3D Modelling in footwear creation

3D Modelling in footwear creation

3D modelling has become an integral part of the footwear design process in recent years. It allows designers and developers to create and visualize their designs in a virtual environment, allowing for greater accuracy, efficiency, and innovation. In this blog article, we will dive into 3D modelling and its importance in footwear design.


What is 3D modelling?

Why is 3D modelling important in footwear design and development?

Where can I apply 3D modelling in footwear design and development?

What is the best 3D modelling approach for footwear design and development?


· Polygonal Meshes

· Polygonal Subdivision

Generative Design

Lattice & Additive Manufacturing

· Lattice Structures

· Additive Manufacturing

Extended Reality & Artificial Intelligence

· Extended Reality

· Artifical Intelligence


What is 3D modelling?

3D modelling  is the process of creating a three-dimensional representation of a physical object or scene using specialized software. 3D modelling software allows designers to create a virtual representation of a shoe, from the sole to the upper, but also creates a base information to share with 3D Printing and later with development (Inline) for production.

3D modelling software allows designers to create and manipulate virtual 3D objects, such as shoe lasts, sole units, components, and reinforcements using a variety of tools, in particular shape and form manipulators, texture mapping, and lighting controls. It gives designers greater control and flexibility over the design process. In this blog article, we will dive into what 3D modelling is, its benefits, and its applications in the footwear industry.

Why is 3D modelling important in footwear design and development?

3D modelling is a powerful tool for footwear designers, offering increased speed, accuracy, and visualization capabilities. By adopting this technology, designers can create better products, faster, and with greater efficiency.

1. Greater accuracy and efficiency: 3D modelling software allows designers and developers to create a precise and accurate representation of a shoe before it’s even produced. This reduces the need for traditional sketching and physical prototyping, which can be time-consuming and expensive. The ability to quickly create and modify designs also allows footwear brand creation teams to work more efficiently, consistently, with improved quality and on time.

2. Enhanced collaboration: With 3D modelling, designers and developers can share their designs with team members and stakeholders in a virtual environment. This makes it easier for designers to collaborate and receive feedback, even if team members and factory partners are located in different parts of the world.

3. Innovation and creativity: 3D modelling software like Rhinoceros allows designers to explore new designs and push the boundaries of traditional shoe design. With the ability to create complex shapes and textures, designers can experiment with new materials and construction techniques, leading to the creation of innovative and unique shoe designs.

4. Improved visualisation and communication: 3D models can be easily shared and viewed from multiple angles, making it easier for designers, developers, engineers, shoe factory partners and other stakeholders to visualize and understand the design. This can help facilitate communication and collaboration throughout the design, development and production process.

Where can I apply 3D modelling in footwear design and development?

3D modelling has a wide range of applications in footwear design and development, including:

1. Concept development: 3D modelling can be used to quickly create and refine new design concepts, allowing designers to explore different ideas and variations before committing to a final design.

2. Tech packs: 3D models can be an efficient part of a tech pack. Footwear developers share tech packs with their shoe factory partners to give instructions on how to develop and manufacture the model. 3D Models have a much higher informative level if they include 360-degree 3D models of computer-aided design (CAD), shell pattern, tooling layering, measurements and upper layering. Particularly, showing the CAD in all its 5 typical views (lateral, medial, top view, outsole view, and heel view) becomes obsolete if it can be substituted by a single 3D model.

3. Prototyping: 3D models can be used to create physical prototypes using 3D printing or other rapid prototyping methods. This can help designers and developers to test and refine their designs before committing to mass production.

4. Production: 3D models can be used to create production-ready designs and tooling, which can help ensure consistency and quality in the final product.

What is the best 3D modelling approach for footwear design and development?

When it comes to 3D modelling for footwear design, there are several different approaches that can be used. Three of the most common approaches are NURBS, polygonal meshes and SubD. Each approach has its own features and benefits, which are outlined below.



NURBS (Non-uniform rational basis spline) is a mathematical representation of 3D geometry that is widely used in computer-aided design (CAD) applications. NURBS surfaces are defined by control points and curves, which are used to define the shape of the surface. NURBS surfaces are highly accurate and can be manipulated with precision, making them ideal for modelling complex shapes and curves. Some of the key features and benefits of NURBS for footwear modelling include:

1. Highly accurate surfaces: NURBS surfaces can be precisely controlled, allowing for accurate modelling of complex shapes and curves.

2. Smooth surfaces: NURBS surfaces can be smoothed and refined, resulting in highly polished and visually appealing designs.

3. Efficient workflow: NURBS surfaces can be easily edited and modified, allowing for an efficient workflow and faster design iterations.

2. Polygonal Meshes

Meshes are a popular approach to 3D modelling that involves representing 3D geometry as a series of interconnected polygons (triangles and/or quads). Polygonal meshes are widely used in gaming and animation but are also used in footwear design.  All the models we use for 3D printing, are Meshes.

Some of the key features and benefits of polygonal meshes for footwear modelling include:

1. Versatility: Meshes can be used to create a wide range of shapes and designs, making them highly versatile.

2. Realistic textures: Polygonal meshes can be textured and shaded to create highly realistic and detailed designs.

3. Large amount of polygons: Meshes are not that easy to manipulate and edit, since they are made of many polygons, and usually requires to repair the geometry, to have all the polygons and vertices connected.

When a shoe last master model is finished by hand, it is scanned, and this digital process gives us a mesh file.  This mesh file could have thousands or millions of polygons to have the best resolution and accuracy.

3. Polygonal Subdivision

Polygonal Subdivision (SubD) is a type of polygonal mesh (low polygons) that is used to create smooth, organic shapes utilizing algorithms like Catmull-Clark commonly used for 3D animation industry since 1978.  SubDs are defined by a set of faces, edges and vertices that can be moved and adjusted to create complex shapes. Some of the key features and benefits:

1. Smooth surfaces: SubD can be smoothed and refined, resulting in highly polished and visually appealing designs.

2. Organic shapes: This topology is ideal for creating organic shapes curves, such as those found in sport footwear.

3. Efficient workflow: SubD geometries can be easily edited and modified, allowing for an efficient workflow and faster design iterations.

