, didn’t know that sneaker companies were also listening to them. “We were talking about the mature subjects in the industry, the business endorsements, lawsuits, technology and we were having interviews with designers at the companies. We were on top of the latest news. We were sort of the business news of the sneakers industry. And we were talking about sneakers at a level people didn’t anticipate.”

Back in 2007, before social media became widespread, the talk show gained followers naturally. “We have so many ties from our previous jobs. Dee did banking and financing and I was doing TV production and sports. We had a large network and we just knew a lot of people who were into sneakers,” explains Williams. This allowed them to have the connections and vehicles needed to promote before social media started being used the way it is now. “It was still the very early stages of Instagram and Facebook so this kind of helped.”

With OSD (Obsessive Sneaker Disorder), Williams and Dee realized there weren’t enough women and people of color working at sneaker companies. They wanted to change this. According to Williams, these companies were ignoring the very people they were trying to sell to. Many of these potential buyers didn’t even know the industry existed. The big question for Wells and Williams was: How do we get people interested in an industry they don’t know about?

This is also what triggered the birth of SOLEcial Studies back in 2011. “We set out to teach all the non-design-related topics related to the sneaker industry.” SOLEcial Studies operates on a three-pillar mission, emphasizing smart consumer entrepreneurship, corporate employment opportunities, or venturing into entrepreneurship—a vision shared by both OSD and SOLEcial Studies. Additionally, upon enrollment, individuals are exposed to a diverse array of non-design-related career paths within the industry. This serves as an eye-opener for participants, broadening their understanding of the myriad opportunities available.

The course lasts four weeks, followed by Career Council Day on the fifth week. Here, students have their resumes and portfolios reviewed to see if they’re ready for their desired job opportunities.

“The target for SOLEcial studies is everyone older than 14 years,” explains Williams. He emphasizes that this age is optimal because once individuals enter the sneaker industry, they can easily acquire additional skills needed for the future. “My oldest student did a career retraining, and he was 63 when he did it. This was 6 years ago, and before taking the study to requalify, he was working in logistics and delivery services. He switched to photography and book publishing, and he is an ambassador for Converse now,” adds Williams. “This is a story I like to tell. He is a great person, and he’s already published six books.”

When asked if he ever wanted to quit on his journey, Williams responds with a firm no. “It was like a renewed love for me. Before 2007 it was second nature to me to have a lot of shoes. It was not a big deal anymore. But once OSD started, the companies we got to work with, the places we’ve been able to travel to, and the network of people we created, brought back the spark. We’ve been through a lot during that time both good and bad, but the sneaker industry is what kept us going”.

What difficulties did you experience on the way” was a genuine inquiry. Establishing an educational program, launching a podcast, and cultivating numerous connections demand significant effort and time.

“Luckily, we overcame our biggest obstacle. A recent struggle was to find a physical space to run our program. Thankfully in July 2023, we opened the SOLEcial Studies Community Academy, in Brooklyn. And this happened after five years of trying to get this done. And we were also lucky because it happened on the 50th anniversary of Hip-Hop in 2023.”

Now the goal is to build community relations and partnerships to bring the work of SOLEcial studies to a different level. “We would like to offer new classes such as IP science which is a branding masterclass. We’ve taken what the core of the SOLEcial studies curriculum of business and culture and we are teaching the relevance and marriage between Hip-Hop, sneakers, entrepreneurship, and corporate life.”

We asked Williams if he thinks his work has an impact on the world, considering the broader implications beyond personal interests.

On the grand scheme, no. But in a more hyperlocal sense, I would say yes. We design our SOLEcial studies courses for smaller, more intimate groups. We have a personal relationship with everybody that takes SOLEcial studies and we’re able to support them through that journey. We keep in touch with a vast majority of our alumni. Over 150 people who did the program have been working in the industry now either as business owners, for brands or they’re consultants. We are still in touch with them because in this way we can have mentorship and guidance.


Recently, the SOLEcial Studies CommUNITY Academy‘s partnership with The Hopenclass and HEC Paris won the 2024 The Anthem Awards.


sean williams
Sean Williams


In the next five years, Sean Williams envisions SOLEcial Studies attaining financial stability to provide its courses free of charge. “We want to remove the financial barriers to every single course we offer,” says Williams. Furthermore, he wants to expand into embracing more technology and use this technology for footwear production. This technology would include 3D printing, VR, and AR.

