This post and photos may contain Amazon or other affiliate links. If you purchase something through any link I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Shoes have always, always been my thing and when I first started this blog I even made over one cheap pair of shoes a week in my “Shoesday Tuesday” feature. The very first ever Shoesday was the very first iteration of this DIY Saddle Shoes tutorial and it did really, really well. In fact, it kind of put my little 2-month old blog on the map, you could say. Way back 6 years and almost 6 months ago I said that shoes would always be my thing for 3 important reasons…
- Because if I gain weight or lose weight, my shoes always fit.
- For some reason, you can get away with crazy shoes and still be considered respectable.
- Trends come and go, but classics will always be classics.
Standing the test of time, these 3 bullet points are still valid in my life today :) But over time my crafty methods have changed a bit and I’ve got a LOT more experience under my belt making things on the regular… like 77 more months experience making things. And the way I did it back then worked out okay, but the way I do things today make a little bit more sense as far as durability goes. Now this isn’t such a big deal if you’re making your own pair of cheap saddle shoes to rock out at a costume party with a poodle skirt, but if you’re actually going to insert these cuties into your wardrobe and wear them regularly, well, making them with color that sticks around is kind of important.
Back in the day (April 18, 2012, to be exact), I used a Sharpie brand fabric marker and this project was quick and simple. Like with pretty much all of the shoes I made back then, because I was making a pair a week and her closet is MUCH bigger than mine, I gave them to my sister. And just a few months of wear later, she had worn the saddle bits right off of the shoes. I remember seeing them in the shoe bin as I walked in the front door and going, “are those the saddle shoes?” Yep. They were. And the areas that had been black were suddenly such a light gray you almost didn’t see the contrast.
So today we’re using paint and to save some $$$ we aren’t even going to use fabric paint because it can be kind of expensive depending on the size you purchase and because if you don’t paint a lot of fabric that’s just a waste of money. But by using paint instead of a fabric marker, we’re going to create some kicks that you can kick around in for ages before that color goes ANYWHERE. In fact you’re far more likely to mess up your white bits than ever wear off the color like my sis did back in the day.
This year, as I was making my umpteenth pair of saddle shoes in plain ol’ black something clicked in my head… why do they have to be black? And so I made 2 pairs in 2018… a black and white pair and a bright ass pink pair that make me crazy happy :) So grab your favorite color of paint (or a color that will match your poodle skirt) and let’s hop on this and make some cheap saddle shoes, shall we?
Make a pair of DIY Saddle Shoes for as little as $6.
For this project you will need:
- White canvas sneakers
- Paint (I’m using Martha Stewart Satin Craft Acrylics Martha Stewart Satin Craft Acrylics in Beetle Black and Camellia Pink)
- Stiff paintbrush (fabric paintbrush)
- Fabric medium or water
- Cotton swabs
First up you’ll need to snag a pair of white sneakers similar to the ones above. These days I’m straight up about Keds and the original Keds Champion are the same style as the shoes above. If I were making these for regular wear, I’d go with the more expensive shoes because I’m getting old and getting old sucks and my feet hurt all the freaking time :) But since these are just occasional the black and white pair came from Walmart for about $6 and the pink and white pair came from Target for about $10.
There are some major differences in the 2 cheap pairs I got. First up the Walmart pair are nice and white but the padding in them is the pits. Like, my feet hurt after less than an hour in them. The next pair I got were from Target and the white is really blue, which you can’t really tell in the photos, but side by side the Walmart pair actually looks white and the Target pair looks kind of weird light and really bright blue-ish white. But the padding in them is a lot better and I can wear them comfortably for much longer. Buying my normal size in both pairs, the Walmart pair was as expected fit-wise and the Target pair was about half a size too big.
Okay. So. Got your white canvas sneakers figured out and know if you’re spending $6, $10 or $40 after my extremely long commentary about your options? Excellent! :)
Were you also wondering why it looked like my sneakers were on a hill? Marla was behind the scenes helping out with this fabulously simple shoe makeover :)
To keep things cost effective we’re going to use regular craft acrylic paint for this project. After experiencing issues with far more bad paint in my stash than good, I one day got frustrated and threw it all in the trash. I mean, some of these bottles are from the beginning of this blog and 6-year-old paint has the totally wrong texture. Since I’ve started fresh with my new craft acrylic paint stash I’ve gone pretty much exclusively Martha Stewart Paints by Plaid. The two colors I used for this post was Camellia Pink and Beetle Black.
