Shoe Outcome

Do Professional Athletes Need Custom Shoes?

May 15, 2023

Footwear brands spend millions of dollars sponsoring elite athletes, yet they equip them with the same $150 shoes that Average Joes purchase. Will elite athletes have better performance in custom shoes? The data shared below suggests professional athletes need custom shoes.

Custom shoes improve the performance, comfort, and health of a professional athlete.

Data shows that shoes that have a profound influence on athlete performance. Shoes are equipment. Most athletes have customized equipment—gloves, helmets, cars, rackets/clubs/bats—the empower them to reach their greatest performances. Rarely shoes are customized for the athlete.

There are 2 ways the shoe should be modified to enhance performance:

  1. Sole cushioning. Elite athletes are capable of moving extremely fast, producing large amounts of force quickly to move their muscular frames. The midsole foam in their shoes benefits from tuning to meet their specific movement patterns. However, this same midsole would likely be very uncomfortable for a recreational athlete. The production shoe midsoles should have one foam, while elite athletes should have a range of different midsoles.
  2. Fit. Fit is comfort and elite athletes perform better when their shoes are comfortable. There are multiple reasons why we see elite athletes having poor fitting shoes. The most common are larger foot shapes that don’t follow last patterns and foot changes due to injury.

Custom shoe fittings result in innovative new ideas that benefit the footwear brand and the athlete.

When brands commit to customizing an elite athletes’ shoes, 2 things happen: the athlete provides honest feedback on their experience in shoes and the footwear team is stimulated with new innovation concepts. Collaboration is increased as media, product design, product testing, and athlete management teams share this experience together. And the professional athlete leaves the experience feeling like they matter and have a say in their equipment which strengthens their bond with their sponsor.

Note: not all athletes need a fully customized shoe with their own lasts, upper patterns, and midsole/outsole molds. Heeluxe works with athletes to evaluate their performance in the full range of production shoes their sponsor offers. These experiences identify which shoe provides the best performance and comfort for the individual. The athlete leaves these experiences with enhanced confidence in the equipment their sponsor provides them and more knowledge about how their shoes and feet.

How Heeluxe helps your brand with this

Since its inception Heeluxe has been brought into work with professional athletes for footwear brands. From Tennis great Gael Monfils, to Channel Island’s sponsored surfer Dane Reynolds to improve how his ankle interacts with surfboards, to world #1 golfer Jon Rahm—we’ve seen a lot. This experience combined with our ability to use the same equipment to test professional athletes that we use in your “normal” testing results in great outcomes for brands and athletes.

Whether you’re a professional athlete looking for help with your shoes or a footwear brand building the best equipment for performance, we’d love to hear from you at