As we wrap up our chat with Sean Williams, it’s clear that his love for sneakers goes beyond just wearing them. He’s made a big impact on the sneaker world through projects like SOLEcial Studies and OSD, helping others find their place in the industry. Sean also plays a role as a judge for the FIT Sport Design Awards, showing his expertise. With big plans ahead, like offering free courses and using new tech in sneaker-making, Sean’s influence will keep on growing. He’s definitely someone to watch in the sneaker world and beyond.

Text: Polya Pencheva

Join us in celebrating the future of footwear! Explore the groundbreaking designs that clinched victory in the 4th edition of the Global Footwear Awards. Witness how technology and sustainability are reshaping the industry. 

The Global Footwear Awards (GFA) is excited to reveal the distinguished winners of its fourth edition, having received an impressive array of over 200 projects from 25 countries.

The 2023 Footwear Brand of the Year is The Cryptide, earning recognition for their design of the CRYPTIDE ONE, led by designer Stephan Henrich. This luxury lifestyle shoe is entirely 3D printed from a single flexible material. The upper part, designed like a perforated sock for optimal ventilation, can be shaped based on a 3D scan of the wearer’s foot. The distinctive sole design is segmented for the toe, ball, and heel areas, while the midsole features a branching structure tailored to the wearer’s weight through FEA and topology optimization. On-demand manufacturing prevents overproduction, and its single-material construction facilitates easy recycling.

The Independent Footwear Designer of the Year title goes to Constantinos Panayiotou for his outstanding creation, Vertex Love. Founder and creative director of PET LIGER, Constantinos is a globally acclaimed visionary artist who has created an impressive array of footwear explorations through his daily artworks series.

The Emerging Footwear Designer of the Year award goes to Madeline Helt, a student at the Savannah College of Art and Design. Collaborating with colleagues Jack Winkler (3-D printing) and Emily Lacomba (sock design), they reimagined climbing boots by integrating technology to retain heat. Structural patterns were strategically repeated to create a new textile for the outdoor space. The sole concept focuses on customizability and sustainability, allowing users to swap or change the sole after wear.

Winners receiving the “The Best Overall Design” included Base Camp Mule by The North Face, 2023 Asics FireBlast Basketball shoe concept by Jake Lin, Stealth Formations by Jóse Monroy, PUMA NFRNO by Hyon Park and many more. Other winners included Bottega Veneta Sardine Boot Concept by Anna Boutashkova, Concept Nike CONQUEROR by Marc Van Tichelen, Skechers by Jeffrey Hernandez, FILA Wings by Martin Chapuy, JOMA | Evolution Cup 23 by Piotrek J. Pérez, Adidas XPLD Football Cleat Design by James Bleakley, Astro Heel by Noriyuki Misawa, Jordan 3 2021 by James Howe and Footwear for Barefoot by Bao Qiancheng.

This year’s distinguished panel of judges, drawn from experts in fashion, design, media, and art, has been carefully assembled to guarantee that the winning designs truly epitomize the pinnacle of footwear excellence. Comprising a collective wealth of knowledge, the jury boasts renowned figures such as Oronzo De Matteis, CEO Founder & Creative Director of OROORO BRAND LUXURY; Anna Maria Giano, Contributing Editor at Vogue Italia; Monica Mei, Footwear Designer and Product Manager at Vera Wang; Sean Williams, OSD, SOLEcial Studies Co-Founder. Adding further expertise to the panel are Mathew Kurien, Head of Department at MIT Institute of Design, and Fionn Corcoran-Tadd, Innovation Designer at adidas, among others.

“I’m thrilled to see so many of this year’s GFA winners embracing sustainability and technology in their designs, offering us a glimpse into the future of eco-friendly footwear. It’s inspiring to witness the perfect blend of style and innovation. These designers aren’t just making shoes; they’re crafting a narrative of mindful steps towards a more sustainable and tech-driven future,” commented Astrid Hebert, GFA Program Director. 

