Check out the athletic shoes in your closet and your girlfriend's closets, and tour athletic shoe stores until you're sick and tired of looking at sneakers. Take notes as you travel, jotting down styles, manufacturers and engineering features, and don't forget the small details, like laces, Velcro tabs, color mixes and orthotic features built into these types of high-endurance shoes.
Rip feature stories and athletic shoe ads from publications to collect images of designs you like. It's OK to do this while you're at the hair cutter as long as you ask permission, but if nobody's around and you have a knack for ripping quietly, go to it. While creating your resource file, head to the Virginia-based Color Marketing Group (see Resources) website for color advice. Folks working at CMG spend their days predicting hot colors five years down the road, and while their long-term projections remain top secret, you can check out today's popular hues on their website.
Put your drawing talent to work by sketching out a pencil silhouette of the athletic shoe you seek to create. If your freehand skills are somewhere between nonexistent and pathetic, no sweat. Just trace the outline of an athletic shoe silhouette using a pencil and tracing paper. If the image of the style you want to model is tiny, blow it up on a photocopier and then trace it. Churn out a bunch of copies and you'll have great-looking templates for your creative project.
Fill your athletic shoe silhouette(s) with original art. Whether your idea of a great looking sneaker features a unique pattern (e.g., Herringbone), you long to see your signature scrawled across each shoe like heavy hitter footwear designers or you want a little levity on your feet by writing "LEFT" and "RIGHT" on the appropriate shoes, it's your call. Heck, add a pithy message to the toe area (You can run, but you can't hide) if you can't restrain your sarcasm.
Locate a cobbler or shoemaker if you plan to take your athletic shoe creation from concept to production. You have already identified the shoe material you prefer and know how you want them customized, so you need to sleuth out a craftsman to follow your lead. This won't be easy. Custom shoe making is a dying art and not every shoe repair guy can make 'em from scratch, but if you scour area Yellow Pages and use your fav Internet search engine to find "shoemakers," you're bound to find one worthy of making your shoes.
Any thoughts about pursuing a career now that you've tried your hand designing? Find the right school (see resources) and in the future, millions of athletic shoes may bear your signature on their soles.