Generative Design

Generative Design is an innovative approach to 3D modelling that uses algorithms to create complex designs almost automatically. By inputting design criteria such as shapes, geometric rules, and performance specifications; Generative Design software (like Grasshopper) can generate multiple design options (iterations) quickly and efficiently. This technology also named Algorithmic Modelling, has many potential benefits for the footwear industry, including:

1. Faster design iteration: Generative design allows footwear designers to create and evaluate multiple design options quickly and easily. This can help reduce the time and cost of the design process, while also enabling designers to explore more creative and innovative design solutions.

2. Improved design quality: Algorithmic modelling algorithms can take into account a wide range of design parameters, such as materials, geometries, mechanical properties, loads, and performance requirements. This can help ensure that the final design is optimized for its intended use, with improved functionality and performance.

3. Enhanced customization: Generative design can also be used to create highly customized footwear products tailored to the specific needs of individual customers. By inputting personalized data such as foot shape and size, generative design algorithms can create unique designs that are optimized for the individual’s needs.

4. Increased sustainability: It can also help reduce waste and promote sustainability in the footwear industry. By optimizing designs for materials and manufacturing processes, generative design can help reduce the amount of material waste and energy used in the production process. (You want to learn more about other ways to promote sustainability? Check out our blog post about green materials here.)

Lattice & Additive Manufacturing

Lattice structures and 3D printing are powerful technologies that can be used to enhance the 3D modelling process for footwear designers. Embracing these technologies, designers can create innovative and highly functional footwear designs that are optimized for specific performance requirements, while also promoting sustainability and customization in the footwear industry.


1. Lattice Structures

Lattice structures are complex, interconnected structures that can be used to create lightweight, yet highly durable shapes. Lattice structures can be found in nature, such as in the internal structure of bones, and can be replicated using 3D modelling and printing techniques. By using lattice structures in footwear design, designers can create shoes that are lighter, more flexible, and more comfortable, without sacrificing durability or support.

2. Additive Manufacturing

Additive Manufacturing (AM) is the part of the Industry 4.0 which uses different technologies commonly named 3D printing. This is a process by which a three-dimensional object is created from a digital model. 3D printing technology has advanced significantly in recent years, allowing for the creation of highly complex and detailed objects, including footwear products. By using 3D printing in footwear design, designers can create prototypes and even finished products quickly and efficiently, with a high degree of accuracy and precision and using several types of materials.

By combining lattice structures and 3D printing, footwear designers can create highly complex and customized designs that are optimized for specific performance requirements. For example, designers can create lattice structures that are tailored to specific pressure points on the foot, or that are optimized for specific types of movement or activity. These lattice structures can then be 3D printed using a range of materials, including plastics, metals, and even bio-based materials, to create highly functional and sustainable footwear products.

Extended Reality & Artificial Intelligence

Extended Reality and Artificial Intelligence are two emerging technologies that are transforming the footwear industry. Using these technologies, footwear designers and manufacturers can create better products, faster, and with greater efficiency, while also improving the customer experience. As these technologies continue to evolve, we can expect to see even more innovative uses in the footwear industry in the future.

1. Extended Reality

Extended Reality (XR) is an umbrella term that encompasses a range of technologies, including Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Mixed Reality (MR). XR technologies are being used in the footwear industry in a variety of ways, including:

1. Design: XR technologies can be used to create immersive design environments that allow designers to explore and refine their designs in a virtual space.

2. Prototyping: XR technologies can be used to create realistic virtual prototypes that can be tested and refined before physical prototypes are created.

3. Retail: XR technologies can be used to create immersive shopping experiences that allow customers to try on and customize footwear products in a virtual environment.


2. Artifical Intelligence

Artifical Intelligence is another technology that is being increasingly used in the footwear industry. AI is being used to:

1. Improved design creation and ideation: Large Language Models (LLM) can be used to analyze customer data and feedback to inform design decisions and create personalized footwear products.

2. Optimize production: AI can be used to optimize production processes and improve supply chain management, reducing costs and increasing efficiency.

3. Enhance marketing: Text-to-Image and Image-to-Image can be used to analyze customer data and behavior to create targeted marketing campaigns and improve customer engagement.

4. Better understanding of the market and consumer behaviour: AI could help us to know more about Intellectual Properties (IP) rights and patenting of concepts, before turning them into products.  Brands and consumer data are also easy to reach, using the right prompts.   

In summary, 3D modelling has revolutionized the way footwear designers approach their work, providing them with a range of powerful tools and technologies to create innovative and functional shoe designs.

Advancements in technology, such as Extended Reality, Artificial Intelligence, Generative Design, Lattice structures, and 3D printing have transformed the way designers and developers work. There are several approaches to 3D modelling for footwear design, each with its own features and benefits.

NURBS, Meshes, and SubD are three of the most common topologies. By embracing 3D modelling technology, footwear designers can create more innovative and functional shoe designs than ever before, paving the way for a more dynamic and exciting footwear industry in the years to come.

If you would like to learn more from René, make sure to also check out the webinar he did with McNeel Europe.

If you liked this article, make sure to follow our Social Media channels. You can contact us anytime via LinkedIn, Instagram & Facebook. We are happy to receive any feedback and tell us what other topics are of interest to you. We will try to address them in the near future.

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Transparency & Traceability in Footwear and Fashion Supply Chains

Transparency & Traceability in Footwear and Fashion Supply Chains

Partner Content by

In today’s footwear- and fashion industry, product development professionals are familiar with the challenges of efficiently managing samples along the supply chain. There is often a lack of detailed information about the exact material sources and actual data about the sample status. Due to inefficient manual processes and chaotic data management, time and effort are wasted in searching and waiting for samples. Communication gaps with suppliers can also lead to misunderstandings, resulting in unpleasant delays in the sampling process. The root cause of this problem is often a lack of process transparency. Fortunately, modern tools of digital transformation can help to address this issue by leveraging supply chain transparency and traceability.

