The Future of Footwear: What’s next in the Sole Game?

USD430 billion; that’s how much the Global footwear market is estimated to be worth by 2024. The men’s formal shoe market alone is set to reach $9,881 million by 2022, according to Allied Market Research. However, what elements and trends will help this industry make bank at this level? There have been hints throughout our Sole Series, indicating factors that industry leaders will place emphasis on. Nevertheless, here are some of predictions for the International footwear industry between now and 2024:

[Image: Adidas]

The Market of One

Why are consumers’ today more willing to provide data than ever before? Millenials want a personalised experience. They are more likely to use the vast information at their finger tips and do research on their next purchase. In fact, Seb James, Group CEO of Dixons Carphone, explains that the average consumer will begin researching a product 90 days before purchase. This is all because they want a product that fits their lifestyle and interests; a recurrent message at the Shoptalk Europe 2017. Naturally, this is where Artificial Intelligence (AI) comes in. So as to engage with the savvy customer of the future, footwear companies will have to AI into their product offerings and their marketing strategies. Companies will embrace smart footwear to collect as much body-region- specific data to help customize shoes to meet the criteria of each foot.

[Image: JS Shoes]

This includes shapes, shape and fit. You’ll see some companies such as JS Shoes that are already moving away from the traditional pair of shoes notion, to selling shoes per foot. Techniques such as 3D scanning the foot through your mobile phone will increase the correctness when it comes to ergonomics and the type of materials used. That means footwear producers will be moving away from negative cash models and ultimately won’t have to deal with us much inventory.

Furthermore, experts believe that soft sensor networks will become more commonplace, than the novelty they are today. Having circuits of flexible sensors that are embedded throughout the shoe and then paired with a smart device may become the norm once they find a way to make it cost-effective.  This AI will be able to fully collect and synthesis information such as temperature, GPS, heating, pedometers, musical or massage functions and automated fastenings, for a customized experience. But it won’t just be for comfort purposes. It will also be utilised to keep the consumer safe and monitor their health.

[Image: Hakes]

Production Localisation

In order to meet both requirements of custom fit and fulfilling the need for instant gratification, production time will need to speed up. According to Shamil Hargovan, CEO and Co-founder of Wiivv, that means more local manufacturing. While the average shoe can take up to 42 days to be produced and delivered, the future is looking to reduce it to a matter of minutes. Carbon’s partnership with Adidas looks to create a 3D midsole in 90minutes while Asics microwave technology wants to cook up one in around 15minutes.  Granted, the in store 3D printing experience may take five to 10 years to become a reality. Nonetheless, the first natural step to prepare for this eventuality would be to localise the supply chain.

[Image: Quartz]

Science and Sustainability

Enhancing lives with new material and technologies will surpass the wow factor. The focus will shift to utilizing biomechanics and function to create a product that is precisely engineered and safe for the environment.  It may seem like a contradiction, seeing as the millenials are much centred on products moulding to their lifestyles and improving their own health. However, they are also invested in preserving or enhancing the environment around them. As the production and disposing process of footwear should have a limited environmental impact, using resourcefulness and ingenuity were possible.

[Image: Orphe Shoes]

All Channel System

The Omni channel was so 2016. The seamless experience craved by today’s shoppers, and what they anticipate the shopper of the future will need, goes beyond a singular channel option. Whatever avenue the consumer choosing to engage on –be it mobile app, website, physical store or social media – they want a hassle-free engagement with the brand. They’re looking for the best price, selection and convenient that meets their want or need. It’s not enough to be online or offline anymore, it’s creating a positive environment for the consumer whilst maintaining your brand identity and authenticity.


To fully predict the way forward with the footwear industry would take more than just a single blog post. There’s advancements on materials, manufacturing techniques, marketing strategies and overall consumer experience that proves that the industry is moving in a more conscious direction. With companies and brands investing heavily to be at the frontier of design and innovation, there’s simply no limit but the imagination. With athletic shoes taking the charge, we’ll definitely keep tabs on their progress and collaborations as they progress. What waits to be seen is how they will effectively translate it into the commercial markets and other forms of shoe design. If you’d like to share your thoughts on where you think the international footwear industry is heading, head to the comment section below.


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