Introduction: $2 Running Shoes

Picture of $2 Running Shoes

Rather than pay a gym membership, it saves time and money to go running outside. Running barefoot, a lot of evidence shows, is how are bodies were meant to run. But I worry about broken glass and gravel, so I need something to protect my tender soles.

I bought some Vibram Five-Fingers that are a tad too small on my right foot, so they crush my toes. I have been running in socks recently but they wear out quickly. So I tried making some running shoes with socks and hot glue. It's ridiculous, but it works, and it was fast to make them.

Materials and tools:
Cardboard to cut foot shape out of
Sharpie to trace feet
Scissors and stapler to build foot molds
1 Pair of socks
About 9 sticks of high temperature hot glue
Camping stove or something else to melt glue
Cookie sheet
Parchment paper or wax paper to melt glue on

Takes about 15-30 minutes

Step 1: Making Cardboard Cutouts of Your Feet

Picture of Making Cardboard Cutouts of Your Feet

1. Trace your feet out on cardboard with a sharpie*
2. Cut the shapes out with scissors and even them out by stacking them on top of one another.

*I found out that I traced my heels a little too loosely, so the base of the heel of the sock was a little too broad for my feet. Trace the heels of your feet more tightly to achieve a better fit.

Step 2: Add Glue Dipping Handles

Picture of Add Glue Dipping Handles

1. Cut out and fold two small pieces of cardboard to use as a handles for dipping the socks in the melted hot glue
2. Staple the handles to the heel-end of the cardboard feet
3. Push your cardboard feet into the socks (make sure you don't have two left feet)

Step 3: Melt the Glue and Dip the Socks

Picture of Melt the Glue and Dip the Socks

Get adult supervision if you need to (I'm 25 but I had my dad help me)

1. Prepare your heat source (I used an outdoor camping stove)
2. Cover your cookie sheet with parchment paper or wax paper
3. Place your glue sticks evenly along the whole length that you need to dip the socks
4. Slowly and carefully melt them on low heat (I burned some of the parchment paper by accident)
5. Once melted, remove the glue from the heat source and press the whole bottom of the sock onto it, remove and check for an even coating (push the sock at every location for a total of about 30 seconds)
6. Dry the glue bottom up*
7. Repeat steps 3-6 for the other sock

*or for #6 you can try setting the socks glue down on a sheet of parchment paper or wax paper. As you can see in the last picture in this step, it peels of easily and creates a flat running surface

Step 4: Go for a Run

Picture of Go for a Run

The shoes take about 5 minutes or so to dry. At this point you should be able to separate them from the cardboard mold and try them on and go for a run. I was able to walk fairly comfortably on gravel. They offer more protection than socks, but less than my Vibram five-fingers. I haven't had a chance to go for a substantial run or to see if they can be machine washed (I'm not gonna machine dry them that's for sure)

I'm excited to try this with toe socks. Or maybe you would like to? Comments welcome!


Nical_Critical (author)2010-10-27

I have Just finished my DIY tabi.
tabi is the traditional ninja footwear, like a sock but more firm, less elastic and seperates the big toe from the other toes. I think It's better than a simple sock-in-glue becouse you have better feel of the ground and balance
Plus you can put on flip-flops!
Thanks so much!!

they were a mortal pair of black socks, alas! now they are ninja clothing!
also instead of gas stove, I use a hot air gun initially at 190 C (~380 F) but it was going slow so I cranked it up to 350 C (~660 F) to melt the glue in a disposable aluminium tray.
When I was finished with the "main" covering of the sole I did some finishing with the hot air on the sock at 400 C (~750 F) to quickly and locally achieve a smooth clean surface.

Yet i don't recoment going that far with the temp, becouse the glue fumes a little so you need good ventilation, plus one of the socks got charred at a couple of spots and it required some sewing...

Better luck next time

they are great, durable with amazing traction!!!
you sure get to fill a bit of a ninja even wearing them while doing the dishes!

Cool thanks for the picture. They look much more attractive than mine.

Also, my glue hardly gets any traction whatsoever (this may be because the soles contain a high concentration of dirt and pebbles) What brand of glue did you use?

I don't know, I just asked for glue sticks, and I took 6 of them. there is a lot of glue left.
Perhaps you should try covering the glue sole with something else, like polystyrene or polyourethane...
I use them mainly indoors, that's why they will be looking good for a long time, plus I am still on a desinging phase. The more I wear them the more flaws I discover. When I will perfect the desing I will deal with durability...

Picture or 'ible plz!

there's the picture! (I replied on mine instead of yours comment!! oops)

trashmailcatcher (author)2017-03-23

Has anyone tried doing this with waterproof socks?

T0BY (author)2016-12-06

Brilliant idea!

