How 3D Enables End-to-End Digital Workflows for Footwear Brands

As some of you may know, I have a passion for shoes. I scan a lot of shoes, I collect a lot of 3D models of shoes (great, famous, historical), and I even started making my own shoes

It turns out footwear is also our biggest B2B vertical at Sketchfab. While this is mostly a coincidence, I always get super excited when we start working with a shoe brand. It turns out that many shoe brands are shifting to end-to-end digital workflows, from designing the shoes to launching them and selling them, and Sketchfab is helping a lot of them at every stage of the process.

I’d like to cover here some of the ways we’ve been working with footwear brands.

Internal review in 3D

Many footwear brands are relying on 3D and CAD programs to design their shoes. They use tools like Modo or Roman CAD to design, and tools like Substance to texture. This work is done by 3D designers. 

At some point, the 3D designers need to show and share their designs with the rest of the stakeholders. Without Sketchfab, they either have to share the actual files—which requires the other team members to download the files, and then have a 3D program to open them—or to use alternative solutions like 2D or video renders, or even 3D printing.

“People were blown away the first time we presented our new designs using Sketchfab

—Mitch Harvey, 3D innovation Manager

With Sketchfab for Teams, the entire team gets access to a central repository where they can store and organize all their 3D assets, and where, more importantly, they can access the team’s 3D visualizations, on any device, with great fidelity.

[Digital samples] saved us from manufacturing 2500 physical samples that were once shipped to the HQ for the meetings.

—Stefano Ferniani, Senior Director of Global Innovation at Crocs

In a traditional workflow, once a design is approved the brand will manufacture physical samples, often in Asia, and then ship them overseas for review, repeating this process a number of times until the final design is approved. Shifting to 3D means that companies get to entirely skip that part, thus saving both time and money.

Of the brands that still rely on physical samples, more and more are turning to digitization of their samples, and uploading those digital prototypes to Sketchfab so that they don’t have to ship them. Bonus: digital samples are not only easier to acquire and less expensive, they are also much better for the planet.

Digital B2B catalogues

Once the design of a future collection is approved, a shoe brand will typically present the collection to retail outlets—the FootLockers of the world—at B2B trade shows. With COVID-related restrictions in place, those trade shows are essentially gone, and many brands have been looking for solutions to handle this digitally.

Sketchfab for Teams addresses this exact purpose by offering an online library that is easily shareable outside the company, with beautiful 3D visualization and even a built-in AR mode that lets viewers see the shoe in their own spaces via their mobile phones.

Crocs account Sketchfab


The next step is commercialization online. This has historically been one of our primary use cases, helping brands easily integrate 3D previews of their shoes on their websites and eCommerce platforms. Our viewer is embeddable anywhere with a simple iframe, and is directly supported on all eCommerce platforms, including Shopify, Magento, and WooCommerce.

By displaying a product’s digital twin through Sketchfab, visitors can discover and interact with that product in a unique way, thus boosting ROI and conversion rates. Compared to just using the standard image carousel, our clients have observed conversion rate increases of 15 to 40% when leveraging 3D or AR.

Product configurators

To take the online experience one step further, Sketchfab powers 3D configurators that let visitors pick and choose from various options like colors, materials, etc. offering an infinite canvas and easy personalization for the end user. 3D configurators can be easily built using the Sketchfab viewer api, and we also offer a configurator studio to prototype custom options.

Phygital: bridging digital with physical stores and retail

And finally, we also work with brands in-store to bridge the physical and digital. 

With direct AR support, you can easily point customers to an AR experience, as Galerie Lafayette is doing right now with brands like Dr. Martens.

If these digital solutions sound interesting to you and your shoe brand, just visit our plans page and subscribe to one of our licenses.