How to Dye Your Shoes a Cool Color Like Purple

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About: Eric J. Wilhelm is the founder of Instructables. He has a Ph.D. from MIT in Mechanical Engineering. Eric believes in making technology accessible through understanding, and strives to inspire others to lear...

Intro: How to Dye Your Shoes a Cool Color Like Purple

Customize your sneakers by dying them an awesome color.

These Asics Gel Foundation 7 shoes are really comfortable and provide "maximum motion control" for my flat feet and overpronation. Unfortunately, they only come in one set of colors: Ugly with highlights of boring and more ugly. So, sick of white sneakers, I dyed mine purple.

I ran a few tests to determine dye amounts and potential shrinkage cause by hot water, and here are my results. Now, you too can shed the colors imposed upon us by the running-shoe industry!

This project was mentioned here in the New York Times!

Step 1: Choose Your Color

Purple is my favorite color, so that choice was easy.

Upon seeing my new purple shoes, Saul remarked that he thought they looked store-bought, and that the color purple represented sexual frustration. He then stated that green represented repressed memories of childhood abuse and trauma while noting that I was wearing green pants. He then elaborated on this theory of my personality by pointing out that my custom-painted bicycle is purple and green.

I think Saul is afraid of silence, and will say anything to make sure there's continued talking.

Step 2: Run Some Tests

If you have some old shoes, now is a good time to determine the amount of dye, and if there will be any shrinkage.

I followed the directions on the package of Rit dye and simmered one old sneaker in 3.5 gallons of water with two packages of dye for 30 minutes. I did this in a large canning pot on the stove top. This shoe came out fairly purple (it's the left shoe in the images), but I wanted to see if I could go darker. So, I added another two packages of dye to the canning pot, and boiled the other shoe for 2 hours.

Boiling your sneakers for 2 hours may sound like a bad idea, and if you want them to fit afterwards, it is. This shoe (the right one in the images) is slightly darker, but quite a bit smaller. I would estimate that the left shoe, simmered for 30 minutes, shrunk 0.5-1 sizes, while the right shoe, boiled for 2 hours, shrunk 1-2 sizes. The shoe materials shrunk at different rates, so the right shoe now has an interesting bow to it.

Fearing that the sole was getting soaked with water and somehow ruined, I took a third old sneaker and left it in the purple water for 10 hours at room temperature. The material didn't absorb much dye, but the shoe didn't shrink.

After letting the sneakers sit in the dye, I ran them through the washing machine with warm water and detergent, and then dried them in the dryer. The sneaker's care tags say specifically not to do this, but I ignored them.

So in summary:
2 packages of dye, 30 minutes of simmering => purple, 0.5-1 sizes smaller
4 packages of dye (minus the dye used in the first shoe), 2 hours of boiling => slightly darker purple, 1-2 sizes smaller
4 packages of dye (minus the dye used in above tests, and some t-shirts), 10 hours at room temperature => very little purple color, no shrinkage

Step 3: Dye Some Other Stuff

While you've got a big bucket of dye-filled water, and you've run the color experiments, might as well dye some other stuff.

This original series Instructables t-shirt came out beautifully!

Step 4: Dye Your Shoes!

With the experiments on old sneakers successful, I started with a new pair of shoes that were approximately 0.5 sizes too big. In 4 gallons of water, I dissolved 5 packages of Rit dye, and heated the water to 55C (measured with a thermometer; it's about when the water starts to steam). Once at temperature, I turned the heat off, put both sneakers in the water, and held them under the water with a jury-rigged system of clamps, kitchen utensils, and a canning rack. I stirred the shoes a few times, and let them sit, with the water cooling, for 10 hours.

I also dyed the shoe laces, but they didn't really take the color, so I swapped the white laces for black ones.

Step 5: Rinse the Shoes

I used latex gloves and some metal tongs to transfer the shoes to a bowl and then into the sink. From there, I put them in the washing machine for a warm water wash with detergent.

