Invisible Shoes

Jack Frost invisible shoes

unretouched photo of invisible Jack Frost shoes at a convention

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 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!

Materials

  • 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:

PVC insoles

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:

mesh fabric

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:

clear shoes

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.

toe strap

toe 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.

foot strap

foot strap

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.

coloring strap

coloring the strap

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.

sewing strap

sewing the strap

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.

poking hole

poking hole

…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.

completed shoe

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.

15 comments for “Invisible Shoes

  1. Becca
    March 10, 2014 at 3:09 am

    Thank you so much! This is so helpful!!!!

  2. April 20, 2014 at 11:37 pm

    Do you have any recommendations for a similar technique if you want the SOLES to be visible, but not the straps. I have a cosplay I’m considering putting together that requires that.

    • June 1, 2014 at 4:44 pm

      spray paint on the soles…

    • Jeanne
      July 16, 2014 at 6:40 am

      Now I’m really curious what that cosplay would be.

  3. Lauren
    May 2, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    Wow! Such a creative idea! I never would have thought of something like this. Kudos :)

  4. Gem
    May 9, 2014 at 10:57 am

    This is pure genius! or witchcraft…. Either way I can’t wait to use this for my Princess Aurora cosplay!

    • May 18, 2014 at 2:50 pm

      Excellent! Post a photo of the completed shoes on our Facebook page, if you want!

  5. Kuro Kitsune
    June 15, 2014 at 9:44 pm

    I can never find liquid based makeup or anything that’s flesh tone colored that matches my skin when used on the mesh. I figured out an alternative that worked for me so far by using some tulle that’s in ivory. It holds on nicely and needs less coloring than mesh.

    Also, you saved me BIG TIME on five costumes that I have and I was seriously in need of this for a new cosplay that I’m making as well as my future Bellena cosplay from the game “Skies of Arcadia”. ^_^ Thank you SO~ much! <3

  6. Jacek
    June 21, 2014 at 10:24 pm

    My mom told me she used to do something like this in the 70′s

  7. Sophie
    June 23, 2014 at 9:40 pm

    This is a great tip! Thank you! I’m so gonna make these for my L cosplay ^^

  8. Anna-Margot
    July 15, 2014 at 10:45 pm

    Hi, your tutorial is great, could I have permission to publish it in our newsletter for the Australian Costume Guild, I am editor.

    • Alena
      August 1, 2014 at 5:55 pm

      Yes, you may! Please include a credit and our website URL with the tutorial.
      Alena recently posted…Invisible ShoesMy Profile

  9. Charlotte
    July 21, 2014 at 6:43 am

    Thank you so much for this tutorial! I don’t know what I would have done without it. I just finished making a pair for my Radical Edward cosplay and they turned out perfect. I used tulle and it turned out completely invisible. I just want to add one thing though: do not buy the insoles made for high heels. They’re made to be smaller to fit into the shoes, and have a shorter instep because of the heel. I wear a size 5.5 and I bought a size 9 (only ones they had) and my toes hung off a solid inch. I also accidentally bought peel and stick ones, so that was a problem too…

  10. tamra wilcox
    Twitter:
    August 14, 2014 at 1:32 am

    add some wig hair to the top of the mesh and you’re a hobbit.

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