Blade Runner Harajuku Light Up Sandals




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It's a computing platform - and off world platform shoes. Make some unique shoes to show off at Harajuku and tell everyone this is the latest from Akihabara... well, parts from Adafruit.

This would be a fun project to replicate since Firewalker LED sneakers are canon in the neopixel universe.

Use of small form factor microcontrollers like the Adafruit FLORA or Gemma/Trinket are great for this light up wearable tech application.

Note that this is a "prototype" that you can improve on. Just throwing out ideas for you here.

(Sorry, no soundtrack, synthesize your own Vangelis-y analog moody atmospheric sounds. Left foot and right foot are not synchronized.)

Harajuku - Japanese eclectic fashion scene where all the homeless club kids show off

Akihabara - electronics wonderland in Japan

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Step 1: More Parts Than Parts...

It was the end of summer as the liquidator store was clearing out the shelves for holiday decorations, there was this odd pair of thick wedge sandals. So I says to meself, Self, I could probably make something cool from it. It was cheap so I got them. Not for me, mind you, let me make that perfectly clear. Not that there's anything wrong with that...

Hmm, I could stack these even further to make a redonkulously high pair of thick soled shoes like those anime/manga characters wear. Make it so.

I went to the dollar store to get three more pairs of flip flops in the same black colored foam. They didn't have enough of the same size so I just got some that were close so I wouldn't have to trim and sand them to be uniform. You can make the layers rainbow or contrasting colors too.

I then got a 25 foot roll of 1/2 inch clear tubing from the home center. This will rim the light emitting layer of the sandals.

I had two Adafruit Floras which I have used in various projects(click on the username to get to my profile listing of instructables). Try to always get two of everything, one to use - one for backup and testing.

I had the remnants of my original order of 2 meters of Adafruit neopixel strips - 60 LEDs/m density. I have sliced and diced those so many times for many different instructables too.

You can also use a small microcontroller like the Adafruit Gemma or Trinket which can drive the neopixel strips.

I had one of those keychain digital photo viewers laying around. I'm surprised that the onboard USB drivers were recognized and loaded up on my PC. I captured a few frames of the Blade Runner geisha advertising sign to play back on that photo viewer. It has a slideshow mode to cycle through the images.

Although this is a wearable, no sewing is involved in this project.

CAUTION: Learn how to solder safely and use a hot glue gun carefully.

Step 2: Heart and Sole of the Project...

From the stock of soylent sandals, harvest the soles.

I suppose you could mill this from a solid block of EVA foam or possibly 3D print a stackable structure, but this is old school crafting.

Cut off the plastic toe loopy things and use them in something else or discard responsibly. The resulting holes lets us route the wires through the layers without the need to drill them.

Use hot glue to rim the edge of the sole blank with the clear tubing..

Note that you will have to hold the pieces together for a longer time in order for the hot glue to cool and set completely.

Be extra careful because the thick blob of hot glue takes a longer time to cool and will ooze out. You might get accidentally napalmed so wear an ov-glove while working this detail.

When you get close to completing the loop around the sole, you can cut the end to a point or slit it and fold in so you can stuff that into the first end of the tube to form a continuous loop.

You can put a hot glue fillet to fill up the gaps if desired.

Stack them up so you can see how they will look.

The rim of the clear tubing seems to provide enough support to actually stand and walk in these shoes but some filler pieces may be necessary to prevent the electronic components in the cavities from getting damaged.

Step 3: Das Blinkenlights...

This part is better served by you looking up the tutorials on the Adafruit Learning System.

What is the secret to all the blinking lights here?

It is just an Adafruit Flora with 3 neopixel strips connected in parallel to the same data pin running the Strandtest neopixel diagnostic sketch.

For each shoe I had a strips of 10, 30, and 30 neopixels.

The +, GND and DATA IN wires from each strip were routed through holes in each layer and connected to the microcontroller and battery pack in the topmost layer. I used a battery pack with 3 AAA alkaline cells. You could also use a lithium polymer battery pack to make it smaller and lighter.

The neopixel strips were connected in parallel meaning that only one data pin on the Flora is connected to all three DATA IN on the neopixels strips and would drive all the neopixel strips simultaneously. Depending on how you lay the looped strips into the shoe layer, it can look like that strip is running in the opposite direction of the others when it displays the blinking "theatre chase" mode.

Step 4: The Future Is So Bright...

Neopixels are very bright LED elements. They have a little chip in each on that makes neopixels individually addressable with programming.

I wanted to soften the look of the individual neopixel points of light so I put in a strip of fiberfill batting to diffuse the lights.

Position the neopixel strips behind the fiberfill batting/clear tubing and tack in place with hot glue if necessary. Pack all of the wires and electronics neatly inside.

You can then start sandwiching the layers. Apply glue on top of the clear tubing. Hold the layers together until the hot glue sets. Be careful, the hot glue is hot.

I didn't have an external power switch wired so I left the back end of the topmost layer open so I could reach the slide switch on the Flora. It was sealed up with electrical tape.