To view all winners, visit globalfootwearawards.com. With the conclusion of the fourth edition, the GFA looks forward to the continued success of these designers, confident they will inspire and reshape the future of footwear with style, sustainability, and innovation. 

The Global Footwear Awards (GFA) is thrilled to unveil the distinguished jury members who will be presiding over its highly anticipated fourth edition. The GFA, an esteemed platform celebrating outstanding achievements in footwear design, is now open for submissions from talented designers worldwide.

Since its inception, the GFA has attracted designers from over 50 countries, with each edition surpassing the previous one in terms of creativity, innovation, and global participation. Winners of the Awards have not only received prestigious accolades but have also enjoyed significant industry recognition, featuring prominently in renowned publications and forging partnerships with leading brands.

The 2023 grand jury comprises experts hailing from diverse backgrounds, including fashion, design, media, and art. These distinguished individuals bring their exceptional insights and extensive experience to the selection process, guaranteeing that the winning designs represent the pinnacle of footwear design excellence.

Among the esteemed jury panel are renowned personalities such as Felipe Fiallo, Founder & Creative Director of Felipe Fiallo S.R.L.S, who, after working for Ferragamo and creating concepts for Stella McCartney and Adidas Maker Lab, is now focused on luxury sneakers and footwear. Jury member Sissi Johnson, an MBA professor and Founder of SelfSells, has had her work featured by Forbes, CNN, The New York Times, Vogue, and the V&A Museum. Sean Williams, a well-respected NYC-based sneaker lover for over 37 years, serves as a sneaker industry consultant to brands worldwide and is a co-founder of the SOLEcial Studies sneaker industry education program. Jazerai Allen-Lord is a multi-hyphenate creative with deep roots in sneaker and streetwear culture. The agency she founded, True to Size, has worked extensively with notable brands such as New Balance, Nike, Reebok, Jordan Brand, and many others, focusing on women’s-focused storytelling. Richard Kuchinsky, Founder and Owner of The Directive Collective, a full-service footwear design consultancy, brings over 20 years of extensive experience in the industry, driving the creative design and development process for global brands with a sharp focus on design DNA and strategy.

Joining these luminaries are Robbie Fuller, Creative Director at Anta Group, James Lee Thompson, the innovative strategist from On Running, Oronzo De Matteis, the visionary behind OROORO BRAND LUXURY, Ann Williams, Co-Founder and Footwear Design Director at Schwilliamz Creative Consultants, and Mary Norton, the Luxury Accessories Design Director/Specialist at Savannah College of Art. This star-studded jury panel, consisting of industry giants, ensures that the Global Footwear Awards 2023 will be an exceptional showcase of innovation and creativity. Discover the full list of esteemed jury members, including other prominent names, on the GFA website.

The GFA invites designers from around the world to submit their most remarkable work, embracing the opportunity to be recognized alongside industry luminaries. With an illustrious jury panel, the fourth edition of the GFA promises to set new benchmarks for creativity and innovation in footwear design.

For more information about the Global Footwear Awards and the submission process, please visit globalfootwearawards.com.

PET LIGER Founder and Visionary Artist, Constantinos Panayiotou reveals the story of the VERTEX LOVE Project. Global Footwear Awards 2023 Design of the Year.

Pushing the boundaries of single silhouettes. The first Heels series featuring the heart motif gained virality on Social Media with over 120K likes.

Could you share your concept behind the design of the Vertex Love high heels? What do you want to express with this design?

Since the theme is Love, what better way to express that than through the use of the universal symbol for love, the heart shape? I wanted the design to appear like it’s almost floating. Also, I wanted the texture and feel of it to look edible and sweet to the taste like candy. All this works together to create a feeling of pure ecstasy.

What inspired you to create the design of the Vertex Love high heels?

Constantinos creates a footwear design every day and posts it to the PET LIGER Instagram account, And he has been doing so for close to half a decade. The Vertex Love Heels were designed and uploaded on Feb 14th to Celebrate Valentine’s Day!

Would you share your approach to choosing the designs based on your whole brand?

PET LIGER is all about having fun and being playful, also I want to inspire others through my work and to make them feel a sense of epicness and awe! That’s how I feel when I’m putting my creations together.