However, discussions about transparency developments in footwear and apparel supply chains often result in confusion about distinguishing between the terms of transparency and traceability. This article aims to provide a clear definition of both terms and present practical examples and benefits of their application in the footwear industry

To begin with, the concepts of transparency and traceability in fashion supply chains are theoretically defined, also including their significance for sustainable developments. The discussion then focuses on digital tools that can enable greater transparency, especially in the field of product development across footwear and fashion supply chains. In the end, we present a real-world example of introducing a new visibility solution in the footwear industry to foster transparency and traceability developments.

Supply chain transparency
Traceability of the supply chain
What can fashion- and footwear companies do to be more transparent?
Digitization of framas supply chain
sample.flow in use


In general transparency is considered as one of the first building blocks towards a sustainable transformation of business practices. It enables organizations to gain a comprehensive understanding of their operations, including their strengths and weaknesses. With transparency, businesses can identify inefficiencies and waste, which can then be minimized or eliminated, resulting in more resource-efficient operations. This, in turn, leads to reduced environmental impact and a more sustainable approach.

When it comes to supply chain transparency, a reliable system can play a key role in ensuring that the right measures are taken to mitigate risks and promote sustainable practices along the entire value chain. Having a suitable transparency system in place is therefore essential for identifying and addressing supply chain risks, especially in the context of new regulations such as the German Act on Corporate Due Diligence Obligations in Supply Chains (Lieferkettensorgfaltspflichtengesetz).

Supply Chain Transparency

Supply chain transparency can be defined  as the  company’s understanding of the processes in their supply chain and the communication about it internally and externally. This does also include an increased communication about the product’s origin.

Additionally, transparency can be viewed as a corporate policy that is identifying supply chain risks early on with the aim of implementing continuous improvements with the involved stakeholders. Supply chain transparency refers to gathering and exchanging information at the meta level. This includes for example the collection of supplier data, locations, certificates, and their validity. Which then allows a general visualization of the company’s supply chains, also called supply chain mapping. 

The diffusion theory of innovation can help to determine the degree of a company’s transparency efforts along their own supply chain. Considering their depth of involvement, looking downstream including suppliers and partners until the raw material supply. Companies can be categorized also in regards of their innovation potential in relation to their transparency initiatives.

In summary it can be said that leveraging supply chain transparency enables companies to gain a better visibility of their entire supply network. Therefore, supply chain transparency plays a key role for every company that is striving to take over greater control and responsibility along their own value chains, including the involvement of suppliers and stakeholders.

Traceability of the supply chain

In contrast to the overarching concept of supply chain transparency, the term traceability of the supply chain pertains to more granular insights into the operational procedures within the supply chain. Rather than focusing on the entire mapping of the supply chain, traceability is concerned with the collection of accurate data about a product through each processing stage. This type of data could include order- or batch details, product information such as components and materials, as well as processing and lead times referring to specific processing stages.

Having a proper traceability system in place enables companies to reduce resource waste such as time and manpower, identify quality issue at the spot and reduce supply chain risks. Furthermore, the collection of granular data can provide valuable insights that can be used to generate overall transparency of a specific processing stage. Through the identification of inefficiencies, new opportunities for process improvements and control are given.

To conclude, it can be said that supply chain transparency is primarily related to the visualization of the supply chain, while supply chain traceability pertains to the visualization of granular operational data. Nevertheless, supply chain transparency can be described as a main category, with supply chain traceability being a subcategory.

What can fashion- and footwear companies do to be more transparent?

Companies in the footwear and fashion industry currently face the challenge of finding and implementing suitable IT systems that can promote transparency both at a macro and micro level, encompassing specific processing stages throughout their entire value chain. Only through the application of appropriate systems can risks and inefficiencies be identified and addressed for improvement.

In addition, the importance of Lean Management concepts is increasing, as this method aims to increase productivity, reduce waste, and ultimately minimize lead times and fasten time-to-market. Furthermore, this concept helps to address the rising challenges of skilled labor shortage. Investing in suitable software solutions for the digital transformation of business processes is crucial for footwear- and fashion companies looking to stay competitive in a rapidly digitizing world. By implementing these solutions, businesses can establish a stable and well-positioned presence in the marketplace, with streamlined processes and increased efficiency.

Digitization of framas supply chain

framas is continuously taking steps towards digital transformation, striving to ensure full transparency, and taking over responsibility for a more sustainable future.

Implementing the solution sample.flow® in their product development processes was one big milestone. framas is now tracing e.g., its mold and shoe lasts sampling processes in Germany, Korea and Vietnam with the system, to ensure a waste free and speedy workflow. sample.flow® combines smart RFID scanners with a SaaS software solution, enabling fast and clean data collection at every process step in real-time. Every sample can be easily allocated with its complete status in each step of the sampling process.

Additionally, a live dashboard view summarizes the most important KPIs to monitor our performance and to identify continuous improvement potential. framas now has a suitable system in place that ensures full sampling traceability on the one hand and the delivery of clean data to foster overall transparency developments on the other hand.

Bridging the physical and digital world has allowed framas to reduce their sampling time-to-market by up to 50%, while internal and external communication times have decreased massively.


  • 100% transparency & traceability: Clear Kanban- and Dashboard Views with real-time sample status data. No more time loss through searching and waiting for samples.
  • Up to 50% faster time to market: Reduction of development lead times and improved delivery reliability. Speeding up time to market significantly.
  • 30% more focus & productivity: More time for creative things in daily business. Increased productivity through less waste. 43 hours saved per month searching samples (per person).

*This article is created in cooperation with experts from Arkema to provide you a deeper inside into this topic. It is not sponsored or paid in any way.

If you liked this article, make sure to follow our Social Media channels and leave your feedback. You can contact us anytime via LinkedIn, Instagram & Facebook.
We are happy to receive any feedback and tell us what other topics are of interest to you. We will try to address them in the near future.

As well you can contact sample.flow® over their website

Thanks for checking out our blog!

Green Materials for the footwear industry

Green Materials for the footwear industry

Sustainability has become a very important topic in all areas of our daily life. Especially the fashion industry has to rethink its production patterns because it belongs to the industries, which harm our environment the most and accounts up to 10% of the global greenhouse gas emissions.

Therefore the industry is looking for new solutions to become more sustainable. As you might have read in our previous blog post, creating a sustainability report is a starting point for every company to see in which areas it has to improve. A report also acts as a transparency index for the companys customers and partners.

