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Do-It-Yourself Designer Shoes

Updated on March 24, 2012

design your own shoes

I’m a self proclaimed, unabashed “shoeholic.” I absolutely love shoes! I have a serious affinity for sandals, and since I live in the Deep South, I can wear skimpy sandals almost all year without fear of getting frostbite on my toes. I honestly don’t know how many pairs of women’s shoes I have, but the number is certainly impressive. In addition to my boots, heels, flats, and slides, I have my faves: beaded sandals, leather sandals, jeweled sandals, tons of flip flops, and a pair or two of gladiator sandals. I have flip flops in every color and shade imaginable one or two pairs for every outfit. I like designer shoes as much as the next woman, but I don’t like paying the high price that most designer shoes demand, and custom shoes are even more expensive. I’d usually rather buy five pairs of discount shoes than one pair of designer shoes. The problem with that, though, is that I also like to be unique. In fact, I sometimes like a little bling. In light of this, I became my own shoe designer a couple of years ago.

By “shoe designer,” I don’t mean to imply that I make shoes. I take shoes that are already made – mostly discount shoes – and embellish them to suit my own tastes and to match specific outfits and bags. I use silk flowers, buttons, rhinestones, medallions, fringe, and beads. It’s really pretty easy and lots of fun to customize shoes. It’s also a great way to save money on women’s shoes and girls’ shoes. When you design your own shoes, or when you do shoe design for family members and friends, you get to express your creativity and produce a unique, one-of-a-kind product. This is also a great way to give old shoes new life.

Beaded sandals – jeweled sandals

Sandals seem to just scream for embellishments! BUT…have you priced beaded sandals and jeweled sandals in the designer shoe section? Save your money – design your own shoes! Decide on the colors and textures you want to use first. Search in craft stores for beads, stones, medallions, and rhinestones. For rhinestones, I definitely suggest using real Swarovski stones. They’ll keep their sparkly much longer than cheaper acrylic stones will, and you can find them in every color imaginable. Swarovski rhinestones also come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Another source for adornments is costume jewelry. You might have an old necklace or bracelet that you never wear. If so, take it apart and use the beads on your shoes.

Next, decide on the pattern you want. You’ll need to take the shoe design into account here. Use the general shape and design of the shoe as the guide for the pattern you want to achieve. Place the decorations on the shoes and play around with it some. Once you’ve chosen a definite design or pattern, it’s time to affix the adornments to the shoes. For this, you’ll need E6000 glue.

If your embellishments are small and lightweight, just a drop or two of glue will suffice. For heavy stones, place a generous amount of glue on the shoe, in the shape and size of the stone. Allow the glue to dry for a couple of minutes, until it becomes tacky. Next, press the stone firmly into the glue. If the shoe design includes an arched or slanted upper vamp, you might need to secure the stone with tape until the glue dries completely.

E6000 works well with leather sandals and fabric sandals. If the shoes are made of a slick plastic or vinyl, you’ll need to “rough up” the finish where the glue will be used. I use sandpaper for this purpose.

Flip flops

Who doesn’t love flip flops? They’re cute, comfy, and super cheap. You can find flip flops in just about any color and pattern. They’re so inexpensive that you can design a pair of flip flops to match every outfit you have for spring and summer. Because the straps on the shoes are usually narrow, very small beads and rhinestones work best here. Of course, if your flip flops have wider straps, you’ll have more options.

I’ve decorated lots of flops for my granddaughters. Most of the time, I use small Swarovski stones for this. Because the stones are so small and light, I don’t even rough up the surface of plastic straps on the shoes. I simply place a dot of glue and press the stone onto the glue. Again, I use E6000 glue for this.

Fringe elements

As you’ve probably noticed, fringe is in – big time. Everywhere I go, I see the fashionistas wearing fringed boots or fringed sandals. The good thing is that you can add your own fringe to boots and sandals that you already have. Fringe is sold by the yard at craft stores and sewing shops, and it can be attached with the glue I’ve already talked about.

After you’ve attached the fringe, or if you bought a pair of shoes that already have fringe, you can bling the fringe with wooden beads or plastic pony beads. If you choose beads with small openings, they’ll usually stay secured without any need for glue. Just thread the end of the fringe through the hole in the beads with the end of a gem clip. If the beads aren’t as secure as you’d like, a drop of glue will keep them in place.

E6000 glue

I first started using this glue when I began stoning pageant dresses. Believe me – this stuff is strong. Stones affixed with the glue rarely fall off, even after several trips in the washer and dryer. Keep in mind, however, that stones and beads can fall off sometimes. It’s a good idea to have some extra stones and beads on hand just in case you need them for replacements. By the way, you can find E6000 glue in most craft stores and in some Walmarts.

When using this glue, make sure you allow it plenty of time to dry. I usually let items dry overnight, but if you're in a hurry, a blow dryer can speed the drying process.

Go design your own shoes!

I hope you’re all set now to make your own “designer shoes.” Clean out your closet and assess your shoe stash. Decide which shoes you can revamp for their new lease on a useful life. Let your imagination run wild, and get some ideas from magazines, too. Hit the women’s shoes section in stores and check out the discount shoes. Try to picture how an otherwise ho-hum pair of shoes could transform into some natty kicks with your imagination and creativity. And don’t forget the flip flops! I can often find plain flops for a buck a pair. Yes, they’re pretty boring on the shelf, but they won’t remain that way for long if you incorporate some of my ideas. Now…go practice your skills as a shoe designer and create your own customized shoes!

Buy jeweled sandals:


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