How are the Vertex Love high heels manufactured? Is there any specific technology behind the unique design?

These are digital creations, for now, designed to be worn in the Metaverse. Digital and Onchain fashion is the future!

Based on your extraordinary designs, what do you want to add to the world as a designer?

Beautiful and Iconic silhouettes! Things that bring me joy.

If you could design this pair of heels one more time, what would you do differently?

I have already redesigned them countless times. You can find all the different iterations on the PET LIGER Instagram.

What makes you go to work every day?

Gratitude that today by some miracle I will help to bring something new into the world.

Do you have any new design projects you can share?

At the moment our main focus is bringing these digital works into the physical world. 2024 is the year we finally give the people what they have been asking for!


Discover our GFA 2023 Winners HERE

Footwear Designer Stephan Henrich Reveals the Story of the CRYPTIDE – ONE – Project. Global Footwear Awards 2023, Footwear Brand of the Year.

Winning project: The CRYPTIDE ONE is a luxury lifestyle shoe that is completely 3D printed from one flexible material.
The upper shoe, designed as a sock that is perforated for optimal ventilation, can be shaped by a 3D scan of the foot of its future wearer. The iconic sole design is segmented into the wearer’s toe, ball, and heel areas.


Why did you choose a design that is segmented into the wearer’s toe, ball, and heel areas?

I love to design finding an expression for ‘the creature’ in the object. So the object – in this case, footwear – is of course above all supporting and reacting to the human anatomy but I also wanted to visually extend and translate the anatomy onto the object. Beyond that, it is a work on the footprint of us human creatures: We all leave traces on our ways. I believe these traces should be caused by a much closer connection to our bodies. Also, the brand´s name The CRYPTIDE derives from the ‘creature in the object’: Cryptids are species in cryptozoology – the „science“ of animals that may exist …or not. Wearing the CRYPTIDE ONE will create traces that prove their existence.

What is the material that the shoe is 3D printed off? Why did you choose this material?

The shoe is 3D-printed in TPU. As the shoe is 3d-printed in one go, the challenge was to find a material that works for the shoe´s upper, where it will be in close contact with the wearer´s skin, as well as for the midsole, where it should provide cushioning and stability and for the outsole, that needs to resist abrasion and provide grip. TPU can cover all of these aspects!

What makes your design stand out in comparison to other sneaker designs?

I guess that conceptually and aesthetically the Cryptide ONE design has its independence. The design comes with a few innovations/inventions that I haven´t seen in other footwear to date.

How do you envision the Cryptide sneakers influencing the world of footwear design?

We will see…

What design elements did you prioritize to ensure the style and comfort of the Cryptide sneakers?

The branching structure of the midsole is the result of a simulation-driven design. A topology optimization predicted where the material would be needed to support the wearer´s walking and where material could be left away. This process can help to steer comfort while allowing for a lightweight design. It was important to me that the shape of the upper shoe is as close as possible to the human foot, even the foot of the individual wearer to ensure comfort. As an option, this can be achieved by 3D-scanning the feet of the future wearer to inform the shoe´s geometry with this information. In addition, I wanted to make sure that the TPU material, which is not breathable by default, wouldn´t reduce the wearing comfort. So I went for a continuously perforated upper, that allows comfortable ventilation even in hot summer.

Were there any specific design challenges that you had to overcome to achieve the design you desired? If yes, what?

I wanted the design to be monolithic. One material for everything: No gluing or fusing of different materials or anything that makes pure recycling impossible. So it was a challenge to design the shoe in a way that it is comfortable to wear and durable at the same time.

What made you choose 3D technology to create your design?

I have been developing designs for additive manufacturing (3D printing) for many years – not at all limited to footwear. I have been designing e.g. furniture and robots that only can be produced with the use of 3D printing. Over the years I developed a design language for objects that are meant to be 3D-printed. So it was a natural thing to do to apply this „3D-printing-design-language “to 3D-printable footwear.

What are the advantages and the limitations of using 3D printing, especially when it comes to performance and durability?