But what is really changing the industry are new products which are less harmful for the environment. Those products need to have an increased lifetime and must be recyclable. One way to do this is by using more so called green materials.

In this blog post we want to give you an overview of green materials, what they are and how to decide which one to use for your product.


Reduction of Carbon Footprint

What is a green material?

How to pick the right green material

Green materials in the footwear industry

· Cellulose

· Lignin

· Starch

· Chitin

· Hemicellulose

· Suberin

· Lipide

Sneak Peek: Cork

Reduction of Carbon Footprint

First of all, we need to talk about the Carbon footprint. A carbon footprint gives an indicator of how much CO2 a product is producing during its lifetime. There are many drivers of CO2 and other emissions in a footwear manufacturing process. While production has 4% impact on CO2 emissions, transport has 6%, materials has 82%. In this blog post we will focus on the impact of materials and how to lower it by using green materials.

(This is not a complete list of all factors. Calculation based on a popular sneaker outsole.)

What is a green material?

To understand what green material in the footwear sector is, it is helpful to demarcate it by three criteria: Is the material fossil or organic, is the material biodegradable or not, and can it be recycled or not? The graphic shows 4 categories of footwear materials and assigns materials respectively into their categories.

How to pick the right green material

A guideline structured by common footwear application requirements

The selection of the right material is a trade-off. A footwear developer must meet design intent, performance factors, sustainability aspects, manufacturability, costing/profitability and commercialization factors to satisfy the entire footwear creation team. With the drift towards plant-based materials, the number of criteria to fulfill are becoming even more. While fossil-based materials are manufactured by established suppliers with consistent processes and a long history of enhancement, the green material market is still diverse and due to a high variety of polymer sources, much more complex to overlook. Time for a guideline to ease the job of footwear creation teams.

In the following we break the factors down for you, which have to be kept in mind by choosing the fitting material:

1. Design Intent

It is the objective of every footwear developer to meet the intentions of the footwear designer. The number of uncertainties in a footwear development process make it challenging to meet it by 100%, but it is key for a smooth collaboration. When it comes to the material selection, pointing out the requirements helps avoiding deviations from design.

Some components material must be transparent to highlight component layers below. To ensure that the material is fulfilling the promised design effect, a translucency test is recommended to conduct.

Design and manufacturing places can differ a lot. It is not uncommon that the designer builds prototypes at dry-air places in Europe or the US first, but the mass production takes place in Southeast Asia – countries known for a high humidity. Materials can react to constant wet environments by changing their color or properties. A test called yellow index can mitigate the risk of design deviation during the manufacturing process.

When picking a material, it should also be determined in advance if the material needs to be colored or not. Some green materials come already colored by nature and must be taken how they are or must be colored by e.g., color coating. Therefore, the surface of materials must be suitable for decoration. Materials with thermoplastic properties can be prepared with color pigments and can therefore fulfill all designer’s imagination.

Also the shrinkage of the material, compared to its intended size, must be kept in mind. A shrinkage test is strongly recommended to conduct in advance.

Depending on the design, the dimensional stability of the material could also be a critical factor. To ensure the materials functionality, the material should be exposed to the related environment in its original target dimensions.

2. Performance

Most sport brands core values are based on performance. Therefore, footwear creation teams can only substitute fossil materials with plant-based materials if the performance does not decrease. There are a bunch of parameters giving a clue how the material will perform on the shoe later on.

If you need a lightweight shoe, you should make sure that the specific density is as low as possible. If a tough material is your choice, which has to fulfill safety standards, there are three important parameters all provided by one single test (tensile test) that must be looked at.  

To count as a stress resistant (high tear strength) the material should not break under high intensity. If the material shows a good breaking elongation, it can be stretched without deforming. Lastly, the Young’s E-Modulus tells you if the material can be strained intensively and then moving back fully to its initial shape.

If the respective shoe needs to stand extreme conditions (e.g. cold), you should conduct a fatigue bending test under very low temperature (e.g., -10 degrees Celsius).

If your shoe must stand moist or humid weather conditions without absorbing water, conduct a moisture absorption testWhen the shoe should be used for more than 1000 miles, your outsole material should display have very low values in an an abrasion resistance test. It is wise, to conduct the test with different undergrounds, especially if your customer are doing all-track activities.

The coefficient of friction testifies how good the traction of a material is. Depending on the shoes requirements it can be conducted on flat, lopsided, dry, wet, or even icy underground. The options of potential variating undergrounds are almost unlimited and should be selected wisely in advance during the material decision process.

Before choosing the material, you should also know where in the shoe it is supposed to perform. Covered and hidden in the shoe or visible? If visible, then it will likely be exposed to the sun and water. An UV-test will tell you how fast a material would lose pigmentation when exposed to the UV light. Another test indicates the speed of color change during the exposure to water. For both tests, a so-called grey scale is supporting you to find an acceptable range of sun and water resistance.

3. Sustainability

Only because a material is bio based, it does not automatically guarantee that a material is sustainable.

It is important to consider the materials impact over the entire lifetime. More than that, you should know the origin of the actual raw material, the entire manufacturing process to the ready-to-use footwear material, the manufacturing process from ready-to-use material to the footwear component and consider the lifetime of the actual material in the component.

Obviously, the longer a consumer can take advantage of a functioning shoe, the less frequent it needs to be replaced with a new product. Consequently, the biopolymer must be chosen by the criteria of material durability. To ensure this, the material needs to pass the abrasion test, should be resilient against stress in the tensile strength test and must be flexible without breaking in the breaking elongation test.  

Another option to extend the materials lifetime would be recycling. Many biobased materials are biodegradable, but not all are recyclable. For instance, all fiber-based materials simply burn and turn black if recycled.

For some footwear applications it can be sufficient that a material, of which the footwear component is made, is not lasting much longer than the shoe itself. The ability and speed biodegradability tells you how long it takes until your plant-based material is decomposed to its organic molecules.

One of the most apparent sustainability indicator is the carbon footprint (kg carbon equivalent/ LCA). Due to missing information material suppliers are not yet able to calculate a carbon footprint equivalent for all materials. In case of not existing values, an emergency thumb rule can help: The less manufacturing steps from raw material to ready-to-use product, the lower the carbon footprint.

