Introduction: How to Dye Your Shoes a Cool Color Like Purple
Customize your sneakers by dying them an awesome color.
These Asics Gel Foundation 7 shoes are really comfortable and provide "maximum motion control" for my flat feet and overpronation. Unfortunately, they only come in one set of colors: Ugly with highlights of boring and more ugly. So, sick of white sneakers, I dyed mine purple.
I ran a few tests to determine dye amounts and potential shrinkage cause by hot water, and here are my results. Now, you too can shed the colors imposed upon us by the running-shoe industry!
This project was mentioned here in the New York Times!
Step 1: Choose Your Color
Purple is my favorite color, so that choice was easy.
Upon seeing my new purple shoes, Saul remarked that he thought they looked store-bought, and that the color purple represented sexual frustration. He then stated that green represented repressed memories of childhood abuse and trauma while noting that I was wearing green pants. He then elaborated on this theory of my personality by pointing out that my custom-painted bicycle is purple and green.
I think Saul is afraid of silence, and will say anything to make sure there's continued talking.
Step 2: Run Some Tests
If you have some old shoes, now is a good time to determine the amount of dye, and if there will be any shrinkage.
I followed the directions on the package of Rit dye and simmered one old sneaker in 3.5 gallons of water with two packages of dye for 30 minutes. I did this in a large canning pot on the stove top. This shoe came out fairly purple (it's the left shoe in the images), but I wanted to see if I could go darker. So, I added another two packages of dye to the canning pot, and boiled the other shoe for 2 hours.
Boiling your sneakers for 2 hours may sound like a bad idea, and if you want them to fit afterwards, it is. This shoe (the right one in the images) is slightly darker, but quite a bit smaller. I would estimate that the left shoe, simmered for 30 minutes, shrunk 0.5-1 sizes, while the right shoe, boiled for 2 hours, shrunk 1-2 sizes. The shoe materials shrunk at different rates, so the right shoe now has an interesting bow to it.
Fearing that the sole was getting soaked with water and somehow ruined, I took a third old sneaker and left it in the purple water for 10 hours at room temperature. The material didn't absorb much dye, but the shoe didn't shrink.
After letting the sneakers sit in the dye, I ran them through the washing machine with warm water and detergent, and then dried them in the dryer. The sneaker's care tags say specifically not to do this, but I ignored them.
So in summary:
2 packages of dye, 30 minutes of simmering => purple, 0.5-1 sizes smaller
4 packages of dye (minus the dye used in the first shoe), 2 hours of boiling => slightly darker purple, 1-2 sizes smaller
4 packages of dye (minus the dye used in above tests, and some t-shirts), 10 hours at room temperature => very little purple color, no shrinkage
Step 3: Dye Some Other Stuff
While you've got a big bucket of dye-filled water, and you've run the color experiments, might as well dye some other stuff.
This original series Instructables t-shirt came out beautifully!
Step 4: Dye Your Shoes!
With the experiments on old sneakers successful, I started with a new pair of shoes that were approximately 0.5 sizes too big. In 4 gallons of water, I dissolved 5 packages of Rit dye, and heated the water to 55C (measured with a thermometer; it's about when the water starts to steam). Once at temperature, I turned the heat off, put both sneakers in the water, and held them under the water with a jury-rigged system of clamps, kitchen utensils, and a canning rack. I stirred the shoes a few times, and let them sit, with the water cooling, for 10 hours.
I also dyed the shoe laces, but they didn't really take the color, so I swapped the white laces for black ones.
Step 5: Rinse the Shoes
I used latex gloves and some metal tongs to transfer the shoes to a bowl and then into the sink. From there, I put them in the washing machine for a warm water wash with detergent.
Step 6: Dry and Model Your Awesome Purple Shoes
Dry the shoes and show them off!
Step 7: Another Pair With the Same Recipe
My original purple shoes wore out, so I did another pair using approximately the same formulation: 5 boxes of purple RIT dye in 4 gallons of water; heat the water to 55 C, turn off heat; submerge the shoes for 12 hours. Check out the before and after pictures.
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