When constructed well, 3D-printed shoes can be very durable. I have been testing some pairs for over 1200 km and I am continuing to wear them because they don´t get destroyed. A limitation is the price: 3D printing still is an expensive process.

What can we wish you for 2024?

You could wish me that The CRYPTIDE finally becomes available for purchase soon. And then of course satisfied customers.


Discover our GFA 2023 Winners HERE

Sara Valeri shares the Story of the META BEASTS Project. Global Footwear Awards 2023 Best Overall Winner.

Meta Beasts by Sara Valeri are transitional soccer shoes for ages 7-11, offering comfort, performance, and safety, and featuring a unique digital twin in the metaverse for enhanced skills in and out of the field.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

Hi, my name is Sara Valeri. I was born in Merida, Venezuela. From a young age, creativity has been my way of expressing myself and understanding the world around me. Growing up, I used to sketch and paint all the time. I would also disassemble toys and assemble them as new creations; music, specifically playing the guitar, became another outlet for my artistic soul. Now, as an adult, I’ve found a home in design. In this space, I can translate my creative ideas and life experiences into tangible solutions that not only speak to aesthetics but also bring profound meaning and positive change to people’s lives.

Where are you with your studies? Have you specialized in footwear design?

I’m a second-year master’s student at the University of Oregon’s Sports Product Design Program. I plan on graduating this spring of 2024. With a BFA in Industrial design and now immersing myself in the world of sports product design, covering categories like equipment and apparel, my true passion lies in footwear design. Which is the focus of my thesis project and what fuels my aspirations for the post-graduation chapter of my journey..

Is a philosophy, a vision, or a special process influencing your design?

Every design, regardless of its scale, has the potential to bring meaning and impact to someone’s life. Throughout my journey, I’ve woven the threads of my past experiences, the lessons I’ve learned, and the diverse people I’ve met into my daily work. This approach deepens my understanding of others and infuses purpose into my creations. When designing, I always think about the future and how our world can be reshaped for the better through design.

Can you explain your general design process? How do you start a new project?

I kick things off in my design process by profoundly understanding the project brief and problem. I meticulously plan my time, dividing the project into manageable phases. Understanding the end user is critical to “who I’m solving for.” I conduct thorough research, collecting data through surveys and interviews to define pain points and insights. For projects like sportswear, I dive into biomechanics, human factors, and societal trends. Trend forecasting gets me to explore society’s psyche and reactions. Then, I organize ideas, drawing inspiration from past projects and creating mood boards. The ideation phase is about sketching on paper, digitally, or even in virtual reality. I refine ideas using tools like Illustrator and Photoshop, sometimes playing with AI for more sparks. Material research and understanding of manufacturing follow, often involving collaboration with industry experts. After defining everything, I moved to 3D modeling and created physical prototypes and 3D printing components like outsoles and midsoles. Prototypes are tested, validated, and refined based on user feedback before being sent to the factory or client as tech packs, 3D models, and final renders. It’s a journey from concept to reality, ensuring the design works seamlessly in the real world.

What is the most challenging part of working on a new footwear concept?

The most challenging part of working on a new footwear concept is defining the problem and clarifying my goals; therefore, project management is super important. Because sometimes, as a designer, you want to solve too many issues at once, and you can get carried away with different ideas you want to implement. So, it’s always essential to establish the main problem you are trying to solve, always have the defined target consumer in mind, and be able to continually clarify and support each step of the process so that, in the end, it is a streamlined process. You can anticipate changes and work around new paths while focusing on that end solution.

Which footwear designer has had the most impact on your work?

Given the diverse influences throughout my career, choosing a single designer is no small feat. In my undergraduate years, luminaries like Ross Lovegrove, Neri Oxman, Zaha Hadid, Naoto Fukasawa, and Iris van Herpen, introduced by insightful professors, shaped my perspective on design. Thinker Hatfield, with his revolutionary impact on footwear design, kindled my passion for the field. Virgil Abloh, with his ascent to the pinnacle of the fashion industry, taught me that dedication knows no bounds. That one can revolutionize an entire industry with hard work and dedication. Matthew Williams’ contemporary, bold, futuristic aesthetic, challenging norms, and Yohji Yamamoto’s transformative designs with Adidas inspire my work in the realm where fashion meets sports, evoking change and transformation. However, a pivotal figure in my life is my brother Ezio, whose resilience and perseverance have instilled in me the fire to keep designing and fighting for my dreams.

