10 Key Steps to Getting Shoes Manufactured

1) Create footwear tech packs.

Tech packs are digital illustrations of your designs that show relevant views, proper proportions and specified materials.  A tech pack should provide your manufacturer with all the details necessary to understand your design and provide you with an accurate quote. 

If you have developed a relationship with a manufacturer, they may be able to refer you to a tech pack designer. Alternately, you may look to hire a freelancer on your own, or you may choose to create tech packs yourself if you have a good command of design software.


2) Organize reference samples. 

It is a frequent assumption that your reference sample is supposed to be a sample of your shoe. While you may want to use an existing sample from previous development, more often, your reference samples will be shoes from other brands that represent specific qualities you are aiming for.

Reference samples are used to illustrate specific aspects of quality and construction. Having reference samples in addition to tech packs helps ensure that your manufacturer has a clear understanding of your expectations and can give you accurate information on pricing, the scope of work, and timelines in return.


3) Establish a target budget. 

When establishing a budget the main areas of note are development, toolings, the price per pair, quality control, and shipping costs. You will want to have an idea of how much of your budget you wish to dedicate to each of these areas.

It’s important to have a realistic understanding of what your budget is or should be. Your manufacturer will need to know this as well, so it’s best to come up with a solid plan before you present your project.

If you’re a startup planning on crowdfunding your project, you should make sure you are able to take on the cost of developing production-ready confirmation samples before you begin crowdfunding for production. It is even more important to present a solid plan if you’re going this route as you will not only need to present it to the manufacturer but your backers as well.


4) Submit your project to a manufacturer for review and request a quote.

Nothing inspires confidence in a business venture like organization! Be ready with your tech packs in the proper format, reference samples ready to ship, an idea of your desired budget, and a clear business plan. 

If you have any timelines you need to meet, you will also want to bring this into the conversation early on so it can be taken into account.

From this information, your manufacturer can provide you with a development quote and should also be able to give you a fairly accurate production estimate, along with tentative timelines for open production slots.


5) Update your budget based on factory pricing and MOQs.  

Once you have received a quote that you would like to go with, it’s time to update your budget. Perhaps you decided to use public molds for your outsoles instead of custom toolings or decided to up your quantity for a per pair price break. A lot of things can vary once you get into the details! 

This is a wise time to take stock again and make sure your budget still lines up with your plans.


6) Determine development and production timelines. 

If you have timelines you need to meet to fulfill retail commitments or make a trade show, you have probably already spoken about this with your manufacturer. At this stage, you’ll be getting a better idea of development and production timelines. 

Whether or not you are working with a deadline, there are some dates you will want to be aware of in your planning. Make sure you are taking into account production lead times, factory holidays and a conservative window for shipping and customs clearance.

7) Approve confirmation samples.

By this time, the development process will have brought several different sample iterations across your desk. Getting to a confirmation sample you approve for design, quality and construction is the last step in development before you start production.


8) Start production!

There are still a lot of things to confirm before you launch into production - order breakdown, final colorways, labeling, packaging, etc. – so it’s another good time to take stock and make sure everyone is on the same page. From here, production commences.

Your manufacturer will order raw materials. Toolings such as lasts, cutting dies and molds will be produced for your specified size run. Components and finished materials will be thoroughly inspected, cut and organized for assembly lines. Shoes coming off the production line should go through rigorous inspections before they are finally packaged for freight.

All these processes can take anywhere from weeks to months, depending on your shoe construction and order quantity.


9) Approve quality control report. 

Once your production run is complete, shoes will be inspected. Industry standard lab tests are required, but you may also want additional testing done if your shoes need to meet more strict or specific performance requirements. You may also choose to hire a third party quality control company depending on your situation.

Whatever route you choose to go, you will receive a quality control report addressing your requirements. From this report, you can accept your shoes or make necessary changes. 


10) Make shipping arrangements. 

This is the home stretch! Your shoes are done, but they need to get to you. Shipping timelines and pricing vary based on many factors. For this reason, an accurate quote is difficult to predict far in advance and your shipping costs may not be the same from one shipment to the next. In order to lock in confirmed pricing and ensure that your goods are picked up from the factory timeline, shipping should be booked a couple of weeks prior to the completion of your order.