Spotlight on Recent Advancements in the Shoe Technology Industry
24 Jan 2023

India is a major player in the global footwear industry, with a large number of domestic and international companies operating in the country. The Indian footwear industry is a diverse and vibrant sector with a wide range of products, including sports shoes, formal shoes, casual shoes, sandals, and slippers. The Indian footwear market is valued at around $15 billion, and it is expected to grow at a CAGR of around 8% during the forecast period of 2020-2025. The growth is driven by factors such as increasing consumer spending, rising demand for branded footwear, and the increasing popularity of e-commerce.

The shoe manufacturing industry in India is known for its large-scale production of footwear at relatively low costs, making it a popular destination for shoe manufacturers and retailers looking to source products at competitive prices. Additionally, the country has a long history of traditional shoe-making techniques and a significant number of skilled workers, which allows for a wide range of shoe styles and designs to be produced. Recently, Indian shoe manufacturers have been focusing on sustainable materials and production methods to cater to the global demand for eco-friendly shoes.

The growth of the Shoe Technology industry is the result of constant advancements that include new materials, such as recycled or sustainable materials, new manufacturing methods, and the incorporation of technology, such as sensors or wireless connectivity. Some companies now use 3D printing to create shoe prototypes and even final products.

There are a variety of new materials that are being used in the shoe industry and shaping its future, some of which include:

  • Recycled materials: Many shoe companies now use recycled materials, such as recycled plastic bottles, to create shoes.
  • Sustainable materials: Companies are also using more sustainable materials, such as organic cotton and natural rubber, to create shoes.
  • High-performance synthetic materials: New synthetic materials such as Gore-Tex, a breathable, waterproof material, and Flywire, a strong, lightweight material, are being used to create shoes that are both durable and performant.
  • 3D Printing: 3D printing is increasingly used to create shoe prototypes and final products using materials such as TPU, a type of flexible thermoplastic.
  • Biodegradable materials: Companies are also experimenting with biodegradable materials such as natural fibers and algae-based foam to create more eco-friendly shoes.

Several new manufacturing methods are being used in the shoe industry, including:

  • 3D printing: As mentioned earlier, 3D printing is increasingly being used to create shoe prototypes and final products. This method allows for the creation of complex, customised designs and reduces waste during the manufacturing process.
  • Injection moulding: Injection moulding is a manufacturing process that uses a heated material, such as plastic, which is then injected into a mould to create the desired shape. This method is used to create a variety of shoe components, such as soles and uppers.
  • Automation: Automation is being used to increase efficiency and reduce the cost of shoe production. For example, robots can be used to perform tasks such as cutting and stitching.
  • Direct-to-consumer: With the help of e-commerce, some companies are now using a direct-to-consumer model, which allows them to bypass traditional retail channels and sell their products directly to customers. This has also allowed them to reduce waste and keep prices lower.
  • Sustainable and Eco-friendly methods: Companies are also using more sustainable and eco-friendly methods to create shoes, such as using recycled materials and reducing water and energy consumption during manufacturing.

Several new technologies are being incorporated into the shoe industry, including:

  • Sensors: Sensors are being used to track and monitor a wearer’s movements and activity levels. These sensors can be integrated into the shoe or connected to a smartphone app to track data such as steps taken, distance travelled, and burned calories.
  • Wireless connectivity: Some shoes are now equipped with wireless connectivity, allowing them to connect to a smartphone or other device. This allows for features such as remote control and tracking of the shoe’s location.
  • Augmented Reality: Some companies are experimenting with augmented reality technology to create more interactive and personalised shopping experiences. For example, customers can use their smartphones to view virtual images of shoes on their feet or see how they would look in different colours or styles.
  • Smart Insoles: Smart insoles are being used to monitor the wearer’s foot health and provide real-time feedback on foot posture, arch support, and pressure distribution.
  • Self-tying laces: Some companies have developed shoes with self-tying laces that can be adjusted automatically with a button or through a smartphone app, which can be especially helpful for people with mobility issues.
  • Biomechanics: Companies are also using biomechanics technology to improve the design of shoes for different sports and activities, such as running, cycling, and golfing.

In the footwear industry, companies use 3D printing technology to create shoe prototypes and final products. This technology allows for the creation of complex and customised designs and reduces waste during the manufacturing process.

For prototyping, 3D printing allows companies to quickly and easily create functional prototypes of their shoe designs. This allows them to test the shoe’s fit, comfort and functionality before it is mass-produced. 3D printing can also be used to create customised shoes, such as orthopaedic shoes or shoes for people with specific foot conditions.

For final products, 3D printing allows companies to create shoes that are not unique and customised but also eco-friendly by reducing waste and using sustainable materials. Companies are using various types of materials for 3D printing, such as TPU (Thermoplastic polyurethane), a type of flexible thermoplastic that can be used to create soles and uppers of shoes.

It’s worth noting that 3D printing is still a relatively new technology in the footwear industry, and not all companies are using it yet. But as technology advances, it’s expected that more companies will adopt this production method in the future.

The future of the shoe manufacturing industry in India looks promising, as the country is expected to continue to be a major player in the global shoe market. The industry will likely continue to focus on increasing productivity and efficiency while investing in new technologies, such as automation and digitalisation, to improve manufacturing and reduce costs. Additionally, with the increasing global demand for sustainable and eco-friendly products, Indian shoe manufacturers are also likely to invest in using more environmentally friendly materials and production methods.

India’s focus on the “Make in India” initiative, and the government’s push to encourage domestic production and exports, will also boost the industry. The Indian government’s efforts to improve infrastructure and logistics and implement favourable trade policies will also support India’s shoe manufacturing industry’s growth.

Moreover, the increasing awareness about the health benefits of wearing comfortable and ergonomic shoes will lead to a demand for shoes with advanced technology and innovative design, opening up new opportunities for Indian manufacturers.

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