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Blinky Shoes for Adults (hack)

CLICK FOR FULL SIZEUpdated 3/27/05

Why the hack?

Why not? Blinky shoes are hella cool and I think it is downright discriminatory that they don't make them for adults. Heck, they even make Heely's for adults (I have a pair!). Blinky shoes are cheap, too! Go down to your local Boutique Target or Mar-Shalles and you can find them for <$15.

How do they work?

Lots of ways, really. Basically they embed a battery and a simple circuit in the heel of the shoe and then branch out LEDs to various parts of the shoe. The circuit has a motion detector which is nothing more than a spring and a metal contact. Vibrate the spring, it hits the metal contact and the circuit strobes the LEDs. Simple. Some circuits use piezoelectric vibration sensors....but that can be pricey.


How to do the hack:

For less than $20 and a pair of your own shoes, you could do this hack. It took me less that 1 hour to hack my shoes. You will need a sharp xacto knife, some snips, pliers, a drill with a 1/4" bit and a hot melt glue gun. If you mess up (like I did) you may need wire strippers and a soldering iron, too. Remember, our goal is that once completed, the shoes should appear stock.

1

Go to your local shoe store and pick out a pair of cheap children's shoes with blinky lights that suit your fancy. For this hack I chose a pair of The Incredibles shoes, children's size 11. I chose them because the LEDs did not appear to be glued to flowers, hearts or other "girlie" ornaments that would make the hack difficult.

2

The "Cylon"-esque blinking of the heel. Pretty cool, huh?

3

Get out that x-acto knife and start cutting. Since this was my first shoe, I approached the dissection carefully. Slice down the tongue and laces to get more working room and a feel for where they ran the wires.

You can also use a pair of snips to cut around the footbed.

4

Here's what the shoe looks like after complete removing one side. You can see I have plenty of room to get my hands in there now.

5

Using a pair of pliers, you can peel back the footbed covering to expose the circuitry. Do not use an cutter at this point, as you will most likely end up creating more work (read: soldering) for yourself.

6

At this point, I got quite the surprise. Turns out someone gave the dude a patent on this. I think the claims are bogus, as there are about 50 other patents out there on blinky shoes and they all read the same! My favorite is the Flashing Disco Shoe (see below).

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Links to illuminated shoe patents:

US Patent for this shoe: 5,969,479 "Light Flashing System"

Other interesting shoe patents:

5,495,136 Piezo System

4,158,922 Flashing Disco Shoe

5,930,921 Illuminated Shoe

5,812,063 Lighting Circuit Assembly For Shoes

5,663,614 Lighting Circuit Module for a Shoe

7

Carefully hacking down the center of the heel exposes a cross-section of the shoe. This isn't necessary for the hack, but it makes for a good picture.

8

The circuit & LEDs are then removed from the shoe. This takes some work, as there is a lot of goopy shoe-glue holding the wires in place.

At this point you might want to mark the wires to denote the sequence of flashing. That is, if you care about the flashing sequence in your final hacked pair of shoes. In my case, I wanted the lights to blink from the inside towards the outside.

9

As you can see, I made an "Ooops" as I cut off half of the shoe. I accidentally cut the wires leading to the upper LED. Shown here is the upper LED still in place and glued to a transparent member of the shoe.

By the way, I couldn't believe they put in the extra $.05 for a connector to this LED. It must have been really important to them to add the extra cost in order to increase manufacturability.

10

The second shoe hacked much much quicker than the first. I managed to get the circuit out without having to re-solder any cut wires.

11

The guinea pigs for this hack are an old pair of Nike Chukka's. They make nice quasi-dress shoes, but they are tremendously uncomfortable for a guy with wide feet.

The ancillary goal on this project was to have a pair of shoes I could wear to a formal occasion.....never mind the fact that they blink.

12

I pulled up the liner and traced an outline of the circuit box on the footbed. This particular footbed is the famous Texon Ecosole 80. I never would have proceeded with this hack if the exposed footbed had been the ill-suited Texon Ecosole 65. But I digress....

At this point, start cutting with the x-acto and pulling up the foam rubber to create a pocket that fits the circuit. This turns out to be easier said than done and requires a little bit of effort.

13

I recommend a pilot drill bit first to prevent wandering. In my case I used a 1/8" pilot drill followed by a 5/16" drill. The higher speeds tended to work better and created a better shaped hole. Make sure you drill all the way into the pocket you created earlier.

14

One by one, feed each LED into a drill hole and shove them through. I found that a pair of needle nose pliers helped to pull and align them.

15

Shove the circuit into the heel pocket and re-align the the LEDs one more time. Conduct a final test before committing to the hot-melt glue.

16

A little hot melt glue makes this a true hack.

Yeah...I know the holes don't look so good, but when was the last time someone put their nose about 2 inches from your heel. Trust me, from a few feet away these puppies look slick!

17

Done done done done done! Put them on and walk around like a kid. Shoe them off in the office. Wear them to formal dinner parties. Woohoooo!