I've had a surprising number of questions about the invisible shoes that I made for my Jack Frost costume. So, by request, here's a step-by-step tutorial!
Many popular costumes call for bare feet (Jack Frost, L, Toph, Medusa, Radical Edward and Inuyasha, to name a few) -- but running around barefoot can be unsafe and is forbidden by many public health codes and venue policies. These “invisible” shoes will keep your feet safely off the floor without spoiling the barefooted look of your costume. Best of all, they're easy to make and cost only a few dollars!
- transparent PVC insoles
- mesh fabric
- needle & thread
- markers, paint, fabric dye or makeup in your skin tone
The soles of your shoes will be flexible clear PVC insoles. These thin, flat shoe inserts are commonly found at discount or dollar stores (Dollar Tree, Dollar General, Family Dollar, et al.) for one or two dollars. If you want something fancier like gel-filled, shaped, or padded supports, you can pick up name-brand insoles at a big box store like Target or Walmart, but those usually cost between $10 and $20. (If you don't have a discount store in your area, you can usually find the lower-end insoles for around $4 on eBay.)
Here are a few of the $1 options at my local Dollar Tree:
I opted for the “massaging insoles,” which have little nubs on the bottom, because I wanted my shoes to have good traction. Note that you will need to buy a size larger than you normally wear in shoes, as you want the sole of your invisible shoe to be big enough to cover your whole footprint. (Since I have fairly large feet for a woman, this means I had to buy the men's insoles. If you have smaller feet, you can trim them to fit if necessary.)
I recommend a mesh fabric for the straps because the open weave breaks up the light hitting it, making it less visible, and the uneven edges are less obvious than a smooth strap across your foot. This is the fabric I used (primarily because I already had a scrap lying around), but any kind of mesh should work:
Sizing the Straps
To begin, cut strips of mesh for the straps. Each shoe has two straps – one that loops over a toe, and one that wraps over the top of the foot. The toe strap will be between 1/2" and 1" wide, depending on what is comfortable for you, and about 3" to 4" long (you will trim it to fit). The foot strap will be 1 1/2" to 2" wide, and about 10" to 12" long, depending on the size of your feet. For reference, this is roughly where the straps will be placed on the insole when you're finished:
To figure the length of each strap, you'll need to size it on your foot. (Do this separately for each foot, since your dominant foot is most likely larger than your other foot.) Place your foot on the insole, positioning it so it's comfortable to stand on and your toes aren't hanging off the edge. Tuck the strap on either side of the toe you want to support the shoe (I put the strap around the second toe, where it's less visible than the big toe). Make sure it isn't pinching the toe, and leave room to wiggle your toe in and out of the strap. When you're happy with the placement, mark the strap where it hits the insole, and also mark that spot on the insole so you know where to attach the strap. Add about a half inch to each end of that measurement (for seam allowance) and trim the strap.
Next, size the foot strap. This strap should start at the outside ball of your foot, wrap over the top of the foot at an angle, and curve back under the arch to the middle of the insole, just in front of the heel. It should fit snugly so the shoe won't flop around when you walk, but have just enough room to slide on and off the foot. Mark this strap and trim it as before, leaving at least a half inch on either end for sewing.
Coloring the Mesh
In order to be invisible, the strap needs to match your skin as closely as possible. You can buy flesh-tone fabric if you can find one that matches your skin, but if the skin of your feet is lighter or darker than standard dancewear beige, you're probably better off coloring the fabric to match.
It can be tricky to get fabric dye to exactly match skin tones, so I used alcohol-based markers to color my fabric (Copic and Prismacolor are available in a variety of flesh tones, and are available at most arts and crafts stores like Michaels or Hobby Lobby). You can also use any kind of flexible fabric paint, or acrylic paint mixed with a fabric painting medium. On some types of fabric, you could also use makeup such as a liquid foundation, but keep in mind that if your feet get wet or you want to wash the shoes, you may need to reapply it.
Building the Shoe
Now that the fabric is colored, attach the straps to the insoles where you've marked them. Fold each end of the strap over so you have about 1/4” doubled. (If your fabric is very fragile, you may want to fold the end over again to make it 1/8” quadrupled, to reinforce the stitching.) Using neutral or flesh-colored thread, carefully sew the doubled ends of the strap to the insole where you marked it.
Some insoles are already perforated for ventilation, so you can stitch through the existing holes; if yours is not, or if you need to add another hole, use a large needle, push pin or awl to poke a hole through the plastic. Try to use as few holes as possible and leave at least 1/8" of space between them, to avoid weakening the plastic.
...And that's it!
Once your straps are attached, try on the shoe to double-check fit and comfort. Make sure there are no lumps of fabric that will cause blisters if you wear it all day, particularly under the heel.
Pro tip: Some insoles are more flexible than others. If your shoe is too floppy, you can use a couple of strips of double-stick fashion tape or other skin-safe adhesive to stick it directly to your foot. This is especially useful if you plan to be very active or doing a lot of action posing that might put undue stress on the straps.