Attach the small digital photo viewer to the thong part of the sandal. You can use hot glue or some kind of double sided tape.

Step 5: Replicants of Your Own...

These shoes are made for... I dunno.

Anything you want.

Go and make a pair.

Add microswitches to click your heels and change display modes.

Add a foot pressure activated sensor with velostat, tilt ball switches, vibration sensors or 9 DOF(degree of freedom) accelerometer position sensors to trigger light patterns.

Add electret microphone amp module to make it sound volume reactive. Use FFT(fast Fourier transform) algorithm for frequency analysis to break down the display bars on the VU meter.

Add Bluetooth or wireless to have your shoes light up for incoming messages.

Add other OLED or LCD alphanumeric displays for graphic displays.

Embed a GPS module and datalog your travels.

Add a sound FX board to make Spongebob Squidward sounds as you walk.

Add EL wire or fiber optic trim details.

Add what you think needs adding.


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    25 Discussions


    3 years ago

    Hey, love the project! Going to try this out myself, but I was wondering if you think the Gemma microcontroller from Adafruit? Don't know what the memory requirements of the code may be, or if it's possible to run three strands on lights -even in parallel- off one power supply. Thanks!

    2 replies

    Reply 3 years ago

    The Gemma/Trinket can handle processing about 100 neopixels total, the Flora about 500 total so it would depend on how dense and how many neopixels you have for each of the strips. If you were going to use a Gemma to drive one or more strips in parallel(say 3 rows of 30/one long connected strip of 90 or top and bottom row of 50 in parallel and middle row of 50) , just wire up power directly from the 5v power source(use a 5v Trinket-just as small and cost as a Gemma, you would still solder to it, rectangular vs round shape) and wire the same data pin out to 2 or three strips data in. Use a larger 5v lipo battery or AAA battery pack for longer runtimes. Once you get it wired up you can experiment with coding to get the effect you want. Depending on how you mount the strips you can play with having the lights run one way and the next row going the opposite direction, much easier than manipulating it in code. People may get too hung up on power calculations, upping the power supply if you see things go wonky like all dim red or hung up leds is no big deal. Good luck.


    Reply 3 years ago

    Oh, I recall seeing some famous basketball player showing on the news his new line of light up sneakers with an app that controls it. You might want to look into the small Adafruit Feather boards with bluetooth/Bluefruit IoT to control the lights on your shoes.


    3 years ago

    Hi there,
    light 1 shoe damage.
    I need you to sell me the parts.
    Or inform me where I can buy the parts ??

    Thank you.

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

    Don't know where in the world you are but search

    "digital photo viewer keychain" for that small picture display unit

    Adafruit site for wearable electronics -Flora Arudino board and Neopixel led strips. They have worldwide distributors listed on their site.

    Clear plastic tubing at your local hardware store

    Flipflop slippers at your local stores for footwear.

    Good luck.


    3 years ago

    What was the voltage & capacity of the batteries that you used. Do the led strips run on 5V?

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

    They are Adafruit neopixel strips that run on 5v. I am using a standard three AAA battery pack, 750mah for alkaline cells? You can get smaller size LiPo cells or rechargeables and you do have room to stack up power packs if you need them to run for a while.


    3 years ago

    pairs of different sizes you say? why not go for a pyramid look

    you get much better balance so no more twisted ankles!

    3 replies

    Combat boots are what protect your ankles. I would imagine a pair of light up Doc Martens would be fashionable.


    3 years ago

    Amazing. I think my 3 year old would LOVE some (thinner) versions.

    I got him "squeaky shoes" when he was 1 and it took him a while to warm up to them.

    2 replies

    Reply 3 years ago

    They have kids sneakers with the flashing lights. But this does so much more.


    Reply 3 years ago

    YES they do. I think it's the platform disco form that really makes this standout.


    3 years ago

    Those shoes look really cool.

    I was wondering

    How hard is it to replace the batteries?

    How comfortable are they to walk in.

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

    You can hinge the top layer of the shoe to access the electronics and have it closed shut with velcro, screws, latch or something. If you used a lipo battery, just have the charging port or USB port embedded through the side or back of the shoe.

    I guess it is a stiff shoe and you probably have to get used to the elevated height. Maybe it comes down to the dexterity of the wearer. It's not uncommon to actually see people wearing this kind of shoe - without the lights.


    3 years ago

    These are certainly eye catching sandals. A winner no doubt~ thanks for sharing and I wish the very best for your entry in the contest. Cheers~


    2 replies

    Reply 3 years ago

    Thanks, 'tis the season for making, giving, cooking... Good luck to you too.


    Reply 3 years ago

    Thanks, I so want to make something like this but get distracted making other things. I am not adventurous enough to wear them but sure like to see others in them. I might give it a try when I figure out who to give them to. I thought the picture might have been some type of animated clip until; I went back to reread to see where I missed that part.
    I'll bet your daughter loves them. Cheers~sunshiine~


    3 years ago

    What does the Japanese text say?