Making Your Own Custom Kicks – Hand-Painted Cycling Shoes

There are blank canvases all around. The palettes to use in your masterpiece are plentiful as well. Many may feel they are not an artist at heart but I challenge you to reconsider your thinking.

Imagine getting on your bike and rolling out without a route or plan in mind. That’s a blank canvas for you to create a unique experience for yourself. How many water bottles have you slapped stickers on to make them “yours?” See, another canvas. Some riders seek out their “forever bike” made from ores of the earth and sized up specifically for them. Quite the canvas to work with there, really.

With the recent launch of our new Men’s Tour Road and Women’s Sugar Road shoes, there is another canvas for which you can craft another masterpiece. And don’t think you have to stick to just the white colorway. You can have some fun with the black version too.

We reached out to artist Lindsay Martin, a former graphic designer for PEARL iZUMi, to see if she was interested in making a unique pair of cycling shoes. She luckily was game to give it a whirl and share some basic tips for you to get started on making your own. Here’s her approach and a little inspiration for your next canvas.

Lindsay taking a selfie while riding her bike.

Artist and Designer
Lindsay Martin

A photo of the completed hand-painted design of birds of paradise flowers on Lindsay's Sugar road shoes.

Decide on a theme:

For me, nature is always my number one inspiration. I have a thing for floral patterns even though I’m not much of a flower person, but they’re always fun to draw and never seem to go out of style. I went tropical because sometimes you need a little tropical warmth while bundled up on a chilly Colorado ride in the middle of winter!

Choose a color palette:

I love the soft, dusty colors that are showing up in fashion right now, but I didn’t want the vibe of the shoes to be too soft. I wanted contrast and bold pop color. Since Sugar Roads come with a RAD pop color lace option, I used that to help guide my color palette for the design.
It’s a good idea to know what brand of paint you’re going to use and check their color offerings while you’re brainstorming.

I used a combination of Posca and Montana paint pens.

TIP: Look for water-based paint. If graffiti artists use it, it’s a safe bet it’s going to be durable.

I prefer paint pens because they give me better control. As an added bonus, paint pens mean less mess which means no need to go through the process of masking off areas of your shoe before starting to paint!

Prep your shoes:

Easy. Remove the laces!

It is best to start with either a new pair or thoroughly clean up the outsides of that old pair you’re riding.

The first step of Lindsay's painting, with lighter pink and reds that will make up the Bird of Paradise flowers.
Starting with the lighter colors and general pattern of the flowers.
More definition of the flowers.
After finishing the lighter colors it's time to start adding the darker colors.

Paint away!

I had a general idea of what I wanted the tropical pattern to look like but I kind of just rolled with the unknown and let it evolve. That’s the fun part.

TIP: Start with larger shapes and the lightest colors first. Then layer on top with darker colors since most paints aren’t fully opaque. Save those details for the end.

Once the paint is dry it can be a good idea to add varnish on top for an extra layer of protection.

Final Steps:

Add those laces back, post a photo with #velokicks, then put them on and ride away!

Darker colors yet added to increase the contrast and details.
Now using even darker colors the bright tropical colors start to pop more.
The final design of the flowers all over both shoes.
All done with the laces back in to compliment the orange pops of the flowers.
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Josh is a storyteller with a donut addiction that is only kept in check by cycling and trail running. He is amped daily with the ability to be a part of the industry that encourages a passion for riding bikes. He is also an advocate for his trail running wife and others recovering from traumatic brain injuries (TBI). #rideallthesurfaces #becausebikes and #traillife are dirty good fun.

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2 thoughts on “Making Your Own Custom Kicks – Hand-Painted Cycling Shoes

    1. Lindsay doesn’t use a finisher per se on her shoes, but there are some options out there. I did a quick search and several custom sneaker makers use Angelus Acrylic Finisher, but that is made for avrylic paint. I’ll reach out to her and see if she has any other thoughts to help keep those custom kicks looking good. Thanks.

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