Step firmly into a golden future with trendy designs

From traditional shoe stronghold to innovative footwear hub

What have two regiments of grenadiers got to do with Pirmasens, Germany’s shoe-making capital? Landgrave Ludwig IX of Hesse-Darmstadt moved the soldiers there in 1740 and their bored wives, far from home and the delights of Darmstadt, started making shoes. News of these high-quality hand-crafted shoes spread fast, and a new industry was born. In the 19th century, the Pirmasens-based industry was a first mover in the industrialisation of shoe production. Nowadays, this innovative spirit is still driving Rhineland-Palatinate’s footwear industry.

Luxury sneakers and safety footwear, women’s fashions and crepe-soled comfort shoes, barefoot wear and vegan shoes – Rhineland-Palatinate’s footwear industry has the lot. The current wealth of trendy designs, 3D expertise and manufacturing talent is not there by chance.

Germany’s first-ever shoe factory was set up in Pirmasens in 1838. In the late 1960s, half of Germany’s outdoor footwear output came from that city. In the 1970s, Rhineland-Palatinate’s footwear industry was once again a first mover in recognising the opportunities opened up by globalisation. Outsourcing took manufacturing capacities to countries where labour costs were lower, a key factor in this labour-intensive industry.

But the innovative spirit that has characterised Pirmasens shoe-making since the days of the bored soldiers’ wives is as strong as ever. Nowadays, the focus is on niche products and innovative start-ups, shoe engineering, footwear expertise and research. For enterprising individuals or companies looking to gain a foothold in the footwear industry there is no better location than this south-west corner of Rhineland-Palatinate.

Economic data

Key figures

As early as 1969, the branch employed 32,000 people in the Pirmasens shoe industry. Even today it is Germany's leading location with up to 20% of the manufacturing jobs in the region in the shoe industry and a flourishing start-up culture.

62 million pairs of shoes, half of Germany's outdoor shoe production, were manufactured in Pirmasens in the record year of 1969.

Economic situation

Geographical spread

Rhineland-Palatinate is proud of its long and strong shoe tradition. The Pirmasens-Hauenstein region has been a pioneer in shoe production for almost 200 years. Shoe manufacturers like Josef Seibel and Semler are family businesses in the fifth generation.

The locally produced shoes by Kennel & Schmenger combine handwork and zeitgeist in the premium segment. Waldläufer is a leading manufacturer of handcrafted comfort shoes. Hidden champions like STEITZ SECURA in safety shoes or Leguano in barefoot clothing and pioneering spirits like Bernd Hummel with his luxury sneaker brand KangaROOS or Ralf Siebert with his handmade vegan shoes bear witness to the industry's expertise and entrepreneurial spirit. Rhineland-Palatinate is a fertile environment for innovative shoe companies.

Today, shoe expertise and research are the focus of the Rhineland-Palatinate shoe industry.


Talents & research

Rhineland-Palatinate has a unique status in shoe engineering, technology and design. Germany’s only engineering degree in leather processing and shoe technology attracts students to Kaiserslautern University of Applied Sciences (, which also offers a BSc course in orthopaedic shoe technology, a fast-growing field with excellent job prospects.

The German College of Footwear Design and Technology ( in Pirmasens is Germany’s leading institute for vocational training in technical management and shoe design, with English courses prepare students for a job in an international environment.

The Pirmasens-based International Shoe Competence Center Germany ( and the Test and Research Institute Pirmasens ( serve the global needs of the footwear industry in the fields of research and development, specialist further education and consulting.

In this region of Rhineland-Palatinate newcomers will find a pool of talented recruits in an environment shaped by ground-breaking ideas and innovative impulses. 


Exchanging experience and expertise, cultivating contacts, opening up new business opportunities: Rhineland-Palatinate encourages networking.

The Federal Association of the German Footwear and Leather Goods Industry has a regional office in Pirmasens from where it represents the business interests of its members and supports them in all kinds of business-related matters ranging from legal advice, PR, sales promotion and marketing to education and training. 

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