Introduction: How to Dye Your Shoes a Cool Color Like Purple

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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!

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of Dry and Model Your Awesome Purple Shoes

Dry the shoes and show them off!

Step 7: Another Pair With the Same Recipe

Picture of 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.


painter123 (author)2008-12-31

You know that have a spray paint that you can use to paint them- much easier than using dye. i found it at

rf (author)painter1232016-11-20

Wouldn't spray paint tend to clog the mesh and make it less open. Perhaps reducing the ventilation?

paulalovescats (author)2016-06-28

Sam is projecting.

Michael1233 (author)2015-11-08

is it possible for you to give me a pair of new sho

KaraNmartin1701 (author)2015-04-17

This is awesome and Id love to do this but am still uncertain.. I have a pair of NB running shoes I'm wanting to dye black. They are mostly white and silver but do have some accent colors of yellow and bright blue on the soles. Do you think the black dye will be able to black out everything if I kept them in there for the same length of time you did?

pdotec (author)2014-12-25

I guess this is an old instructable. Looks like the Rit dye was not really absorbed into the mesh which I suspect is a polyester material. Polyester will not really dye with nylon/cotton dyes. Dharma trading company now sells a polyester dyes which might be worth a try.

CatTrampoline (author)2012-05-21

Just stumbled across this. I used green Rit dye on a pair of white canvas sneakers when I was 10. They were a little blotchy, but I loved them. Mom was not thrilled, but they were just after-school and weekend shoes.

These days I am usually happy with high dollar NB shoes and inserts that don't hurt my special feet but I suddenly have a hankerin' for some color. Maybe some sparkley things too.

jrn11 (author)2009-01-11

wow those look really fantastic. unfortunately i mostly want to die the canvas on mine & it looks like you were dying the mesh, which I bet takes the color easier. but still great job. ps- i just colored mine with a gray fabric marker and now they simply look dirty so i recommend against that.

gregr (author)jrn112011-05-19

Cotton canvas shoes should take the dye better than the synthetic shoes that this instructable is dying.

StoryAddict (author)2011-05-16

I had to replace my black Nike Air Pegasus(+27) shoes because apparently I've run them down the last few months of wear 'n' tear w/ the wrong inserts, and I've got high-arch problems. I found some replacements (comfort-wise) in the Nike Zoom Vomero(+5), but despite the awesome dark purple lining and outersole, they only come in bright white (a tone I've outgrown since my last white shoes I owned about ten years ago). In your experience, would this dye procedure w/ black Rit ruin the purple or just adhere to the white? It's a mixture of synthetic mesh and rubber, I believe. Link is here: I don't really have any old shoes to experiment on, and when I mentioned dyeing them to my Mom, she was horrified and mentioned something about ruining a $115 pair of new shoes.

gemtree (author)2010-09-05

LOVE it. I have some Asics and they are boring. A+

domestic_engineer (author)2009-03-18

My 3 year old insisted on having purple sneakers so here are our matching Mother Daughter purple sneakers. 4 packs of die, in 12 quarts of hot water, a cup of salt, and 4 hours later. The laces came out pretty purple too. The shoes don't seem to have shrunken much at all. THANKS!!!!!!!!!!!

Foaly7 (author)domestic_engineer2009-12-18

I have almost those same shoes.

Those are awesome!

schkip1973 (author)2009-08-29

a great way to die your shoes pink is to put them in the washing machine with non colourfast show liners or tshirts. this is what happened to my dunlop volleys. By the way the Dunlop Volley is arguably the best shoe design in the world.

mweston (author)2008-09-13

I like the "a Cool Color Like Purple" part of the title

Warlrosity (author)mweston2009-08-29


watermelonhead (author)2009-07-29

awesome!!! My shoes already are purple, though :'( So instead I splattered them with orange paint (by accident) :D

bluesquirrel (author)2009-04-05

I cannot wait to try this out; going to go for a green myself :D

Maureclaire (author)2009-03-18

Awesome !

connorcurley (author)2008-07-13

hey this is a really good idea, but there is one huge problem. you say that the shoes "provide "maximum motion control" for my flat feet and overpronation." unfortunately the the dual density foam that gives you this correction is highly intolerant of water. the reason the shoes have tags that say not to put them in the washer is because prolonged submersion (15 minutes or more) breaks down the foam and you are left with a shoe that is very soft and comfortable, but lacks the support and cushioning that leads you to pay $90 dollars for them. this idea would be better applied to running shoes that are already broken down (300-500 miles or about 9 months of casual use). Another thought is to try to rig the shoes so that only the upper is in the dye, thought that still leaves a glaringly ugly white mid-sole. If you want to get the most out of your running shoes, keep them dry.