Since I’m trying to minimize my craft stash I’ve also gotten rid of my fabric paints as a lot of them have gone bad over time. It doesn’t help that a lot of them have been stored in the hot garage where it seems the liquid has evaporated from it turning them into plastick-y goo. So that I only need to keep my spinner of 2-ounce Martha Stewart paints on my desk, I’ve also added Martha Stewart brand fabric medium to the new stash. With a ratio of 1 part fabric medium to 2 parts paint, I’m able to turn any of my craft acrylics into fabric paint. Cool, right? That means I can get some absolutely perfect colors without trying to mix colors and match versions of my mixes because I have an amazing variety of colors available to me straight out of the bottles.
Now fabric medium isn’t absolutely necessary, especially if these shoes are a one-off for a costume. You can also thin out craft acrylic paint with water which is basically free. To keep costs down further, you can use a less expensive brand of craft paint like Apple Barrel, which is also by Plaid and a good brand for a cheap price, costing only 50 cents at Walmart.
To get the look of saddle shoes we are going to paint in the center portion of the shoe on both the outer and inner portions of the top canvas part of the shoe. Traditional saddle shoes also have a section on the back heel, which you can also incorporate if you’d like, but I chose not to do because nobody ever notices that detail or lack thereof.
Using your choice of color you’ll paint in this center section of the canvas, leaving the piping around it, eyelets and rubber soles nice and clean. To start, remove any tags and the shoelaces. Set the laces aside.
To keep your paint off of your piping pinch the shoes and pull the piping back and then run your paintbrush beneath that piping for nice, clean edges.
In some areas you might have to pinch 2 bits of piping, like on the Target brand sneakers, brushing in between the 2 sets. Now see how there is more area between the 2 areas of piping? I straight up left that business alone. In areas like this, go where you can without making a mess and leave it at that. Nobody will notice you didn’t cover ALL of the area because nobody’s going to be at eye-level with your shoes. And if they are, you have some weird friends.
When you get near the rubber sold, simply swipe your brush in as straight a line as possible. As long as the paint is straight it won’t matter if it goes onto the rubber sole a bit. Nobody will notice and if you look at your shoes from the store, this area is rarely perfect.
Keeping eyelets cean is super easy,too. Using a regular ol’ cotton swab, give the paint a few minutes to dry up just a bit. While it’s tacky, but not really liquid buff away the paint to clean up the metal grommets easily. If you wait a bit the paint will come away more easily and won’t just be spread around and like it will when it’s wet. Plus, it won’t wipe away from the canvas leaving spots to be touched up. If you wait a little bit too long and it’s too dry to come away easily, don’t fear. Barely dampen the cotton swab with a bit of water to get those suckers pristine and clean again.
Another tip I’ve got for nice, clean edges is to use a nice, stiff paintbrush. Coarse bristles will stay where you place them and follow your movement with the brush cleanly. Softer bristles will give a softer edge that won’t look as nice and sharp. I’m actually using fabric paintbrushes from Michael’s that I got half off with a coupon.
When loading up your stiff brush, only apply paint to one side of the brush. The paint will seep through to the other side, but it will be minimal and will help with your nice clean lines. Keep the side of the brush with less paint running along the piping of the shoes and you won’t have paint bubbling up and over the piping ruining your clean lines.
As you work, your paint will build up into the bristles nearer where they attach to the handle. Regularly remove the excess paint on a scrap piece of paper or a paper towel to help keep those nice, crisp edges.
You’ll want to keep the tongue of the shoe nice and white. To avoid paint dripping through your eyelets and onto the tongue. You can hold the shoe like above so that the paint drips onto your hands instead.
It takes a while for the paint to dry. To prevent accidentally smearing your paint, complete only one side of each shoe and then allow it to completely dry before tackling the other side. I don’t know how many times I swore I’d remember the other side was wet that I’d place it on the table and smear that paint all over the place. It’s devastating and totally preventable if you just let that first side dry completely.
Allow your shoes plenty of time to fully dry. Give them a quick inspection and touch up any spots that didn’t get enough paint, clean up any eyelets if needed, etc. Once fully dry, lace your puppies back up and you’re done!
Boom. Done. Even taking what felt like a lot of time trying to make my shoes as perfect as possible each pair took me less than 30 minutes from start to finish. Not bad, right?
I truly can’t decide if I prefer the pink or the black. The black is classic, but those hot pink puppies are pretty darn cute, right? Hrm. I guess it really doesn’t matter because I have them both! :)