However, not all biobased materials have excellent thermal properties which makes them capable to run through a recycling loop multiple times without suffering in mechanical, optical, physical, and thermal quality. For instance, a multiple times recycled material can get a worse appearance showing yellow or black dots. Before confirming a new material, it is strongly advisable to repeat all tests required for the footwear application after every recycling cycle to determine the maximum number of loops without adding virgin material.

For fossil polymer products it is simple. They are fostered under the earth. Since plant-based polymers are harvested or fostered above the earth, it is always beneficial to know from what plant and where the main ingredient of your material is coming from. The knowledge of origin will support you to evaluate if the ingredients were harvested or fostered under socially acceptable circumstances or if agriculture could possibly expel people, animals, or sustainable economy. The knowledge of plant helps you to know if the plant could possibly threaten biodiversity or enforces dehydration of land.

You should also definitely check if during the extraction process the use of chemicals was necessary. This could lead to a negative biological impact.

4. Manufacturability

Delays during the manufacturing process are costly and can jeopardize critical deadlines. Knowing the manufacturing steps and methods, as well as the assembly process, in advance helps finding the right material which avoids material problems. The methods finally define the material requirements. Of course, it is practical to have a material which fulfills the requirement of all methods, e.g., injection molding, 3D printing, extrusion, powder coating. But sometimes specified materials, which can only be used for one method, might have more benefits than a “generalist”. Injection machines work within a certain temperature range. Therefore, while heating a material, it must melt before it is reaching a certain temperature, must resist high temperature, and must flow smoothly through the hot channels. Two tests, the melt flow rate (MFR) and the melting test can evaluate the material manufacturing suitability in advance.

Another aspect to consider for the manufacturability is, if the materials will be exposed to chemicals or glue during the manufacturing process. The chosen materials are recommended to be exposed to the respective chemicals and glues under laboratory conditions before manufacturing. Obviously, the less chemicals and glues are used the better.

5. Costing & Profitability

Also, for green materials costing remains a critical factor. Cost plans and forecasts for plant-based polymers are less predictable than for fossil-based polymers. 

Since sources (plants) of green materials can underly much seasonal shortages, the price can be more volatile. Moreover, the availability of certain plants is limited and due to increasing demand of green materials even more, which is driving the prices upwards. In addition, the diversification of the market is still much higher than for fossil-based materials. Green material suppliers are also getting reimbursed for their pioneer work in research and development of new plant-based polymer alternatives. Some extraction processes for plant-based polymers are complex, which has also an effect on the price. When it comes to the selection of plant-based materials, footwear developers should consider especially the availability.

For the evaluation it is helpful to have as much origin knowledge as possible about the plant-based source. The cost premise should be to choose the material which has a high and safe availability.

If manufacturability, sustainability, design intention, or performance criteria require material with a lower availability a footwear developer should strive, if possible, to close exclusive long-term contracts with plant-based material suppliers. Another measure to decrease costs is to focus on the density of the material. The lower the specific density, the less cost per kg.

6. Commercialization

You need a good green material story. Nowadays, if you pick a plant-based material, you must be capable to tell a story about heritage, origin, or impact – creating a hype around this material to make the consumer willing to pay a bit more for the extra bio you added to the footwear. The more you know about the material, the better your bio-add-on story becomes. The next chapter is trying to enrich your green material knowledge.

Green materials in the footwear industry

When we talk about green materials which supposed to substitute fossil materials, we must keep in mind that those materials are often polymers recently made by nature. Sometimes you can just take the plant-based polymer how it is. Sometimes it requires one or several chemical or physical steps to process a material from the plant-based polymer to the final applicable footwear polymer.

Since the variety of polymer process has almost no limits, it is crucial to gain an understanding of the base elements for all green materials. The variety of plant-based polymer sources is high and the process to achieve the final applicable material for the footwear industry can be so complex that you can lose track about the real ingredient origin of the raw materials. It is definitely more beneficial to tell your team, stakeholders, and customers that your outsole is made of a certain plant that’s possibly growing next to their home than telling them just a random brand name, digits, or material number.

Time to sort things a bit and gain the overview in the world of bio polymers. Below, we provide you with a short portfolio of relevant bio polymer molecules, and respectively, in what plant source the bio polymer can be found a lot.


A green material of interest able to give footwear application a static structure is cellulose.

Cellulose is, as well as the biopolymer chitin, a polysaccharide (multiple sugar molecule). Cellulose is the most in nature occurring bio molecule, which makes it highly available for applications in the footwear industry. One reason its high availability is, that Cellulose is the main ingredient of most plant cell walls (up to 50% of cell mass). 

In the clothing industry, both natural plant fibers consisting of cellulose and artificial cellulose fibers (CO) are used.

The paper industry is using cellulose mostly as raw material for high-quality paper.

Raw materials with a lot of Cellulose:

  • Sugarcane bagasse
  • Cotton Lint
  • Maize Stover
  • Wheat Straw
  • Beech Wood
  • Eucalyptus
  • Grass
  • Flax plant (Linen: bast fibers of the Flax tree)


Lignin is a stiff biopolymer which is stored in the plant cell wall. It depicts a highly complex polymer.

The polymer causes the lignification of cells (cells are becoming wooden), which makes land trees extremely stabile and resistant against pressure load from windy weather. For water trees it is providing the static lift because its low-density properties. The higher the pressure load of weather conditions on plants, the more the lignin proportion increases. The process is called lignin cellulose.

Tree plant cells can have a proportion of 20–30% of lignin, most plants have only a lignin proportion of less than 1%. The annual lignin production of trees is estimated to be 20 billion tons.

Mixed with cellulose of hemp and flax, Lignin can be applied for Injection molding and other plastic processing methods. With some chemical manipulation, lignin can even be processed to Polyurethan. 

Raw materials with a lot of Lignin:

  • Sugarcane bagasse
  • Eucalyptus
  • Softwood timber
  • Beech Wood
  • Birch Wood


Starch is a polysaccharide which consists of glucose units. Therefore, it belongs to the carbonates. The substance is one of the most important reserve substances in plant cells.

