Light Up Lifts!




Introduction: Light Up Lifts!

About: Hi! We're Electric Thread, a brother-sister maker duo that is obsessed with art, fashion, lights, and music. This instructables account will feature the stuff that the two of us worked on together... but you c…
Remember when you were 5 and there were those wicked light up shoes that your parents NEVER LET YOU HAVE because theywere too expensive or some other lame excuse? 

Well, fret no more! At Electric Thread, we were inspired by those light up sneakers, and decided to create our own "adult" version. A little bit more socially acceptable than cramming our feet into the largest size kid shoes we could find, a la Grimm Brother's Cinderella step-sister style, we think these lifts are the solution to everyone's inner 5-year-old angst.

Check 'em out in action:


Step 1: What You'll Need


If you're on a budget, we would recommend going to your local Goodwill or Savers to find the shoes. But, if you have the cash any store will do, just remember that you'll be drilling into the heels! The heel of  your shoe is going to be the most important part because that is where all of your lights and batteries will be.
You need a pretty solid heel that will give you enough room to store everything but won't break on you. We found some at Kohls that were under $40. The type of heel really will effect how you have to drill and place in the lights so you will have to work with what you get! The shoes we found were also a half a size too big, giving our female half a little bit of room for the batteries. Since we're using button cell batteries, you could get something that fits perfectly, just keep in mind a battery pack will be in your shoe with you.

The heel construction image below is from here. If you want to learn more about the history and building of heels, check it out!


5mm White LEDs (these fit best in our heels, and the white looks CLASSY)

Resistors- Depending on what kind of LEDs and batteries you use, you'll need different resistors. If you're newer to electronics, check out We used 3.5v LEDs wired in parallel and slightly underpowered them with a 3v button cell battery because we were lazy and didn't feel like adding resistors... if you're curious as to why this is okay and why you usually should put a resistor on an LED, read THIS

Batteries- The smaller the battery, the shorter life it will have driving the LEDs. Go with the biggest button cell your space allows to reduce the need to change batteries. We used the CR2032 3v battery- it's about the size of a quarter.

Battery holder- You can find these at RadioShack. Pick the right holder for your battery!

Momentary Switches- We bought some surface-mount momentary switches. Surface mount things can be pretty tough to solder if you're new to it... but they're really not THAT bad. We ordered the MJTP1140TR switches from, but you could use any tactile momentary switch. The selection at Radioshack and Fry's is pretty meh, so try digikey to avoid frustration. Be sure you get the RIGHT kind of momentary switch... that is, it turns ON when pressed and is normally off.

Wire- I used 24 gauge solid core wire. Solid core is easier to push down the heel, but you can do whatever you'd like.

A few pieces of copper PCB- for building the circuit and triggering the button.

Other Tools:

Dremel- Seriously, this thing really came in handy.
Drill- useful for, well, drilling.
Super Glue- it's fast. it holds. We recommend Gorilla Glue brand.

Step 2: Deconstructing the Shoes

The first thing to take off is the top lift. This is the bottom plastic nub as shown in the diagram below. Using an exacto knife, box cutter, or other sharp thing, cut around the seam and twist or prying it off using a flathead screw driver. Try not to damage the piece because you will need it later! Be sure to save the pieces in a safe place once you take them off so as to not loose them.

Your shoes will probably have a metal rod as the actual heel support. This will be used to carry the wires from the triggering mechanism/battery to the leds.

Step 3: Peeling Things Back

It's time to start peeling things back a little bit... Take the insole of your shoe and using a tool punch or a flathead screwdriver peel the sole of of the top part of your shoe. Take out any screws that you can.

Send a wire down the hole as far as possible to make sure the hole you just discovered is the same as the one at the bottom heel.

You should also peel the underbelly of your shoe off of the heel breast using an exacto knife and being very careful not to slip up. The picture of this (below) is after step 4, so it might look a little bit different... you get the idea though.

Step 4: Mark the Lights!

Using a seam gauge or measuring tape, mark where you want to drill holes for your lights. Keep in mind the top lifts and the difficulty of wiring lights that are closer to the top of the heel. The highest LED we wired proved to be a huge pain, wiring up into the shoe rather than into  the heel.

Step 5: Drilling!

Now that you know where the lights go, it's time to actually drill the holes!

Pick out a drill bit that will be strong enough to go through the material of the shoes but isn't too big; you will want to start small then work up to the size that will fit your LEDs.  We stared with a 3/32 wood bit and worked up to a 1/4 bit which perfectly fit the 5mm LEDs.