Step 6: Dry and Model Your Awesome Purple Shoes

Dry the shoes and show them off!

Step 7: Another Pair With the Same Recipe

My original purple shoes wore out, so I did another pair using approximately the same formulation: 5 boxes of purple RIT dye in 4 gallons of water; heat the water to 55 C, turn off heat; submerge the shoes for 12 hours. Check out the before and after pictures.

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    49 Discussions

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    painter123

    9 years ago on Introduction

    You know that have a spray paint that you can use to paint them- much easier than using dye. i found it at spraypaint4fabric.com

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    rfpainter123

    Reply 1 year ago

    Wouldn't spray paint tend to clog the mesh and make it less open. Perhaps reducing the ventilation?

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    Michael1233

    2 years ago

    is it possible for you to give me a pair of new sho

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    KaraNmartin1701

    3 years ago

    This is awesome and Id love to do this but am still uncertain.. I have a pair of NB running shoes I'm wanting to dye black. They are mostly white and silver but do have some accent colors of yellow and bright blue on the soles. Do you think the black dye will be able to black out everything if I kept them in there for the same length of time you did?

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    pdotec

    3 years ago on Introduction

    I guess this is an old instructable. Looks like the Rit dye was not really absorbed into the mesh which I suspect is a polyester material. Polyester will not really dye with nylon/cotton dyes. Dharma trading company now sells a polyester dyes which might be worth a try.

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    Just stumbled across this. I used green Rit dye on a pair of white canvas sneakers when I was 10. They were a little blotchy, but I loved them. Mom was not thrilled, but they were just after-school and weekend shoes.

    These days I am usually happy with high dollar NB shoes and inserts that don't hurt my special feet but I suddenly have a hankerin' for some color. Maybe some sparkley things too.

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    jrn11

    9 years ago on Step 7

    wow those look really fantastic. unfortunately i mostly want to die the canvas on mine & it looks like you were dying the mesh, which I bet takes the color easier. but still great job. ps- i just colored mine with a gray fabric marker and now they simply look dirty so i recommend against that.

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    gregrjrn11

    Reply 7 years ago on Step 7

    Cotton canvas shoes should take the dye better than the synthetic shoes that this instructable is dying.

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    StoryAddict

    7 years ago on Introduction

    I had to replace my black Nike Air Pegasus(+27) shoes because apparently I've run them down the last few months of wear 'n' tear w/ the wrong inserts, and I've got high-arch problems. I found some replacements (comfort-wise) in the Nike Zoom Vomero(+5), but despite the awesome dark purple lining and outersole, they only come in bright white (a tone I've outgrown since my last white shoes I owned about ten years ago). In your experience, would this dye procedure w/ black Rit ruin the purple or just adhere to the white? It's a mixture of synthetic mesh and rubber, I believe. Link is here: http://tinyurl.com/6fafubf. I don't really have any old shoes to experiment on, and when I mentioned dyeing them to my Mom, she was horrified and mentioned something about ruining a $115 pair of new shoes.

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    gemtree

    8 years ago on Introduction

    LOVE it. I have some Asics and they are boring. A+

    My 3 year old insisted on having purple sneakers so here are our matching Mother Daughter purple sneakers. 4 packs of die, in 12 quarts of hot water, a cup of salt, and 4 hours later. The laces came out pretty purple too. The shoes don't seem to have shrunken much at all. THANKS!!!!!!!!!!!

    IMG_4743.JPG
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    kutvpiheg1955

    9 years ago on Step 7

    a great way to die your shoes pink is to put them in the washing machine with non colourfast show liners or tshirts. this is what happened to my dunlop volleys. By the way the Dunlop Volley is arguably the best shoe design in the world.

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    watermelonhead

    9 years ago on Step 7

    awesome!!! My shoes already are purple, though :'( So instead I splattered them with orange paint (by accident) :D