Whether you’re a professional shoe designer, a fashion student who has a passion for footwear, or a complete beginner who just want to bling up their wedding heels, it is always useful to know the basics of how to choose and apply rhinestones for shoes. Applying flatback crystals to shoes is a huge trend in the fashion industry but also in the DIY and upcycling world. We love to add a bit of theatre and creativity to our look.

There is a myriad of rhinestone embellishments on the market, so how do you choose the right ones for you and your kicks? Here’s a handy guide to help choosing the perfect rhinestones for adding sparkle to your footwear:

Which type of shoes can be embellished?

The answer to this question is simple: Any style of shoe can be embellished! As you can see from the examples above, taken from Crystalled by Jane, you can attach rhinestones to any kind of shoe you can think of. Popular choices are wedding or prom heels, branded shoes such as Nike or Jimmy Choo and crystallized children’s footwear make a great personalized gift. People are even blinging up their crocs!

You may want to apply rhinestones to certain areas to make them stand out, or go the whole hog and cover the entire thing. Attaching rhinestones to the underside of the shoe is a popular trend in designer footwear, obviously this can only be done on shoes that have a high heel, where the underside doesn’t come in contact with the ground. This is a small area to embellish so is quick to achieve, and a great option if you want a hint of sparkle rather than full bling. Other popular choices are adding crystals to the heel, straps or toe cap of the shoe. A huge trend recently has been crystal converse trainers – a great way to sparkle in comfort on your wedding day!

hat glue do I need for sticking rhinestones to shoes?

The glue you need for attaching rhinestones to shoes depends on the material.

E6000+ - For tougher fabrics such as rubber and leather you will need to use E6000+ glue. This is a fantastic durable glue that is crystal clear and waterproof. It has a thick gel like consistency so should be applied using a precision applicator syringe.

Gem Tac - For softer, porous fabrics such as cotton, canvas, suede etc you can use Gem Tac glue, this is a general craft glue perfect for using on rhinestones and gems. It forms a strong bond with the foil backing of the rhinestone and dries crystal clear too. It is slightly runnier than E6000+ and easier to work with.

Which rhinestones should I use to embellish shoes?

We would always recommend using flatback non hotfix rhinestones to embellish your shoes, both Preciosa and Zodiac crystals are a great choice as they each have a huge colour range and are much less expensive than Swarovski.

Colour – The colour choice is completely up to you, however it is important that you use a similar colour to the fabric of the shoe. This is because there will be tiny gaps in between the rhinestones, where the fabric will be seen, and if it is a different colour it will be obvious where the gaps are. Clear and AB are a popular choice for bridal, prom and party shoes. They also work really well on white trainers and pale coloured sandals or flip flops. Jet black is a classy choice for dark coloured shoes such as heels, brogues or black trainers. Preciosa have a huge range of colours including different shades of each colour so you are spoilt for choice!

Size – The most common size crystal for shoes is SS16 (4mm). This is a medium sized crystal, easy to work with and covers the area quickly without looking too bulky. You will also need smaller sizes of the same colour to fill any gaps or smaller areas such as a pointed toe or stiletto heel.

Larger sizes are good for bigger shoes such as boots, as they stand out and make a statement:

Or sometimes all your shoe may need is a dainty touch of sparkle, so a smaller size such as SS10 (3mm) is good for this.

A popular method of crystallising shoes is to apply rhinestones of all different sizes, creating a ‘rockery’ effect. This creates depth and texture, and reflects more light than if all the stones were the same size, therefore giving off much more sparkle.

How do I attach rhinestones to shoes?

Embellishing shoes is basically just the same as embellishing anything else, only there are more curves to deal with, so it may take a little longer. If you are new to crystal placement, read our informative How To guides here. Otherwise, here is a basic step-by-step, following the usual method of embellishment:

You will need

*Top Tip – For leather patent shoes, we recommend giving the surface of the shoes a gentle rub with sandpaper. This will help give the glue something to adhere to.

  1. Squeeze around 2cm of glue into the syringe and screw on the tip.
  2. Starting at the edge of the fabric (or the seam if you are only embellishing part of the shoe) apply small dots of glue in a line, around 10 or 12 at first. Allow a few seconds for the glue to get tacky.
  3. Using the pick up tool, pick up the rhinestones and place on the glue dots, ensuring the rhinestones are sitting flush to the surface and there are no gaps in between them.

4. Continue this process around the edge of the shoe. When you come to do the second row, this time position the rhinestones in between the two above it, this is called the ‘honeycomb method’. Doing it this way ensures they sit neatly in position and leave minimal gaps.
5. Keep going using the same method until you have covered the entire area, as you reach the narrow parts you will need to start using the smaller sized crystals.

Remember this is just a simple guide, there are many different application styles to choose from, and the method will change depending on the type of shoe you are embellishing.

Choosing your embellishing style

Once you know which crystals to use and you’ve chosen the correct colour and glue for the job, the next thing to decide is how you would like the finished shoes to look. Do you want ultimate sparkle and full crystal coverage? Or do you prefer a subtle and sophisticated sparkle? Are you going for something totally unique that will stand out in the crowd? Here are a few examples of popular designs, showcased by Crystalled by Jane:

Pattern – Use contrasting colours to create striking patterns.

Rainfall – Slowly fade out the rhinestones to create a rainfall effect, from fuller coverage at one end, to just a sprinkling of sparkle at the other.

Colour block – Go bold with blocks of contrasting or complimentary colours.

Ombre – A timeless design that has really taken off recently in all areas of design. Fade one colour into another by interspersing the crystals.

Mixed colours – This is the opposite of colour blocking: take two contrasting colours and completely mix them into each other. This creates a fun textured effect.

Scattered – If you’re on a budget, pushed for time or don’t have many rhinestones to work with, the scattered approach is a winner. You can still achieve the illusion of a full coverage look, as long as the rhinestones are evenly distributed.

Read our expert guide on application styles for more tips!

And for more detailed guides on embellishing, tutorials and project ideas, check out our blog.

Image credit: Crystalled by Jane

Footwear embellishment