DIY Saddle Shoes

Turn your old white sneaks into sources of delight.

For some people, I’ve heard, saddle shoes are synonymous with frumpy 1950s-era outfits or the type of shoes your mom would force you to wear to school-pictures day in grade school or whatever. But for me, they’ll always be the ~ultimate~ cool-girl shoes and not frumpy in the least. I mean, they were part of Audrey Horne’s signature look. You can’t get cooler than that, in my opinion. Here are some more reasons why I love ’em (and why I think you should, too):

• They can add a little retro flair to an outfit without making it look all costume-y.
• They’ll go with virtually everything in your closet. (I think this has something to do with their being two colors?)
• They look SO GOOD with bobby socks, especially the frilly kind.
• And you don’t even need to be an obsessive thrifter/vintage shopper (this would be me, oops) to get in on the two-tone fun, either! Making a pair of your own can be as simple as throwing some paint on a pair of canvas flats.

Materials you’ll need:

  • Plain round-toe oxford or Keds-style shoes
  • Some fabric paint—Tulip brand (Soft Matte variety) is the stuff I like to use. Any color will do! You can go with black for a classic look, or try bright yellow or robin’s-egg blue for more of a spring vibe.
  • Two paintbrushes: a large-ish one for covering the main area of the shoe and a small one for detail work and hard-to-reach areas.
  • Masking tape
  • If you’re gonna do wingtips you’ll also need an X-ACTO knife and a pen for marking.

Taping the shoes:

1. First, sketch out your saddle pattern. I was lucky enough to find a pair of shoes that already had a very similar pattern built into the shoe itself, so I just followed that. If your shoes lack an already existing guideline, you’ll need to sketch one out on the shoe with a pencil or tailor’s chalk. If you’re not quite sure of what type of pattern to use, a quick search around Google should provide you with some good examples.

2. Next, start taping off the shoe following the pattern. Typically, the toe and heel areas are left plain white, surrounded by a black “saddle” design. The main places you’ll want to tape off are the toe and the heel, the sides of the soles, and the edges along the shoe opening. You can cover the shoelace grommets, too, but it’s not really necessary. Usually, fabric paint can easily be cleaned off of plastic or metal with a wet Q-tip.

3. Here’s what the shoes look like all taped up. You can just leave ’em like this and start painting for a more “authentic” saddle look, or you can get all fancy-schmancy like I did and attempt a wingtip pattern! It’s totally up to you. I’ll show you how I did it in the next step…

Making the wingtips:

1. Using a pen, sketch out your wingtips. I used the middle opening of the shoe as a guide to make sure my design was centered. Extend the wingtip lines out and back into the side seam area near the top of the shoe. It’s basically like drawing the top part of a heart, extending it outwards, and then stopping halfway down the heart. Do this on both shoes.

2. Now, carefully run your X-ACTO over the pattern you just drew. Use only enough pressure to cut through the masking tape, not enough to cut through the shoe itself!

3. Peel the tape away to reveal your new pattern!

Painting the shoes:

After all that tedious taping, we can finally get on with the easy part: painting! Yay! All you gotta do is fill in all the non-taped areas of your shoe with fabric paint. Even though the tape is there to prevent any bleeding, it’s not always foolproof. So be sure to take extra care while painting near the tape-edged areas. Work slowly and use only small amounts of paint at a time (don’t glob it on). Do two coats of paint if your first doesn’t come out opaque enough.

After the paint dries, peel off all the tape to reveal your cool new two-tone shoes! ♦


  • starcollector March 21st, 2012 11:05 PM

    Haha i just did this project a little while ago with a black Sharpie! In fact, I used the exact same target shoes! Lucky for me, I found a pair of real saddle shoes online on the cheap but I’ll always love my homemade ones :’)

  • plutosproject March 21st, 2012 11:12 PM

    great tutorial.
    may i ask where your wonderful flower tights are from?

  • Sorcha March 21st, 2012 11:15 PM

    Gosh. You rock, Marlena.

  • Andrea March 21st, 2012 11:22 PM

    I guess great minds think alike haha, I made these ones last year (and also made some in beige/brown):

    Everyone should try this, I got a ton of compliments on them! :D

  • KinuKinu March 21st, 2012 11:24 PM

    Oh this is great!! They always have Keds at my thrift store. I’ll have to snatch a pair. This is so cool…..Hopefully this weekend I’ll be able to do it. Now I need to learn how to make frilly socks *wink* Great tutorial, Marlena. I’m EXCITED :)

  • Yellie March 21st, 2012 11:24 PM

    I’m soooo glad crafty people are still out there! Yay, to all those that paint their shoes!

  • jumapa25 March 21st, 2012 11:34 PM

    This tutorial is AMAZING! I was forced to buy those exact shoes for a school project and now I have something to do with them :) thanks so much Marlena!!!

  • Laia March 21st, 2012 11:50 PM

    SO into this!!!

  • Kazul March 22nd, 2012 12:08 AM

    I have a great old photo of myself, my mom, and my sister wearing matching outfits in the 80s and kind of wanted to do an updated portrait in similar outfits. I had no idea where I could find 3 pairs of matching pink and white saddle shoes (which we somehow had back then) but this should do it! Awesome.