How do you see your work evolving in the future, and what new concept you want to explore?

Peering into the future, I envision my work maturing, carving out a distinctive design aesthetic marked by timeless creations. The evolving landscape of future technologies, particularly the realm of 3D-printed footwear, holds immense appeal for me, and it’s a frontier I’m eager to explore. Beyond that, my journey involves a continuous quest for knowledge and exploration of new paths that lead to groundbreaking innovations in the world of sports and design. Material innovation and sustainability are areas I’m determined to delve into, recognizing the limited knowledge we often have about the end life of our products and the environmental impact of the materials we use. As I design, my goal is not just to solve problems but to contribute revolutionary solutions that stand the test of time. The journey ahead is one of constant learning, exploration, and a commitment to delivering designs that make a positive impact.


Discover our GFA 2023 Winners HERE

Footwear Designer Ofir Kertesz Reveals the Story of the metamorphosis Project. Global Footwear Awards 2023, Best Overall Winner in student category.

Ofir was born in Txfat in Northern Israel. And moved to Haifa district to this day. Her life revolved around art, as a child she participated in jewelry lessons, ceramics, and drawing and creating costumes in her free time. After her mandatory service, she started her degree studies at Bezalel Academy. 


Winning Project: metamorphosis, During her recovery from a serious car accident that left her disabled both physically and mentally, she became obsessed with the concept of freedom, because she felt deprived of any remnants of it and found herself drawn to the metamorphosis of insects. She created three pairs of shoes, custom-made for her foot measurements using 3d printing and handcrafting techniques.

How did you choose Bezalel Academy Of Art And Design?

I was looking for a program that could teach me about as many aspects of design and art as possible. And the jewelry and fashion departments gave me just that, with the program starting as multi-disciplinary. I had the time to learn which aspects of the program suited me best and chose to continue my studies focusing on shoe design.

How did the design come to have such an important role in your life?

At about 12 years old I started to create fantasy costumes. I did that for about 10 years and decided to be a costume designer for theatre and movies. When I started my studies I came to learn the workings of shoe design and fell in love with the craft.

What is your inspiration behind metamorphosis?

In 2021 I was involved in a serious car crash. Suddenly I was disabled, had to learn how to walk again, and had to build myself back up. I felt like a butterfly and felt that my shell, my body, had more to offer than I could bring at that moment, so in the next months as I recovered, I had to learn how to utilize my body all over again. Same as I imagine a freshly hatched butterfly had to do when it left its

Can you explain your general design process? How do you start a new project?

In this project, I started with how I felt. I started to look for inspiration around me that sparked that feeling and landed on insects and then studied the process that the insects go through and different kinds of them until I landed on the right shapes that I wanted to create with that inspiration.

What does winning the Global Footwear Awards mean to you?

I’m very honored to be selected, every recognition of my art and hard work brings me so much joy.

Are you currently working on something new that you can tell us about?

I’m currently learning how to crochet, with the idea of getting to know a new craft and maybe merging it to my shoe designs.


Discover our GFA 2023 Winners HERE

Footwear Designer Wout Speyers Reveals the Story of the One Shoe (fits all) Project. Global Footwear Awards 2023 Best Overall Winner.

One shoe (fits all) by Wout Speyers. Innovative and refreshing. This is a new style of shoe. A shoe for the Oxford style wearer and the man in slippers. Two functions in one design. ‘One shoe fits all’ is part of ‘The World is a natural product’ collection, the winner of the Craft the Leather Award 2022. 

Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your professional journey?

I am originally an industrial designer engineer and somewhere in life I fell in love with chairs. Designing chairs was my main focus for quite a while and then it struck me that a chair and a shoe are the same thing. It therefore made sense to switch to shoes and five years ago I started an education in artisanal shoemaking at the René van den Berg Academy.

Both, a chair and a shoe, are free-standing objects defined by the line, sculptural pieces so to speak. Both are intensively used and have complex curved surfaces due to their relationship to the human body. Upholstery, leather, folds, and stitches play a part and new techniques and new materials are quickly integrated with both products.

