When you head to a store and try on a pair of sneakers, you might think about how they fit and how they look. Most shoppers, however, rarely think about how high-end sneakers are made, or what the luxury shoe market is truly like.

There’s no denying that the high-end sneaker market is a bustling, vibrant and hundred-billion-dollar industry. Often, the most valuable sneakers are sold as limited releases, and celebrities might even be involved in limited-release collaborations. Peek behind the curtain and take a look at the true luxury designer sneaker market in the United States and around the world.

What Makes a Shoe a Luxury Shoe?

You can find sneakers at just about every price point imaginable. It’s not hard to find discounted sneakers at bargain prices, but at the other end of the spectrum, you can find sneakers available for thousands of dollars. What, exactly, justifies the difference in price? There are plenty of factors, starting with the quality of materials. Plus, luxury and designer sneakers aren’t just built: They are crafted. They are designed specifically for a certain aesthetic, a certain wearer and a certain vision. You’re paying for the exclusivity, but also for the durability and the comfort.

Understanding the Luxury Shoe Industry

The luxury shoe industry is actually two distinct industries. First is the retail and online industry, where new sneakers are sold to customers. Second is the resale market, where there are countless websites devoted to buying and selling coveted and collectible sneakers. Creating men and women’s sneakers successfully means understanding what buyers want, but also appreciating that sneakers can be an investment.

The luxury shoe market is a staggering size, and it is experiencing unprecedented growth. The people who understand the market the best are the designers and manufacturers who work hard to create interesting, collectible and unique shoes that look great and perform well on every level.

Attention to Detail Leads to an Upscale Final Product

Low-end sneakers tend to be mass produced. Hundreds of thousands of shoes get made in a single run, and there the design itself may involve minimal effort. Often, cheaper sneaker companies take an already successful idea, change a color or two, and release a new variety. Luxury sneakers brands, however, tend to spend more time at each step of the creative process. Attention goes into every detail from how the sneaker will fare in wet weather to whether sunlight could fade the material. These smaller details may not get noticed by the general public, but true sneaker fans will be able to tell the difference.

High-Quality Materials Create Upscale Sneakers

If you want to cook an amazing meal, you start with fresh ingredients. If you want to create upscale sneakers, you need to use high-quality materials. This ensures that the sneakers can last, even if they are just being put on a shelf and admired from afar. High-end sneakers can’t have scuffing that won’t come out, stitching that is falling out after a few wears or colors that fade over time. Starting with high-end materials is the basis for high-quality sneaker production.

Prioritizing Fit and Comfort

If you’re buying luxury shoes at the very top end of the spectrum, spending thousands of dollars on collector’s items, then fit, and comfort may not be a priority. For the majority of buyers, however, sneakers are designed to be worn. Therefore, designers have to think beyond aesthetics and work to create something that feels great as well. Individuals who invest in luxury sneakers want to know that their investment will last miles of walking through cities, traveling to new destinations or exploring their own backyards.

Talents of the Designer

Of course, it’s impossible to ignore the talents of the designer. Without their knowledge, creative eye and innovative thinking, it wouldn’t be possible to release such a wide range of luxury shoes. While you can design your own sneakers online, these are really just about customizing a nearly finished product. Sneaker design also involves a knowledge of software, because, in our tech-heavy society, even shoe design is largely done on computers. To top it all off, the best shoe designers also need to have thick skin. When you’re pushing the boundaries to create something new, it’s expected that not everyone will love your designs. Designers need to be open to criticism every step of the way, but they also need to know when to stick with a truly great idea.

Creating Involves the Melding of Old and New

Designing a luxury sneaker is not about reinventing the wheel. Instead, it is about adopting the elements that work, paying homage to fantastic designs of the past but adapting to the needs and styles of a new audience. Designers who can effortlessly blend the elements of old, while still introducing new elements, are the ones that tend to have the most success on a critical and commercial level.

High-end sneakers are not just a subset of the fashion market: They are truly an industry in their own right. Designing a luxury pair of sneakers is no easy feat, and there are countless things that can go wrong along the way. That’s why it is important to commend the designers who do it right, creating luxury shoes that appeal to buyers.