painter123 (author)connorcurley2008-12-31

another reason to use spray fabric paint rather than soaking them in water

ewilhelm (author)connorcurley2008-07-14

I haven't noticed a significant difference, but it's good to know why they aren't supposed to be submerged -- thanks! My purple shoes are pretty beat, and I was thinking of replacing them with a green-dyed pair. I'll see if I can only dye the uppers, as you recommend.

sonaps (author)2008-12-11

Lol, I have the same canning pot and use it for dying things as well (just shirts, and on one occasion my friend's hands).

caitlinsdad (author)2008-12-11

I think professional shoe repair people have a color marker or a bottle with a built-in brush full of shoe dye to do the same thing without the mess. They dye wedding shoes to match bridal party gowns. Add a few rubber bands wound around the shoe for that tie-dye effect next time. I hope you didn't thow a few lobsters in the same pot since you had that going...

nivaneus (author)2008-11-22

I'M WEARING THOSE SHOES!!! nice instructable, just what i had in mind.

ninjastylemo (author)2008-09-13

Awesome instructable. Followed exactly and voila-super hot purple shoes! Sported these at the Boston marathon this year. They were a huge hit and made me feel like a big winner. I am finally liberated after years of boring white shoes, thanks so much!

ewilhelm (author)ninjastylemo2008-09-13

That puts a huge smile on my face! Thanks for sharing. Marathon-approved!

Chicken2209 (author)2008-09-13

only you would come up with something like this (complement)

Lithium Rain (author)2008-06-17

These look amazing...5/5 stars. How did I not see this sooner?

Lithium Rain (author)2008-06-17

I think Saul is afraid of silence, and will say anything to make sure there's continued talking.


T3h_Muffinator (author)2007-06-18

Wow, that is one pair of bold shoes!

Can you apply the same process for hair?? =P

Nice Job!

CameronSS (author)T3h_Muffinator2007-11-03

No, hair takes a little longer...You have to boil your head for at least three hours...It only takes ninety minutes in a pressure cooker, though...

T3h_Muffinator (author)CameronSS2007-11-07

Oh! I better get started, then!

talbotron22 (author)2007-10-11

100% fantastic. followed the instructable to the letter (5 packets of dye in 4 gal water, 55 C -> rt overnight) with perfect results. See before/after pic below. My one addition: when I added the dye to the big bucket of hot water, the vapors were pretty intense. had to open a window... not too bad though. Another satisfied customer right here.

ewilhelm (author)talbotron222007-10-11

So sweet!!!

ediecago (author)2007-10-09

I'd check with some dye experts. It's possible you can get the color you want without ruining the shoe (changing the fit) as much. The dyes that are mostly intended to work on cellulose fibers (cotton/rayon/wood) are different chemically than the ones intended to work on protein fibers (silk/wool etc.). Nylon dyes much like a protein fiber, so using a dye intended for silk (jacquard, pebeo etc.) is likely to work better. I'd check with the people at to see what they'd suggest. And I do mean TALK on the telephone because even their super website doesn't have what you want. P.S. Love the look.

ewilhelm (author)ediecago2007-10-09

Good idea! Maybe I could even do a two-step dying process on my next set to properly dye all the different materials that make up the shoe.

SondraC (author)2007-07-03

Your introduction seems to be in step4...The order of your steps, needs to be checked and changed. The article however is a great one, and one I wanted to share. Good work and thanks for sending it along..many who own white sneakers, and cannot afford to pay for colored or designer ones, will certainly be benefited from this article.

ewilhelm (author)SondraC2007-07-06

No, you are mistaken. The introduction is in the intro step. If fit and color are important, one should only start dyeing sneakers after a few experiments as noted in steps 1 and 2.

SondraC (author)ewilhelm2007-07-06

Yes I noticed that, when I returned to check out the steps. You are correct the intro is in the intro step..thanks for the explanation. The steps are in perfect order.

thematthatter (author)2007-06-18

a PhD from MIT with purple sneakers. Im disappointed that you didnt make the color purple and apply it to the shoe.

HamO (author)2007-06-18

Purple shoes... Brown pants? What a fashion statement. Nice instructable and pix. Good job.

Magnelectrostatic (author)2007-06-18

my friend turned part of his shoe blue with a smoke bomb, he wasn't actually trying to make it blue so i don't know if it will work for an entire shoe and stay blue

Weissensteinburg (author)2007-06-18

It'd be cool to take out the shoe laces first, and then use brand spankin new white shoe laces with the purple.

I tried that and didn't like it as well as the black. Remember, I'm trying to move away from white sneakers!

Mitten (author)2007-06-18

Thats not purple. Thats puce!

ewilhelm (author)Mitten2007-06-18

These shoes have been one of my most difficult subjects to photograph.

trebuchet03 (author)Mitten2007-06-18

In person... they're very much purple ;)

About This Instructable




Bio: Eric J. Wilhelm is the founder of Instructables. He has a Ph.D. from MIT in Mechanical Engineering. Eric believes in making technology accessible through ... More »
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