Prototyping Magnetic Boots!





Introduction: Prototyping Magnetic Boots!

Footwear Challenge

Runner Up in the
Footwear Challenge

Walking across large, metal pipes in search of urban adventure, my inner voice joked, "Hey, magnet shoes would be handy right about now." Well, no arguing with that! Off to build my very own magnetic shoes!

This tutorial is an overview of my build process for a magnetic boot prototype in hopes of inspiring you to build and test your own fantastic, whimsical ideas! 'Cause seriously, making ideas come to life feels like a superpower.

Step 1: Design & Planning!

1. Plan out general shoe design.

To hang upside down safely, each boot needs to (approximately) hold my weight. I weigh about 130 lbs, so that means each shoe needs to hold 130 lbs. There are lots of ways to do this -- thirteen 10-lb force ("lbf") magnets, six 25-lbf magnets, etc.

After testing with 15-lbf magnets, I opted for 8-lbf magnets that were smaller, circular, and thinner.

2. Prototype, prototype, prototype!

The very first prototype was just a bunch of magnets on a piece of wood. This helped determine specifics of the project, like magnet placement, screw type, etc.

I also experimented with various shoe types and tried different ways of orienting the magnets to maximize the perpendicular magnetic field strength.

Step 2: Materials

-- Sturdy Boots

These had to secure my feet (aka no slipping out) and withstand my body weight. I found a pair of sturdy (although rather large) snowboard boots at a local thrift store which work as a first prototype.

-- Rare earth (neodymium) magnets

Small, thin-ish (< 1/4" thick) magnets with a 10 - 15 lbf rating (see previous step).

-- One screw per magnet (or per magnet hole)

Use screws with a length shorter than the sole of the shoe (so they don't poke your lil' feetsies.. or add some sort of rubber sole inside).

-- Suggestion: One washer per magnet

Supposedly, the washer helps increase the magnetic field of the exposed surface. I haven't calculated this or done any serious research, so at this point it's just a design suggestion.

Step 3: Tools

-- Drill

-- Ruler

-- Pen/pencil.

--CNC Router and a 3/4" drill bit

Step 4: Build Process!

1. Level bottom of the boot with a CNC router (or other available method).

Clamp the boots to the CNC table with the bottom facing up -- a piece of wood was helpful to keep the boots straight. Set the zero point of the CNC to be the lowest point on the sole of the shoe, then use a large bit (ours was 3/4") and level the sole of the shoe to the zero point.

2. Mark boot with tape for location of magnets.

3. For each magnet, drill in screw, magnet, and washer into the bottom of shoe.

Step 5: Testing & Observation!

To test the boot, I stuck it on a roof beam and pulled downwards. I added more magnets and repeated this until I couldn't pull the boot off by hand, then (slowly) tried to hang from it.

Lessons learned during testing:
1. I ended up using waaay more magnets than I thought, so it is probably worthwhile to calculate how the individual magnet fields are adding together.

2. Magnets need to be level to maximize the total magnetic field strength.

3. There is a limit to how close you can place each magnet depending on the shape and size of its magnetic field. Smaller, round magnets are easier to work with than large, rectangular magnets.

4. Don't place magnets close to parking passes (or other electronic devices). Also keep them far, far away from large containers of screws.

Step 6: Results & Next Steps!

At this point, my magnetic shoes are more magnetic "gloves" (lol thanks @jayludden :D). But! I can successfully hang from one boot, so the concept works!

The lessons learned from testing will help improve this prototype design. Currently awaiting more magnets for the second boot (used most of them for the first one), trying different magnet orientations, and searching for a spot to test them upside down.

Stay tuned, will have them up and running, er, well, hanging, soon!

Many thanks to: Tinker Tank at Pacific Science Center for being my build and test center, and to Richard Albritton for the CNC help!



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    Some mag nail picker uppers have a release t o drop those nails. Lookit that mechanism

    I suggest a safety harness with over the shoulder straps when testing this.

    It's cool, but you're going to have quite a bit of trouble walking with permanent magnets. If you want to walk, you either must be capable of lifting more than your body weight with your legs or you have to use electromagnets. A popular youtuber under the name of colinfurze has already done this (with excellent results), I suggest you check it out.

    One problem with Furze's shoes is needing 2 car batteries!

    Yea, lots of peeps have sent me Colin Furze's project. I'm purposefully avoiding permanent magnets for a variety of reasons. I've incorporated some aspects into my design to deal with the force of permanent magnets, will see how it works in the final test!


    I had a strange dream the other night about making your boots. They just have too many limitations. I ended up designing something completely different.

    Picture this.. Boots, similar to roller blades, but instead of wheels you have treads. Think tank treads. Each individual link in the tread would be a poly magnet for maximum holding power. But when the tread rotated along, the poly magnet can peel off the wall as it continues along its track to go up the tread and come around again.

    A set of gloves similar to this could be made. Having a handle to grasp onto between the treads (assuming you make them with a pair of treads, left and right side of center). The treads would use a ratcheting system as not to work in reverse. Basically a one way tank tread being pushed up the wall.

    Then when said ratchet is unlocked, a flywheel clutch would engage allowing the treads to work in reverse, but at a very limiting speed. Allowing for a controlled descent at a pace that doesn't result in that old saying, "it isnt the fall that kills you, its the sudden stop".



    << Previously MrGT

    Its been three months. I'm interested to see how your project has come along.

    I've also been thinking about certain problems with using them, to say, walk up a 90 degree wall. You would need some pretty amazing leg strength to keep your body level to the ground and not end up hanging with your knees bent. But that's also just thinking inside a box. Thinking from the outside would come up with some other wall climbing ideas, like magnetic gloves? Or a harness that would be worn around the torso, and perhaps connect to an extension protruding from the boot, like a pair of short skis. You could walk right up a 90 degree surface and your body could remain perpendicular to the wall the entire time.

    Thanks for checking in and for sharing your ideas! Those are definitely great ideas, been considering gloves or some sort of pole as an addition.

    I tested the boots when I finished the second one, and as-is it wasn't enough force to hold my partner sideways or upside down (he's ~ 160lbs, so it might still work with my weight but I want to build it w/ a safety factor anyway). I plan to add more magnets, but these types of magnets are rather expensive so I had to put the project on hold ATM. I'll revisit the project when I have sufficient cash (and time) available to build V2.0. Will keep ya updated! :D


    You are on the right track; however, you have a problem with your magnets. Research polymagnets. They are programmable magnets. Imagine the same strength (what? N60's?) with a twist. Imagine that the field depth (let's call it the range of the pulling force) being greatly reduced by about 90%. But, once you get up close there is a sudden increase in field strength.

    Using these magnets would make it easier to walk by giving you near instant freedom from the pull almost immediately as they break with the surface. As a bonus the boots won't attract or repel from each other when more than an inch or so away.

    Polymagnets are truly amazing. They are truly a mind blowing discovery/invention. They are also capable of much more. If you are reading this and haven't heard of these, then be prepared to have your mind blown. Some of the things they are capable of seem to defy physics.

    Whoa, polymagnets sound incredible! Will definitely have to look into those. Thanks for sharing! :D