Because of the design of the shoe we had to drill at and angle to avoid the metal rod in the heel. Drill at the dots you marked earlier and make sure that the hole you drill is angled so it goes out the back rather than the side.
When drilling through plastic it can get hot and start to melt around the bit. Don't pick the molten plastic off immediately, but be sure to clean off your bits. The outside of the holes you drill will be a little messy. You can clean it up with a x-acto knife.

Test to make sure the LEDs fit into the holes but be sure to take them out before drilling the next hole. We made the mistake of leaving one in and scuffed it with the drill.

Start at the bottom and work up because the last hole is tricky and may have to be done differently (shown in the next step).

Step 6: Drilling the Last Hole

Depending on how high up your highest light is, the last hole you need to drill will be drilled upwards. We found it to be near impossible to get a hole drilled out the back- we couldn't peel back plastic on the inside of the heel far enough, and the angle needed would've caused the drill to scratch the heel. If you can get the right angle without hurting the shoe, skip this step and do the last hole the same as the rest.

Drill a small pilot hole at an angle from the outside. After drilling a small hole, drill from the inside out. This helps avoid scratching the outside of the heel with the drill.

Because you drilled at an angle, you'll need to drill straight into the heel (until you hit the metal rod) to create a space to place the LED in straight. 

Step 7: Channels for Wires

Now that you've drilled the holes for the LEDs, it's time to dremel/cut out channels for the wires. The size of these channels varies with how thick of wires you're using, but it should be ~1/8" deep. We recommend using a dremmel rotary cutting tool for this- the little 1/2" cutting disks are awesome and work perfectly for this. You could probably get away using a drill or exacto or something, but if you've got some sort of rotary cutting tool, use it.

Check out the picture below for a better idea of what's going on here!

Step 8: Adding the LEDs.

Before shoving the LEDs in the heel, remove the leads and re-solder longer ones onto the little wire nubs. Careful not to solder it at too high a temperature- you'll fry the LEDs if you do! It's helpful if the wire you use is solid core and insulated; it's easier to poke the leads through without risking shortage. We added a dollop of hot glue on the exposed leads to be extra sure of shortage.
When you've added new leads, go ahead and push them into the shoe.

Step 9: Wiring Through the Heels

Fire up your soldering iron again, and shove two wires a bit more than 2x the height of the shoe up the supporting metal rod in the heel. 
Solder the top-most LED's positive terminal to one wire and the negative terminal to the other. Using an automatic stripper, (or a manual one if you'd really like to) strip both wires however often your leds occur. For us, that was about once per inch. Solder the lights in parallel, with all positive LED terminals connected to one wire and all negative terminals connected to the other. We did white->white and black -> red (we ran out of black wire...) but you can do whatever colors you remember. 

Step 10: Reconstruction

Once you've tested your wiring, fit the wires in the little nook you dremmeled/cut out. Careful here- you don't want to short anything. Use a little bit of hot glue to keep everything nice and snug and insulated!

Pull the two wires up from the inside of the shoe tightly enough to ensure the heel breast can be affixed to the heel again.

When everything is in place, glue the heel breast back to the heel using superglue or a 2 part epoxy. Super glue is a lot easier, but epoxy will have a better hold. 

Try to add the top lift back on- if it doesn't go on nicely, you can use a router or dremel to clear a little more room in its underbelly. Superglue/epoxy this too.

Step 11: Triggering the Lights

The circuit you'll want to build is SUPER basic- it's just a switch attached to a battery and an LED. Check out the diagram and graphic of it and adapt as necessary. To actually trigger the switch, glue a small piece of PCB or something solid to the underside of the insole. Without something solid, the squishy heel of your foot will mold around the switch and render the shoe useless. 

Step 12: Hiding the Battery Pack

You will want to put some type of patch over the bater pack so you can't hit it out when putting on your shoes. We did a little felt heart, but you can do whatever shape you'd like!

Step 13: You're Done!

Congrats, you've got a pair of heels! Stay tuned in the upcoming months for our tutorial on complimentary men's shoes... video to come soon! Thanks for reading :)

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    10 years ago on Introduction

    My sister and I got to have a pair of the light-up shoes, and sadly, they always guaranteed our failure at playing Hide-and-Go-Seek in the dark of summer. Black Electrical tape over the sensors didn't really work either. This is certainly a fun idea for clubbing or whatever occasion you'd wear these to, plus you'll make sure that oncoming traffic will see you :)