DweebD made it! (author)2016-10-17

Awesome diy!
Just keep in mind not to use ankle socks or low cuts, my heel kept slipping out!

uptoten (author)2016-06-21

instead of cardboard can you use old dog/cat mats

Reece_c (author)2015-07-07

if your five fingers are to short in the toes all you have to do is heat the rubber under the toes and slowly stretch them. for mine I used a the end of a scewdriver to push the toes out while I held a lighter underneath. it works great. just go slow and take care not to burn the fabric

Jkacin (author)2015-05-30

Are these legal for cross country? Also, I think that I'll use glow in the dark glue *0*

gluvit (author)2014-06-20

This is gtreat

Madeaj (author)2014-05-27

Nice! How did these hold up? Since they are so inexpensive to make I would imagine you could have new pair every few months. Have you tried silicone caulking dotted or smoothed on the bottom of socks?

gr8fldanielle (author)2012-09-23

I was wondering about using a shoe insert, the kind you buy and cut to fit your shoe that gives a bit of an arch, rather than using just flat cardboard. I live in Asia and this is rubber country. I'm sure I could score a piece of raw rubber. I'm wondering if I could melt it into a liquid and cover a shoe insert with a sock and then dip it in the liquid rubber. Awesome instructable. I'm going to play with this one.

a splosion (author)gr8fldanielle2012-09-23

The rationale behind barefoot running is that your feet don't need arch support. You'll notice that the fivefingers still conform to your arch in some fashion, but don't provide any structural support. It's worth a try! Go for it.

ps. one of my room mates in college was a materials engineering major and he kept a little rubber tree. I remember him making some rubber when it was about 4 feet tall and all he got from it was a little cherry sized ball of rubber. Pretty cool though!

gr8fldanielle (author)a splosion2012-09-23

thanks a splosion for your reply. I'm thinking that if not walking on something hard and flat like a road or concrete, then our feet naturally conform to the surface like the beach or forest floor. But I know if I wear shoes or even flip flops that are perfectly flat on the inside, my feet ache after being on a hard floor, even when shopping. I'm going to try them both; first without and the second with. Thinking about "painting" the hot glue around the very edges for a very clean look after the dipping process. .
Rubber is very prevalent here, I'm sure I could buy a sheet of it in raw form.
thanks again

Lorddrake (author)2012-09-14

There are products on the market (like plastidip) that require no heat to apply. A few coats of that may make a nice alternative material for the sole of the running sock.

my only question is how would something like plastidip stack up against the glue stick in terms of durability?

If anyone decides to give it a go before I manage to get to the store to buy a can .. let me know your results.

supertoria12 (author)2012-07-17

I just made myself a pair a few hours ago. I only used about 5 or so sticks (they were quite large though) but that's probably because my feet aren't that big. I also applied the glue directly onto the socks with a glue gun and was able to add a cool design. Overall, I'm quite pleased with them and I thank you for giving me the idea to make them in the first place.

N8Maher (author)2010-08-30

Cool idea! Please let us know how many miles you get from them before you have to recoat/replace the socks.

a splosion (author)N8Maher2010-08-30

Ok, I will have to keep a journal. Currently 1.5ish miles of running and a lot of walking ouside around the house (I sort of throw them on as sandals to take out the compost or go to the mailbox).

a splosion (author)a splosion2011-11-22

I'm guessing they lasted about 20 miles before developing some huge holes where the glue attaches to the sock.

wobbler (author)2011-03-24

I like it! I'm off to make some! Thanks for the ideas!

DannytheGreat (author)2011-02-13

why not use epoxy?

wobbler (author)DannytheGreat2011-03-24

I'm sure epoxy will just crack as it tends to set hard whereas glue sticks are flexible (and it's probably a lot more expensive than glue sticks).

LittleGrace (author)2010-10-24

I am totally doing this for my kids for Halloween. My daughter needs a pair of gray ankle high boots and so I am putting my gray socks over her shoes and using this technique to keep them from taring apart during the trick or treating. Such a great idea. Thanks!

a splosion (author)LittleGrace2010-10-25

Awesome! I'm really happy that you coming up with a new reason for this technique. Way to go!

kikiclint (author)2010-10-10

I am surprised that there is not an instructable for huaraches on the first page of related instructables. It is what I run in, when I use shoes.

morgan999 (author)2010-08-29

Running on pavement barefoot is a really bad idea, unless your part of the .01% of the population who actually was blessed with perfect body mechanics and physiology. If you really must try 'barefoot running', do yourself a favor and stay on dirt or grass surfaces. Nothing evolved to run on pavement. Please be careful if you're going to try this! You must remember, too, that the people who used to 'run barefoot', grew up barefoot, too... we modern folk have not developed our bodies the same way they did.

kikiclint (author)morgan9992010-10-10

All of the advise I have seen is to ease into barefoot running ultra slowly. You are exactly right that are bodies aren't developed the same way, which is why you should really ease into it for 6 months or so, so ligaments and tendons, bones and all those little weak muscles which make up your foot can get used to different motion. In the end though, I have noticed my form has improved and my joints don't hurt as bad after. You force your body to learn how to glide rather than bounce.