However, a shoe is more dynamic than a chair and finds its way through the world. It is such a pleasure to be involved with expression and fashion while artisanal shoemaking is still a very technical profession that fits in with my engineering background. The step aside to art is a small one. Ultimately I just make sculptures, if possible practical sculptures.

Can you explain your general design process? How do you start a new project?

A ‘general design process’ suggests that there is a standard approach and maybe that was taught to me at the university a long ago. Something about sketches, variants, and semi-scientific choices but I kind of forgot about that.
Nowadays ideas often come from an object or thing I see at a flea market or in a museum. Sometimes it is a fragment from a song or a line of text from a novel. Perhaps even the dissatisfaction of the evening news. The core is inspiration, a sparkle of life that connects it to the real world.

For example, the Global Footwear Award winner ‘ One shoe fits all’ is made of vegetable-tanned leather which is a responsible choice. To emphasize that we must use precious materials efficiently, I have put two functions in one product. But there is also the observation of modern life. Neatly dressed Oxfords-wearing men run a rat race every day, but there is always a pause. There is a built-in reminder that being less hurried is also an option. Just pull out the slipper and let it all go, the opportunity to take it easy. Hakuna Matata.

It should not be left unmentioned that this shoe was only possible with the support of my mentor René van den Berg.

Is there a philosophy, a vision, or a special process that influences your design?

The year is 2024 and the world is entirely driven by efficiency and the maximization of profit. Well not entirely. A small local shoemaker still holds out against this spreadsheet mentality.

I’m exaggerating a bit, but it still amazes me that professionals send invoices made up of 5-minute time intervals. I resist that and there is no clock in my studio. If there’s one thing I’m aware of – let’s call it vision – it’s being generous with time. Beauty cannot be forced and value creation takes time. Ideas mature slowly, I have plenty of time for my clients and I put everything together in a relaxed manner. That sounds laid back but still, you have to do everything with focus, intensity, and dedication. I cherish commitment and ultimately love for the product.

What did you find the most challenging while working on a new footwear concept?

I often work on many projects at the same time; art projects, (shoe) sculptures, and bespoke shoes for customers. That sounds interesting, but it is not very good for progress. I tend to think more than I actually create and sometimes there is a discrepancy between the ideas and the craft I master.

The answer to all those things is the same: discipline. Keep creating, keep practicing. It is the 2024 New Year’s resolution, like every year.

What does winning the Global Footwear Awards mean to you?

As I mentioned before, I have made a switch from furniture design to footwear and I am relatively new to shoe design. Winning the Global Footwear Awards was a huge boost and confirmation that I am on the right path. Besides that, it is a much-appreciated sign of quality for my customers.

I am very grateful to have won this award. Thanks so much for the opportunity!

What is your sustainable design approach when developing your pieces?

Making bespoke custom shoes is a responsible choice because the valuable leather is used for shoes that are worn (and not for a series of fitting shoes in shops). Well-fitting shoes simply last longer. Since my training in Tuscany, Italy (and winning ‘Craft the Leather’) I have been using more and more vegetable-tanned leather.

I like to think that a local shoemaker is a sustainable choice because the money stays within the community. The ‘buy local’ principle without mass production and major transportation around the globe.

The ‘Makerszoon’ concept created by master shoemaker René van den Berg is a wonderful example of all this. Makerszoon shoes are only made when there is a customer. All vegetable-tanned leather is therefore used effectively. Rene does not use electricity to make this shoe and the imperfections of handmade are part of the design. All stitches are on the outside making the shoe easy to repair. Wherever you are, there will always be someone close by with a needle and thread. To prevent customers from having to drive across the country for a pair of Makerszoon shoes, these shoes are made locally by a craftsman in his studio. That would be me for the province of Utrecht, the Netherlands and I like to involve customers in the entire process of creation. I do use electricity sometimes, don’t tell anyone.

What advice would you offer to aspiring designers?

Be patient and practice. Sooner or later you’ll find your own voice.
(There’s not much wrong with copying the masters to get a sense of greatness).


Discover our GFA 2023 Winners HERE