Starch can for example be processed to a thermoplastic starch (TPS), which is one of the most important biopolymers on the market. Since TPS has strong water absorbing properties, it is often blended with other biodegradable, water repellent, polymers.

Another bio-based polymer which is using starch as a base polymer, is polylactide (PLA). By fermenting starch with the help of various bacteria lactide is produced, which is then being processed to PLA. PLA is a polymer and counts as a polyester. It is biological degradable. Moreover, thermoplastic properties (melting) make PLA in general suitable for plastic injection molding and extrusion.

However the low temperature resistance of PLA could be a problem for footwear application with high heat requirements. The material becomes weak between 50-60 Celsius degrees. Therefore, it is mostly used in combination with other materials, as a blend. By adding bio fibers, the temperature resistance can be increased up to 100 Celsius degrees.

Raw materials with a lot of Starch:

  • Sugar beet juice
  • Sugarcane juice
  • Maize Grain
  • Wheat Grain


Chitin (English: shield) is next to cellulose the most occurring polysaccharide. Chitin provides structure to cells. Chitin is the base material to derive chitosan.

Chitin can be found in the cells of mushrooms, mollusks (e.g., snails), as well as articulated animals (annelids, crabs, spiders, and insects). In mushrooms chitin is the main ingredient of the cell wall, whereas chitin is not occurring in all mushrooms.

Even though chitin and chitosan have excellent technical properties as a biopolymer, the practical application range is compared to other polymers still quite low. Although in the footwear industry, in particular chitosan could already be used as the base material for midsole or membranes, e.g., upper meshes.

Raw materials with a lot of Chitin:

  • Articulated animals
  • Mollusks
  • Ocean Mushroom (Mesh)
  • Sac Mushroom (Mesh)
  • Mucorales (Mesh)
  • Glucans (Mesh)


Hemicellulose is a collective noun for several polysaccharide types in the biomass of a plant cell. One of the most occurring hemicellulose types is pentose. It serves as a green base molecule for furfuran which can be the base material from polyamide (Nylon).

Raw materials with a lot of Hemicellulose/Pectin:

  • Sugarcane bagasse
  • Maize stover
  • Wheat straw
  • Eucalyptus
  • Rye (Pentose)
  • Oat (Pentose)


Suberin also called “cork substance” is a high-molecular polymer occurring in the bark cells of the cork oak as well as in roots of trees. As a hydrophobic layer on cell wall, suberin makes the cork cells impermeable to water. It is one of the most durable of all known organic substances.

Suberin or its raw material cork has been used in famous footwear applications over decades e.g., a sandal midsole.

Raw materials with a lot of Suberin:

  • Cork bark


The raw form of lipide are not polymers. The oleo chemistry, an oil specified chemistry branch, knows ways to process oils into polymer intermediates or end products. Through hydrolysis, transesterification, saponification, or hydrogenation natural occurring lipide can be processed indirectly or directly to bio polymers.

One very popular example of a bio lipid is the ricinus/castor oil. This oil is gained from the seed of the “magical tree” ricinus. More than 75% of ricinus is ricinoleic acid. By a multiple-step chemical reaction, the ricinoleic acid can be produced to the raw material polyamide 11 (also known as nylon 11), which is high-performing plastic especially for the footwear industry.

Raw materials with a lot of Lipide:

  • Flax seed (Linen)
  • Ricinus seed
  • Algae oil
  • Oil palm pulp
  • Rape seed
  • Soybean
  • Vernonia galamensis

Now since you have an overview of the natural polymers, the next articles will explain more about the impact, processing and usage of those green materials.

To give you a sneak peek, see the picture of a cork material sample.

If you liked this article, make sure to follow our Social Media channels. You can contact us anytime via LinkedIn, Instagram & Facebook. We are happy to receive any feedback and tell us what other topics are of interest to you. We will try to address them in the near future.

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Sustainability Reporting in the footwear industry

Sustainability Reporting in the footwear industry

Sustainability, ESG, Circular Economy, Nature Positive, Net Zero, Sustainable Development Goals – the list is long and includes concepts and frameworks. What they have in common is the aim: For a better world for everyone.

All these ideas have another thing in common. They all recognize that we live in a complex interconnected and interdependent system and if we want to tackle global challenges, we need to work together.

Climate change, biodiversity loss, waste, and pollution, are not only for governments to solve, but businesses are expected to do their part in actively changing an extractive, wasteful, and polluting economy and transform production and consumption patterns.

The fashion and footwear industry is known to be among the ones where social and environmental standards need to evolve. Companies have to think about solutions to become more sustainable and to change their production patterns.


The 2030 Agenda – Leave no one behind

Businesses shifting from Shareholder to Stakeholder focus

Challenges of the footwear industry in terms of sustainability

What can we do to tackle complex challenges?

Sustainability reporting ESG

framas Sustainability Report

The 2030 Agenda – Leave no one behind

According to the United Nations, sustainable development refers to fulfilling the needs of the current generation without compromising the needs of the future. This requires system thinking, understanding how environmental, social and governance dimensions are interconnected and interdependent.
A perfect example is the 2030 Agenda of the United Nations, which reflects the above-mentioned dimensions into 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These goals provide a shared blueprint for the world, covering people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnership.

The SDGs are unique as they are a call for action for everyone – nations, businesses, and individuals alike.

Details of each SDG can be found here.

Businesses shifting from Shareholder to Stakeholder focus

Traditionally in business shareholder interests used to be above all other interests. There is a fundamental shift going on, where businesses actions and decisions move from sole shareholder primacy into a broader approach, considering how the company impacts all stakeholders. Nowadays, companies are expected to step up and create values for all stakeholders*, not just shareholders.

*Everyone who has a stake in the organization (customers, suppliers, employees, investors, communities…)

Challenges of the footwear industry in terms of sustainability

Everyone in the industry is facing the same challenge(s): How to address global challenges while staying compliant and competitive. The most pressing topics are:

Supply Chain Accountability

Adresses the need of transparency in the supply chain by ensuring social and environmental compliance of suppliers. This includes risk assessment, traceability, identification of supplier non-compliance, and implementation of plans to avoid them.