NetReaper (author)morgan9992010-08-30

Actually i've been running barefoot on pavement for weeks now. It's definately more abrasive then grass or dirt but once your feet adjust it's easy.

thomasbandy (author)morgan9992010-08-29

I respectfully and totally disagree with you! After a few weeks of slow walking and running, I went from being unable to run more than 5 minutes in athletic shoes (b/c of knee pain) to running a 23'25" 5K yesterday, and putting over 500 total miles in my Vibram Five Fingers in 9 months. The surface has absolutely nothing to do with injury - before this, I tried every possible surface - track, grass, pavement, etc, with no difference. Only one's technique matters, and barefoot running (or with minimal protection like these socks, which are cool by the way) forces one to run correctly - allowing pronation, short, light, and relaxed steps, never landing on the heel. It's a myth that only 1% of humans can run without athletic shoes - the shoe companies have absolutely sold the West a bill of goods on that one! Our bodies are designed much better than that - they work well when used properly. The surface doesn't matter - our ancestors surely had to chase game for tens of thousands of years on hard-packed clay!

rush2ady (author)thomasbandy2010-08-29

Do you think the soft ballet shoes would be suitable for walking/running in? I'm new to this whole "barefoot" running concept. Thanks. And I love the minimalist shoes in the instructable :) but my husband would probably not let me out in them, he's very fashion conscious.

AbstractDragon (author)rush2ady2010-08-29

Try the soft thin fabric shoes with thin rubber soles that some people buy to swim in?

Mtalus (author)2010-08-30

I've used hot melt to add material to the worn areas of my runnng shoes, but shoes from hot melt? Genius. I have to agree with some though and warn you to try to stick to dirt and grass lest you end up with knees like mine once gray hair catches you....or are my knees from running with shoes? Hmmmm.

kikiclint (author)Mtalus2010-10-10

Avoid deep grass when running semi barefoot. Especially where people walk or drive by alot. All that garbage goes straight to the grass, where it will stab your feet. Lots of drunks throwing glass where I live. I learned the hard way on my 3rd week of running barefoot and hit a thumb tack in the grass. The nice things is reflexes were sharpened, and I rolled my foot before it went too deep. Dirt is usually ok since you can see stuff in it.

Tinker L (author)Mtalus2010-09-21

Hmm, I wonder if Show Goo might hold up better than hot glue since it's made to repair shoe soles. Do the hot glue repairs hold up well?

Mtalus (author)Tinker L2010-09-24

Overall hotmelt has worked very well for me and lasts well but...
hot melt is hit and miss. It bonds well to some soles but not others. Surface prep doesn't seem to matter much, of course clean them well etc., but abrading and or heating first doesn't seem to matter much; it either sticks or it doesn't. Even within the same brand line some stick and others don't so it doesn't seem to be caused by sole material, just planetary alignment.
It's always been an issue of 'I have it here, I don't have to run to the store, and I don't have to wait for it to dry, so I'll try it.'

Dread713 (author)2010-09-27

What you need to do when buying Vibrams is go to a store that sells them and get sized there. You buy the size that fits your bigger foot and the strap will adjust to fit both feet. If that store does not have the style/size/color you wanted, just get sized anyway and order first pair I sized myself and crushed the toes on my right foot. Got sized and got a new pair that fits perfect.

thematthatter (author)2010-08-27

native Americans used to dip their feet in latex

kdkos (author)thematthatter2010-08-30

The "native north americans" would not likely have had access to latex or rubber trees of any kind... their traditional footwear was hide and usually deer. Misinformation is often worse than no information ;-)

fenris (author)kdkos2010-09-04

-kdkos - I hope you have learned something from this. Do your reading before you say someone else is misinformed. Disinformation is even worse than no information.

fenris (author)kdkos2010-08-31

Now look, I don't know whether Native Americans did this or not, but you are also misinformed. Latex comes from a lot of plants besides members of the Carica family (fig, rubber, banyan,...). The example that comes to mind - and that grows all over North America - is Lactuca canadensis, called variously horse lettuce, wild lettuce, opium lettuce, prickly lettuce. It is full of latex, as is also milkweed - you could easily get enough latex to coat the bottoms of your feet if you found a patch of either of these plants. And I bet if you did some reading, you'd find that many other common North American plants contain rubbery substances that would serve this purpose.

thematthatter (author)fenris2010-09-03

It was the Central and South Americans (from the first link on google). ""Indigenous people of South and Central America would use sap from rubber plants as foot coverings. They would dip their feet in the sap and after the sap hardened they would have a crude type of shoe. Later on in the 1800s, Charles Goodyear perfected the technique to vulcanize rubber and so began the many uses for rubber and latex goods, kinky and vanilla.""

marxdarx (author)thematthatter2010-08-30

That would be awfully painful. They didn't need their skin, because that would melt right off in any kind of heated rubber What source did you hear this from? I'm curious.

fenris (author)marxdarx2010-08-31

Who said anything about heat?

oniekflow (author)marxdarx2010-08-30

bpfh (author)marxdarx2010-08-30

Not all rubber has to be heated to be liquid :) Think of rubber from a rubber tree. Get the rubber from whatever local plant produces it, and dip your feet in that then let it dry for an instant rubber sole :)

nickodemus (author)thematthatter2010-08-28

That's interesting, could you possibly dig up a link for me? I tried googling it but I couldn't find anything.

multiplecats (author)nickodemus2010-08-29

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