DIY Flashing Shoes

About: I'm a electronic engineering tech with massive love for DIY building, and tools that make tools.

This is my instructable for the creation of adult sized flashing shoes. It was actually a project I was building for a friend that wanted a pair of shoes that would light up. Being as electronics is my hobby and line of work I decided I would make him a custom pair.

Initally I was simply going to use a force resistive sensor, a couple cheap comparator chips and run the on/off output of the comparator into a 555 trigger to send out a burst of flashing. The plan was to calibrate the sensor to trigger only during heavy G loading (ex. Foot contacting the ground) to keep the flashing from constantly triggering when the person was simply standing still.

Due to the cost of FSR sensors, and the bulky size of my homemade ones I had to scrap the idea. I needed a solution that would come in under $30 and work reliably (I also tried pedometer circuit hacking...but was very unsatisfied with the results). Due to my budget and time constraints using a simple one time programmable PIC was also out of the equation (could not find a cheap reliable sensor for flash triggering without using a FSR).

Final solution, let someone else do the hard work and simply hack up a cheap pair of kids flashing shoes to work with my larger design! This would be inexpensive, very reliable, durable, and would not eat up a bunch of my time. Prefect!

Step 1: Find Your Donor

Find a suitable flasher shoe donor. The one I finally settled on was a pair of kids winter boots. I used these because they had a the brightest LED's, I liked the flashing pattern and all the electronics were contained in the fleece linner top...nothing was embedded into the rubber sole making it much easier to remove.

Step 2: Start Hacking

Hack it all apart. I chopped into the boot to liberate all the electronics I needed. I was trying to save the boot to give away to a thrift store or the like once I had what I needed out of it, but the damage I needed to cause put an end to that plan. Inside you should find a small microprocessor with button cell battery connected to the LEDs. In my case all the electronics were sealed in a small acrylic box filled with chance on a battery change ( not easily), but nearly indestructible!

Step 3: Mod It

Modify the internals. The shoe triggered 4 LED's in a nice sequential patteren. One of the outputs on the internal chip must have been damaged when I was removing the unit as only 3 LEDs were active once I got to testing the unit. Perfect for our case as only 3 LEDs per shoe were needed. The LEDs the shoe came with were small, but very fragile (thin leads) so I replaced them with larger LEDs. The current rating is very similar between the two lights so we risk no damage to the internal circuity.

To extend the wiring I used an old Cat5e cable I had laying around, stripped the casing off, and use the twisted pairs for most of my tinkering work. Close to the cheapest wire I have found! I soldered the wire extensions on, heat shrinked all connections, then doubled the wires over the micro and held them in place with a little bead of hot glue to act as a strain relief. Once I tested the unit to make sure everything was functioning as normal I took a large section of clear heat shink and totally cover the micro controller. We are now ready for installation!

Step 4: Install

Install your modified creation! I had planned to install the LED is the sole of the shoe, but ended up using the lace holes to mount them. In this manner the flashing was quite a bit more visible in direct light, and the sequential pattern of the LEDs running down the shoe looks really cool in my opinion. The battery/circuit was slid into a small slit in the side of the tounge and due to the ample amount of padding in this shoe you cannot at all feel it once on your foot. Pictured is a bit of shoe lace magic I had to preform in order to lace the shoes up correctly, luckly this shoe has small loops to run the laces thru that I could use to free up the lace holes for LEDs.

The leads off the LEDs are bend 90 degrees, double heat shinked for durability, and then pressed into the lace holes. The holes are tight enough that no glue was needed to keep them in place. I had not taken the extra effort to clean the wiring up totally as I was unsure if the owner of the shoes would like the placement of my LEDs. I left enough slack in the wires to change up the design as he saw fit.

Step 5: Testing

With everything installed I tapped the shoes onto the ground a few times and was very satisfied with how they worked. Once I tried the shoes on I found they trigger with almost every step (on my carpet flooring, they should trigger 100% of the time outside on pavement).

The only real problem with the shoes that I see is that they are crazy bright! Walking down a dark hallway makes for a very interesting experience! With the LEDs cycling 3 times per side in about 2 seconds you get a very strobe like effect!



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    8 Discussions


    3 years ago

    I'm doing something similar for my girlfriend. Using an atmega32p and a piezo sensor to make 8 LEDs "twinkle". I just need to be able to power it and fit it into a pair of converse.

    1 reply

    I am currently working on almost exactly the same project! What did you use for power? I'm trying to find the right combination of small and unobtrusive while still being long lasting.

    Confounded Machinepmurch

    Reply 7 years ago on Step 5

    If you were local I would say no problem (Canada)...shipping costs added onto the parts and labor price might make it a little more costly tho...In all honesty its quite a simple (but tedious) job just hacking a pair of store bought shoes into a bigger pair.

    I had an idea to use pressure sensitive pads under the heels driving a small micro controller so that I could do more fancy things like setup a user programming mode.
    5 quick taps within 1 sec could change modes from single pulses per step, flashing pulses, strobe, etc.

    I also had an idea to go ultra crazy and run multiple pressure sensors along the bottom of the shoe and run a large amount of LEDs along the whole sole of the shoe so that the lights would light in succession with the contact point of the shoe(pressure on the toe lights up the toe, pressure to the heal lights the heal).

    pmurchConfounded Machine

    Reply 7 years ago on Step 5

    "5 quick taps within 1 sec could change modes from single pulses per step, flashing pulses, strobe, etc."

    That would be sick!

    I mean I am about to buy these light up shoes but they only light up one color, they flash but nothing you can control like that I'm sure. I am about to spend about
    120 bucks with shipping and all to get them, I don't know how much it would cost you bust I would obviously give up some more if I had multi colored lights. I don't know you obviously know alot about electronics, I know I would never be able to pull that off. Maybe I can compensate you if you put up a "How To" video on youtube?

    Confounded Machinepmurch

    Reply 7 years ago on Step 5

    Well to save some $$ on shipping heavy shoes around I could assemble a "kit" of sorts. Something where everything is already connected/programmed and you could simply install the force sensors, uController, and LED's in the shoes of your choice.

    I do have a Etsy account where I sell little gadets and gizmo's I make. If your seriously interested fire me your general location (US, Can, UK, etc.) and a price you would consider fair and I'll see if I can get something together.


    8 years ago on Step 5

    nice shoes dude! you should post a video showing how the leds work and stuff! that would be great :)

    1 reply
    Confounded Machinetato312

    Reply 8 years ago on Step 5

    Thanks man,
    I however now longer have the shoes...they were built for a friend of a friend. I do have the giant glass beer boot ('das boot') I traded for them tho ;).