Thursday, March 21, 2013

DIY: How to Paint Your Reebok CrossFit Shoes

Since I've started CrossFit a few months ago, I've been dying to get some olympic lifting shoes. While they are expensive, they provide much needed stability while doing olympic lifts like the overhead squat or snatch. I researched the different brands online and read through many forums where people debated their classic Adidas powerlifting shoes vs. Nike Romaleos etc. What I learned was that there are advantages to having a stiff sole for powerlifting, and that Adidas shoes have been around the competitive weightlifting scene forever.
Nike Romaleos 2 (photo courtesy of
A competitive power lifter with Adidas shoes, in a deep squat stance (photo credit)
But in the end, the coaches at CrossFit Pleasanton (CFP) convinced me to just get the Reebok Oly Lifters because these shoes have the most flexibility in the soles and at the toe. A lot of CrossFit workouts aren't pure olympic lifting sessions - we do a lot of other movements mixed in, such as box jumps, pull-ups, burpees, jump roping, etc. I've never been a huge fan of Reebok, but I love my shoes so far... but felt they were a little boring.
Stock photo from
You can order custom Reebok shoes from Reebok's website, but they cost $180 plus tax and shipping. I bought my shoes for $135 from CFP. I did a little research on the internet, and learned that leather paint costs only about $4 per bottle so I figured I could just paint my shoes myself to brighten them up. I ordered a 4oz bottle of Angelus leather paint in Light Blue and Angelus Matte finisher from Dharma Trading's website and bought the rest of the supplies I needed at Walmart for $16. 4 ounces actually turned out to be way too much paint, I should have just bought the 1oz bottle and saved myself a few bucks.

*Note: some of the DIY websites that I read used other paints like nail polish or just regular acrylic paint, but I chose to buy the Angelus leather paint because the paint needs to be flexible with the shoe's movements. There would be no point in going through all the work to paint my shoes, only to have the paint flake or chip off while I'm working out.

These were the shoes that I designed on the Reebok website, to model what my shoes would look like when finished. 
My actual Reebok oly lifter shoes, after being painted... the color doesn't quite match but I'm still happy with how they turned out! 
You will need:
  • Acetone for removing existing coatings (available at any hardware store or about $6 in the home improvement section of Walmart) - nail polish remover NOT recommended.
  • Angelus Leather Paint (available at many online craft suppliers. I bought mine from Dharma Trading Company)
  • Q-tips
  • Old dish rag or old towel
  • Painter's Masking Tape (Quality matters - I used 3M blue painter's tape)
  • Paint brushes (Synthetic is fine, I recommend using an angled brush for increased accuracy)
  • Your shoes
  • (optional) Angelus Acrylic Finisher or Angelus Duller
Shoes and painting supplies. 
Step 1

Prep the leather by removing existing polish and coatings with acetone. You should remove the shoelaces from the shoes (if your shoes have shoelaces). If you don't prep your shoes thoroughly, the paint may not adhere to the leather very well and all your work will go to waste. Use the blue painter's tape to tape off any areas that you don't want to paint, and then rub the acetone over the shoe with a dish rag. You can use the q-tips for hard to reach areas, such as around shoelace loops.  Don't forget to wear rubber gloves to protect your hands while you do this. I would recommend doing this outside (or in a well-ventilated area) because acetone smells terrible. Also, be aware of where the acetone might drip - it will take the paint finish off from your floor if you're doing this inside the house.

I put the blue painter's tape over the Reebok logo and the tongue of the shoes before I prepped them . 
Step 2

Paint the leather portion of your shoe with your Angelus paints. Some websites recommended thinning down the paint, but I just used the paint straight from the bottle. I painted 2 coats on my shoes while using a hairdryer to help the paint dry in between coats (most of the websites recommended 2-3 coats). Some general painting tips: if you are painting multiple colors, start with the lightest color first. If you are painting a lighter color on a dark background, you'll probably need to "prime" the area first with white paint. Don't worry about dripping paint onto the sole, you can always fix it afterward by dabbing a bit of acetone on it with a q-tip. Remove the blue painter's tape while the paint is still wet, this will allow the paint to run a little at the edges into a smooth line.

After 1 coat of paint - you can see how the paint is still uneven and where the brush strokes are.  Remember that multiple thinner coats are better than a single thick coat!
Done with 2 coats!
The results after peeling off the blue painter's tape. 
Step 3

The last step is to seal the paint on your shoes with an Angelus Acrylic Finisher for a gloss or matte finish. All you have to do is dab the finisher onto your dry shoes with a clean dish towel. You can also buff your shoes with a soft cloth or pantyhose, if you want a glossier finish. According to Dharma Trading's website, Angelus paints naturally have a semi-gloss finish. I bought an Angelus Matte Finisher because I wanted to protect the painted leather from scuffing up in the gym. The finisher is supposed to provide a flexible, waterproof coat on top of the paint. Allow the shoes to dry completely for 24 hours before you wear them.

My finished DIY Reebok oly lifter shoes! 
You'd never know that I painted them if I didn't tell you :)
If you'd like to read more about how to paint leather shoes, here is the most useful instruction list that I read and the best YouTube video that I watched.  


strawb3rries said...

Genius! i LOVE this idea!!! :)

John @ Garage Gyms said...

So I have a question... would you do it again? That's a lot of work for somewhat minor savings from ordering how you wanted them in the first place. It's a great post, and this could be used to refresh old shoes that one doesn't want to get rid of, but for new shoes? I dunno, just curious.

Rio Prince said...

A gigantic moonlike of recommendation, keep moving on.
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Caro Hardy said...

I am about to paint my oly shoes with Angelus paint. What should I expect in terms of durability? Did the paint cracked a lot?

Jim R said...

This is a great idea. I'm going to make it this weekend's project to paint all my old shoes new again!

Delilah@GarageGymPlanner said...

I was just searching in google "How to paint my Weight lifting shoes" after lot of search,I seen your article as good and informative. I don't have Reebok shoes it's just a normal weight lifting shoes and I want to make my shoes looks awesome with Reebok brand tag and with white trendy color.Thanks

Johon King said...

Really, good thinking. I listen about shoe cleaner. I think the spray is good to clean my shoe. If you know about cleaner share with me. Thank you

Jana Jani said...

Good, informative post. But I am facing a big problem to clean shoe. I want to read another blog post and learn shoe cleaner perfectly. Have you another blog like, share. I am waiting for your reply.
Thank you

Sazzad Hossain said...

Good, informative post. But I am facing a big problem to clean shoe.crossfit shoe

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