Monday, August 8, 2016

Prototyping Magnetic Boots!

Walking across large, metal pipes in search of urban adventure, my inner voice joked, "Hey, magnet shoes would be handy right about now." Well, no arguing with that! Off to build my very own magnetic shoes!

This tutorial gives an overview of my build process for a magnetic boot prototype in hopes of inspiring you to build and test your own whimsical ideas! 'Cause seriously, making ideas come to life feels like a superpower.


-- Sturdy Boots
These had to secure my feet (aka no slipping out) and withstand my body weight. I found a pair of sturdy (although rather large) snowboard boots at a local thrift store which work as a first prototype.

-- Rare earth (neodymium) magnets
Small, thin-ish (< 1/4" thick) magnets with a 10 - 15 lbf rating (see previous step).

-- One screw per magnet (or per magnet hole)
Use screws with a length shorter than the sole of the shoe (so they don't poke your lil' feetsies.. or add some sort of rubber sole inside).

-- Suggestion: One washer per magnet
Supposedly, the washer helps increase the magnetic field of the exposed surface. I haven't calculated this or done any serious research, so at this point it's just a design suggestion.


-- Drill

-- Ruler

-- Pen/pencil.

-- CNC Router and a 3/4" drill bit


Build Process!                                                                                    

1. Level bottom of the boot with a CNC router (or other available method).

Clamp the boots to the CNC table with the bottom facing up -- a piece of wood was helpful to keep the boots straight.

Set the zero point of the CNC to be the lowest point on the sole of the shoe, then use a large bit (ours was 3/4") and level the sole of the shoe to the zero point.

2. Mark boot with tape for location of magnets.

3. For each magnet, drill in screw, magnet, and washer into the bottom of shoe.







To test the boot, I stuck it on a roof beam and pulled downwards. I added more magnets and repeated this until I couldn't pull the boot off by hand, then (slowly) tried to hang from it.

Lessons learned during testing:
1. I ended up using waaay more magnets than I thought, so it is probably worthwhile to calculate how the individual magnet fields are adding together.

2. Magnets need to be level to maximize the total magnetic field strength.

3. There is a limit to how close you can place each magnet depending on the shape and size of its magnetic field. Smaller, round magnets are easier to work with than large, rectangular magnets.

4. Don't place magnets close to parking passes (or other electronic devices). Also keep them far, far away from large containers of screws.

Results & Next Steps!                                                                       

​At this point, my magnetic shoes are more magnetic "gloves" (lol thanks @jayludden :D). But! I can successfully hang from one boot, so the concept works!

The lessons learned from testing will help improve this prototype design. Currently awaiting more magnets for the second boot (used most of them for the first one), trying different magnet orientations, and searching for a spot to test them upside down.

Stay tuned, will have them up and running, er, well, hanging, soon!

Many thanks to: ​Tinker Tank at Pacific Science Center for being my build and test center, and to ​Richard Albritton for the CNC help!


  1. So... Ya probably want a few extra magnets just for safety's sake. How hard is it to actually pull a boot off the steel with your foot/leg? Maybe a combination of permanent and switchable electro magnets would work better for actual, you know, use.

    1. Have plenty of extra magnets on there -- ended up using twice as many as I'd originally planned for which is why I have to wait for more to finish the boots. Not terribly hard to pull the boot off as long as you pull it the right way. Haven't tested w/ my feet but plan on doing that when I find a goo spot. Avoiding EMs for a variety of reasons in this project.

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  3. Nice! Also check out Colin Furze's electromagnet boots:

    Realistically, you'll likely want a combination of permanent and electromagnets. When you want to release one foot to take a step, the electromagnet could counteract the permanent magnet, allowing you to pull your boot off the ceiling. And while you're hanging from one foot, the electromagnet could act to reinforce the magnetic field from the permanent magnets in the boot that's attached.

    1. Thanks! Ha, yea lots o' folks have pointed me toward CF's project. Avoiding EMs for a variety of reasons, a buddy also told me that NASA tried EM boots and found that they don't work. I've got some design tricks up my sleeve :)

  4. Very cool.

    EMs and a little pressure switch in each boot so that when you pull "up" with sufficient force the EMs release.

    1. Thanks! Avoiding EMs for a variety of reasons, but if the permanent magnets don't do the trick I'll try EMs.

  5. Hello,
    Very fun idea :-) your boots.

    Have you finished your "spider man" boots ?
    I'll be curious to see your tests on a metal ceiling.

    Wishing you great success in this prototype.

    1. Thanks very much, Sim!! Will definitely post a demo of the finished project. Looks like I need quite a few more magnets to actually be able to hang upside down, but hoping to get back to this in a few weeks. :D

    2. Hi,

      Your "gravity boots" experience remind me a similar test with the super glue.
      I recently saw a live demonstration of a brand of glue. Their glue stuck a lady upside down by her boots on to the ceiling of a supermarket.

      Very impressive, a few drops of glue were suspending a person upside down.
      And your test with magnets, is really impressive too.
      Small magnets can support the weight of a person :-O

      have a good day.

    3. Ha!! That's so awesome. I wonder if they had to do anything special for that, or if it really was just the glue..

      And thanks! Hoping that the finished version will work just as well as the glue :)

    4. You can find an example of glue demonstration on this link :

      In this example, they use a wooden board to glue shoes on it.

      For your futur magnetic shoes test, you can use a metal board on a similar structure for example.

      Advertisements of this brand of glue, uses people hanging upside down glued to the ceiling.
      An example of one of their several advertising :
      Don't try at home :-)

      Your various experiences, inventions and your tests on your website are very interresting.

      Thank you for sharing your various inventions.

      Have a good week-end.

    5. Ha!! That is friggin amazing!! Thanks for sharing :D

      And yayy thanks for the feedback about my blog, glad you find it interested! Have a wonderful week :D

  6. Out of curiosity, how are those magnet boots turning out?

  7. It was really insightful.
    Thanks for such a nice content.
    BTW if anyone interested more have a lookCheck Details thanks


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