Climate change adaptation and mitigation
Means adjusting to present and future effects and reducing the impact of climate change, by avoiding carbon emissions. One example is to look into the supply chain and identify where raw materials or products are shipped to. Depending on the distance and the means of transport, emissions can be avoided by planning accordingly. Furthermore, companies need to assess the kind of energy they use (Renewable Energy) and implement energy efficient processes.
Environmental Protection

This can be achieved through waste reduction, proper waste separation, conscious material use and fostering a circular economy. Shoes are part of the fast fashion industry; they are cheap and trendy. Occasional buying turned into seasonal buying. Shoes being much more affordable comes at a price for people who produce the shoes (cheap labor) and the environment (pollution – chemical and waste).

The traditional product lifecycle of a pair of shoes is linear – take, make, dispose – and designed to be thrown away at the end of their life, creating a huge amount of waste.

A circular economy in contrast, has a make, use, recycle/repair and reuse mindset, touching as well unsustainable consumption patterns. In order to achieve this, we have to rethink how many different materials and colors we want our shoes to have. The more colorful and poly-material we go, the more harmful it will be for the environment.

What can we do to tackle complex challenges?

Applying system thinking would be the most important step. When we understand how things are interconnected and interdependent, we see the bigger picture and realize how our activities impact nature and humanity.

In addition to that, collaboration is key. Sustainability challenges are global systemic challenges and can only be solved together. Therefore, SDG number 17, partnership for the goals, is crucial. We need cross-sector and cross-country collaboration if we want to achieve the 2030 Agenda.

Sustainability reporting ESG

Sustainability reporting means to disclose a company’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals. Through the report we communicate the progress towards these objectives.

  • Environment: how a company performs in an ecological way
  • Social: attention to relationships management of stakeholders (employees, suppliers, customers, communities etc.)
  • Governance: analyzing the company’s leadership, internal controls, audits, etc. 


The benefits of sustainability reporting include:

  • Better risk management
  • Costs savings
  • Optimizing processes
  • Competitive advantage
  • Compliance with regulatory requirements
  • Talent acquisition

ESG and Nature Positive

Today’s main approach (left) is to balance all the dimensions and finding the “sweet spot”. With this approach trade-offs are imminent.

If we shift to a nature-positive hierarchy (right side), the environment is not seen as externality but as the context for all life on earth. We, as society are setting the context for all our activities, of which the economy is just one. When we look at it as an hierarchy, we do not face the challenge of competing interests.

framas Sustainability Report

Last year framas published its first sustainability report, based on the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) framework, which lays out what and how and why topics need to be disclosed. We believe that if we want to stay in business it’s imperative to access our impacts and to contribute to sustainable development.

As a first step we did a materiality analysis to define our material topics by interviewing our stakeholdersThrough this process we defined 9 material topics for framas for which we will define targets within 2023.

  1. Long-term Economic Success​​ – determined by the core topics of innovation and digitization and product and service quality.
  2. Attractive & Responsible Employer – includes employment, training and education as well as diversity and equality of opportunity.
  3. Energy Efficiency and Climate Protection ​​- The focus is on increasing energy efficiency, reducing harmful emissions and using renewable energies.
  4. Materials Use​​ – For framas and for the footwear industry, the materials used in products are a key issue.
  5. Product Responsibility ​​- Customer satisfaction, one of the most important factors for framas’ success, and directly correlated with our customers, brands and users’ expectation in terms of products and services.
  6. Sustainable Supply Chain ​​- Consumer expectations for ethically and ecologically sound products is also a major issue in the sports industry.
  7. Protection of The Environment ​​- Because natural resources and ecosystems are under intense pressure locally and globally, environmental protection is a major concern in modern society.
  8. Occupational Health and Safety ​​- Occupational safety and health protection are integral parts of framas.
  9. Corporate Citizenship​​ – framas practices social responsibility through donations that directly benefit local communities.

You can access the report for more details.

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Shoelast · Basics

Shoelast · Basics


Almost every shoe development starts with it. It gives a shoe the final form and is still formed out of wood in Germany. Can you guess what this article will be about? We want to tell you more about the shoelast!  


What is a shoelast and why do we need one?

Wood vs. plastic

Measuring a last

Different last categories

Making of a last


What is a shoelast and why do we need one?

A last is the base of almost every shoe and a form giving tool for shoe production. The form of each last is built upon the design (lifestyle products) and category (performance products) of the shoe it is made for. As well it generates the fit of the shoe e.g., a climbing shoe must sit tighter than a sneaker. The last can also create a function for a shoe by giving it a pre-forming.

Wood vs. Plastic

The base model of each shoelast in Germany is produced out of wood. White beech is generally regarded as the preferred wood to work with. Cutting, carving, creating sharp lines and transition from filler to wood is smoother.

Although because of the humid climate, wood is not suitable for the development process in Asia where HDPE (High Density Polyethylene) is the material of choice.

Still in Germany as well as in Asia production lasts are made out of HDPE.

Measuring a Last

There are different points to measure a last and to make sure that it was manufactured according to standards of the different sizes. The most important ones are marked in bold right next to the pictures below.

Main Measurement Points

Stick length
The stick length defines the widest point in the length of the last.

Ball width
Defines the widest point in the ball area and is measured with the help of a caliper.

Instep girth
The measurement of this point guarantees that the foot fits into the later shoe.

Ball girth
Is defined as the volume around the last in the ball area. This point can only be compared from last to last and not from foot to foot, because each foot is individual.

Heel Spring/Toe Spring 
Tells more about how the last is positioned in the later shoe and helps in the different categories.

Main Measurement Points

There are different measuring tools for controlling different points of the last.

A caliper is used to measure the stick length, the back cone height etc.

Measuring tape is used to define the ball girth and the last bottom length etc. and a ruler is needed to measure the toe spring.

In addition, heel blocks (metal plates) measure the heel spring. The PFI gauge is used to mark the ball girth position.

All measurements are noted down in the so called “Specification”, which is forwarded to the customer after the last development. With the help of the specification the customer can orientate his production settings.

Different Last Categories

Depending on the category of the shoe, the last is built for, there are different specifications the last must fulfill. 


A football shoe needs to sit tight on the foot. Therefore, a last for this category must have a narrow heel clip, a slim forefoot area and arch.