  • juliette March 22nd, 2012 12:15 AM

    Ahhh so perfect!
    I have white, leather oxfords and I wanted to do this to them with black leather dye? Do you think that would work or am I going to ruin them?

    • marymoose March 22nd, 2012 1:41 PM

      you definitely don’t want to put tape on leather, it will destroy it/tear up the skin. you would have to figure out another way to block off the areas you wanted to stay white, which would be tricky. i’ve never used leather dye – i don’t know if it can be used as a paint or if it’s meant to dye a whole piece – it’s a different process.

  • Ruby B. March 22nd, 2012 12:29 AM


  • Kathryn March 22nd, 2012 12:30 AM

    I think I wanna do them in either dark green or robin’s egg blue!

  • willow March 22nd, 2012 12:31 AM

    omg doing this!!!!

  • Adrienne March 22nd, 2012 1:04 AM

    I love these! So easy and cute! I was actually looking into brogue’s and stuff just now. :)

  • Casey March 22nd, 2012 1:05 AM

    Genius! I so want to do this! Saddle shoes are SO COOL!

  • Susann March 22nd, 2012 1:09 AM

    Great idea and a fabulous result!

  • ivoire March 22nd, 2012 1:19 AM

    i was just thinking about how to diy saddle shoes. telepathy!

  • Helenus March 22nd, 2012 2:12 AM

    This is awesome, I’ll definitely have to try this out sometime.

    On a slightly unrelated note, I have a question. Has Rookie ever made a post about Glam Rock? I’ve seen a lot of David Bowie stuff, but it would be cool if you guys talked about Gary Glitter or T.Rex, or…well the list goes on an’ on. Glam Rock is cool as shit so I figured at least someoneeeee would be willing to write about how great it is or make a playlist or something.

    Love you guys!

  • osteologist March 22nd, 2012 4:50 AM

    combining this tutorial with the glitter shoe tutorial for some of the cutest shoes ever??? for sure.

    • ladyjenna March 22nd, 2012 6:57 PM

      AHHHHH brilliant.

      • KinuKinu March 22nd, 2012 9:51 PM

        I agree……Glittery goodness♪♪

  • purplebabaushka March 22nd, 2012 6:47 AM

    I’M IN LOVE! this is awesome!!

  • moonflower March 22nd, 2012 12:57 PM

    DIY wins. Also, those socks are cute and I might try to make my own in the back of my textiles class at school :)

  • ravenflamingo March 22nd, 2012 3:50 PM

    This is so cute. Ugh, I had some shoes like that and I didn’t know what to do with them so I dyed them pink. I should have done this instead

    • TessAnnesley March 22nd, 2012 4:35 PM

      Maybe you could do this too, and make pink saddle shoes! That would be so cool!

      • KinuKinu March 22nd, 2012 9:53 PM

        I have pair already…they are pink and striped…..that would probably make one hideous shoe.But pink on it’s own will be FANTASTIC.

  • iloveyouivat March 22nd, 2012 5:11 PM

    i know what i am doing this weekend!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! this is so so so so inspiring , please do more more more easy things like this

  • Ladywolf March 22nd, 2012 9:57 PM

    Went as Audrey Horne for Halloween last year, and DIY’d some saddle shoes too! I did a DIY tutorial, but mine was the lazy kind because I was in a rush! Love this one. It’s the way it should be!

    Here’s my DIY saddle shoe post:

    Love this site!

    Whitney S. W.

  • Sea goddess March 23rd, 2012 1:39 AM

    Ohhhhh this is GREAT i so want to do them already

  • Geevah March 23rd, 2012 10:16 AM

    God, I’ve recently started watching “Twin Peaks” and my first thought was: I could die for a pair of these! when spotting Audrey Horne’s awesome saddle shoes!

  • preachypreach March 24th, 2012 8:29 PM

    i’ve wanted these shoes since 1997 so thank you.

  • lavendersparrow March 25th, 2012 4:38 PM

    Wow this is great! I will definitely try this. I love saddle shoes, especially in cool colors other than black and white.

  • purplebabaushka March 25th, 2012 8:21 PM

    Love this!! I can’t wait to make these- I think I’ll do lavender!

  • vieleblumen March 26th, 2012 1:43 AM

    I’ve recently taken to wearing my grandma’s old saddle shoes from the ’50s (which I love), but frustratingly enough my peers all make fun of me for wearing “bowling shoes”. AT LEAST YOU GUYS UNDERSTAND.

  • HollieLillian March 28th, 2012 12:53 PM

    I’ve been hopelessly searching ‘Bowling shoes’ on Etsy for well over a year now with no such luck so this is a prayer answered for me, although I’ll probably use leather shoes to make mine with! Thank you for this!

  • doorknob July 14th, 2012 3:22 PM

    Omg yes. At first I was like, “Oh wow, I have those exact shoes.” And then I went, “Well what do you know, I have that same kind of paint!”

    I am so excited to make my new shoes dlkjalfjsafdasf