Introduction: Billie Jean LED Light-up Disco Shoes

About: I am interested in the boundaries between engineering and art, with a slightly eco/nature vibe.

These are shoes with LED floor tiles attached to the bottom of them and a pressure switch so that they light up when you put your feet down, just like Michael Jackson's Billie Jean video. They are powered by a battery pack which you put in your pocket. This project was built in a bit of a rush for a party, and there are many things I would have liked to do better with it. They are still awesome though, and plenty bright enough for a club. They look surprisingly cool when not lit up too.

Step 1: You Will Need

** shoes with a hard sole, not rubber
** white spray paint for shoes
** wire
** 24 high brightness LEDs. I used 20000mcd 5mm diffused glow
** reasonably heavy duty microswitch
** polycarbonate sheet approx 30cm square (depends how big your feet are!)
** bits of wood to make the frame
** 3D cell battery holder

Step 2: Paint Shoes

Easy first step. Mask off the shoes and spray them white, apart from the toes.
This year I want to try make all my projects from as little newly bought stuff as possible, so I just got any old shoes from the charity shop with a hard sole.

Step 3: Build Frames and Mount LEDs

This picture shows basically what is going on underneath.

the top is made from 6mm clear polycarbonate (more shatter-resistant than acrylic). I left the white cover on the bottom side of the polycarbonate to make it diffuse/translucent.

 The sides of the box are not load bearing. The polycarbonate is also not load-bearing. All your weight goes through the toe and heel pillars in the centre of the tile.

The toe and heel pillars are made from 30mm square sections pieces of wood.

The sides are made from 6mm plywood, they serve only as a place to mount  the LEDs and to stop light leaking out the sides. They are screwed onto corner pieces which are screwed onto the polycarbonate.

I used 9 LEDs per shoe, which give good brightness for a club or other dark party. The LEDs are mounted by drilling 2 small holes in the sides of the frame, then putting the LED legs through the little holes.

To connect the LEDs, I used a long strand of bare wire on both the inside and outside of the frame, and soldered it to the LED legs, thus connecting them all in parallel.

Step 4: Connect Switches

this picture shows how to mount the microswitch on the toe pillar. When the toe pillar is flush with the floor, the switch should be depressed. Simple!

Step 5: Connect Power

So now you can see the top side of the tiles. I have simply put black duct tape around the outside sides to cover the wires and make it look better.

As an aside, you can see the 4 screws (countersunk) holding the toe pillar and the 2 screws holding the heel pillar.

I now used 2 x 3.5mm mono headphone-type sockets, with approx 30 cm of wire as a power connector. They emerge from the top of the tile through a hole, close to where the shoes will be, on the inside side of your feet.

You place a battery box in your trouser pocket, and then run a cable down each trouser leg with a 3.5mm mono headphone-type plug at the bottom.

I ended up tucking the connected connecters into my socks, this worked great.

Once you have got everything working and checked, HOT GLUE EVERYTHING. Use hot glue to fix the LEDs in place, on all the wires, etc.

Step 6: The Battery Box

I simply used a 3D cell battery box. This is easily enough power for one night.
I soldered 2 leads to it, each about as long as my legs plus 30cm. As I said last step, they have 3.5mm headphone connectors on the end of them, so you can plug/unplug your shoes easily without messing around with the wires in your trousers.

Step 7: Mount the Shoes! Finished!

This is a step which I really didn't how I was going to do.
Basically, you want the toe to be attached, but not the heel, otherwise you will find it hard to walk. I ended up just cutting slits in the top of the shoes and using screws.

The way I did it was:
1. line up shoes onto toe pillars and heel pillars
2. ensure the holes you are about to drill won't hit the existing screws which hold the toe pillars to the polycarbonate
3. scalpel a 1.5cm slit  in the top of the shoe
4. drill a 3mm hole through the slit, through the base of the shoe, through the polycarb and into the wood
5. remove shoe. enlarge the hole in the polycarbonate, but not the wood,  so that your self tapping screw won't shatter the polycarbonate as it goes through
6. replace shoe, line everything up and just put you screw through the slit and screw it down. The screw head will eventually just go through the slit, and sink nicely into the base of the shoe. Use a countersink screw.
7. a little touch up paint on the slits.

That's it you are done!

So put the battery box in your trouser pocket, bring the leads down each trouser leg, and connect up!! Have fun!


You will get a lot of attention from people, people will dance around you on the dance floor, and you will feel a bit shallow, but you love it!

The best chat up line possible is to ask someone to join you on your dance floor so they stand/dance on your tiles, which puts them basically on top of you. Enjoy! Do not use these shoes for evil!

Obviously multicolour lights would be amazing. But if I would make one simple change though, I would add a simple flasher circuit which is activated by switch. This is so that when you are not lifting your feet up, e.g. standing in one place dancing, the lights would flash, making things look more interesting. You can obviously flash the lights by fiddling with the connection on the battery box, but this makes it look like you are playing with yourself through your trouser pocket.

Outdoor/variable surfaces/festivals
In this form, these shoes are only suitable for hard, even floors. For a festival, I would rebuild them using a bottle crate (plastic crate designed to hold many bottles) underneath. I would put the pressure sensor in the shoe rather than on the ground.