These functions provide extra stability for the whole foot and give a better connection to the football. As well the side walls of the last are rounded which makes it easier to handle the football. A football shoe must be comfortable as well because the players run a lot.


Running lasts need a balanced heel to toe spring ratio for a better roll up. Most running lasts have an asymmetric toe shape, which is adapted to the anatomy of the foot. This gives the foot sufficient space at the right place.

Also, it has a wide forefoot area. This  is because the foot can be swollen during or after running and should not be put under pressure. Quite often they also have a rounded heel, so the shoe adapts to the anatomy of the foot. In addition, running lasts have a narrow heel clip to avoid the foot slipping out of the shoe.

Spiked Running

A spiked running shoe has similar properties to a normal running shoe. Those shoes are used for short distance running. In addition, they also have stiff outsoles. Therefore, the toe spring in the last is raised which makes the power transmission on the forefoot easier.

To compensate the burden on the forepart special attention to the medial and lateral balance must be paid. The slim back part gives an extra stability, so the foot is not sliding out of the shoe.

Safety Boots

For safety boots the volume in the toe area is shrinked so the later toe cap fits. The side walls are high to adapt to the later boot shape. In general, the properties are like those of a hiking boot. The instep area is kept wide with attention to the later shoe construction e.g., zip, lace, slip on.

These lasts have a lot of volume to compensate for thick materials, foot beds and water resistant membranes. In addition, people often wear thick socks in their safety boots.


For fashion lasts it is hard to define any fixed standards because, as the category suggests, they are built according to current fashion trends. It is not uncommon that a shoe, originally from another category gains prominence in the fashion industry.

Normally the back part is standardized but aspects such as toe depth, shape and the overall length of the last can vary.


Climbing shoes have an extreme tight fit, a curved arch and forefoot. The toe area is asymmetric with point over the big toe. This is done because the big toe is the most powerful toe. The big toe can hold the entire body weight for several seconds, which is often required when climbing.


The properties of children lasts can vary for certain age range groups and categories. It is crucial throughout all categories, that enough room is given to the growing feet with all areas carefully considered.

Also great attention needs to be paid to the toe spring, which should not be too low. The bones in children’s feet are too weak to properly roll their foot and would fall. The fitting is extremely important because otherwise it is possible that the foot can be deformed.


Sandal lasts are produced closer to the real foot length and still the bottom is rather wide because of the spread of the foot during walking. They have slim, low sidewalls and often a sculpted bottom for the molded footbed. The toe depth does not play a role in this category because it is open.

Making of a Last


In the development process, there are three commonly used methods to start the process.

Base last
The footwear developer aims to produce a new shoe which uses another model as the base – the so-called base last. This is the most used method. With the help of the base last not every new development needs to start from scratch. Rather a completely new shoe can be created with changes on an existing last.

There are different use cases in which this development method is needed e.g., the footwear developer would like to produce the same shoe, which is already on the market, using a new material. Or the production is changed from Strobel to AGO (If you would like to know more about these production methods, be sure to check out our blog post about heel counters.)

Brand Designer send a rough idea of a new shoe. A meeting is then scheduled to discuss materials, exact form, and function. Afterwards the last is created.

Reference Shoe
The last method is working with reference shoes. The shoe developer gives the last manufacturer different shoe models which account as reference shoes. The new model should be a mix in design of the reference shoes. The fit is defined by the shoe developer. 

The data is then transferred and a wooden base last is milled. On these last further changes can be done.


Model confirmation & alterations
Traditionally lasts were confirmed by eye, but with the aid of CAD, comparisons can be made from version A to B. This leads to a better control and visibility of alterations.

CAD can as well be used as a tool to make minor adjustments, but it‘s not capable of creating what the experienced model maker can with the last.

Fully graded last
Measurement is taken from stick length and ball girth. This value is graded up and down freely using the appropriate grading system. The most commonly used systems are the British, American and French one but they can also be customer specific.

Coordination grading
Specific areas of the last stay stable, allowing the rest of the last to grade naturally e.g., stick length.


Production Last Material

The basic material of these lasts is High Density Polyethylen (HDPE). It belongs to the group of polyolefins. Polyethylene is a semi-crystalline thermoplastic produced by polymerization of ethene. The melting point lies at 120°C.

At framas all normal production lasts are produced using HDPE. This plastic withstands humidity changes and is strong enough to endure the varying types of processes and pressures during the production process.

Basic Production Process

The last block is first rough milled to shape, attached to the machine at the toe and heel part.

At this time a system for easier delasting process e.g., last with vertical hinge is included.

Firstly, holes are drilled at specific locations for the hinge pins.

Following cuts are sawn with an exact radius for optimal hinge movement and length reduction.

In the next step cuts are also made inside the last to accommodate the hinge location.

In the last step of the vetical hinge inclusion the hinge and the last are assembled together.

At this point the basic production process continues and is the same for every last.

The comb holder is milled in the last, which is needed to hold it in place in the coming machines.

Afterwards, the back and front of the last, which were previously needed to hold it in place, are cut off.

The last is then fine milled to achieve a smooth and precise finish.

In the next step the stick length is measured with the help of a caliper. In addition, a measuring tape is used to define the ball girth.

After that the fine milled last is cut to the correct production back cone height.

The surface of the last is then burned to give it a shiny, polished look and to improve the detail of the laser marking.

The last is afterwards marked with a laser, which typically includes the company logo. Depending on the customer’s preference, different stamps such as production date or last number may be added.

A hole is drilled into the last to accommodate the socket, which is needed for later positioning of the last in the production machine.

The socket is inserted into the hole, which allows for secure and precise positioning of the last in the production machine.

Further Processes

At framas Germany the produced lasts are only used as reference model, archive pages and small series for European production. The main production of lasts happens in Asia with our partner YinHwa.

After production the lasts are then sent to the customer for further testing, processing or directly to the shoe factories, where they are used for production.

If you liked this article, make sure to follow our Social Media channels. You can contact us anytime via LinkedIn, Instagram & facebook. We are happy to receive any feedback and tell us what other topics are of interest to you. We will try to address them in the near future.

Thanks for checking out our blog!