The World's First Real, Working Shoe Phone

... would you believe the worlds first real working Blue Tooth Shoe?

After being reminded of the wonders of Get Smart, I decided to make a shoe phone to take along to an upcoming church youth camp. Here it is charging up:

A real, honest to goodness shoe phone -
	well, almost.  Anyway, it's not everyday you see a shoe being charged.

Here you can even see me pretending to make a call on it:

Me pretending to make a call on my shoe phone

Okay, so we have figured out that you're a tad crazy, but how did you do it?

Well, first up I figured that with the bits I had floating around, it wasn't going to be possible to get a whole telephone and a foot into a nice slim 1960s dress shoe, so I decided to do the next best thing: put a blue tooth headset into a shoe. (I did later make a second shoe phone where I fit the whole telephone and two feet into two shoes. It even made it onto the news. You can read about it and watch the video here).

(Now there may be shoe phone purists out there who will now claim "hey, wait a minute, it isn't really a shoe phone if it is only a shoe head set!". First, I have now made what is undeniably a real shoe phone. Second, ignoring the ridiculous idea that you can have a shoe head set (since when do people put shoes on their head?), it turns out that it works surprisingly well, and especially important, it really is a shoe phone: You talk to people by talking to your shoe. If you hide your phone in your pocket and give it a suitable classic telephone ring tone, people will tend to associate the sound with the thing they can see, i.e., the shoe phone.)

Anyway, I had a blue tooth headset that came with my Sony Ericsson Z310i, but it resisted my attempts at disassembly, and didn't look like the microphone and speaker could be changed orientation, which I have decided is an important criteria. So I went to our local pawn broker and for the princely sum of A$19 obtained a pre-loved Motorola H500 blue tooth head set. (They were very patient with this odd man who said he wanted a tiny head set or phone to put in a shoe).

The H500 head set had two advantages over the Ericsson one: (1) it looked like the speaker and microphone were on wires and could be moved; and (2) there were instructions on the internet to help me disassemble it without breaking it.

If you haven't seen an H500 headset, it looks something like this when placed on the kitchen table:

A Motorola H500 blue tooth head set

Okay, so now I had a nice little head set, and all I needed was a shoe to put it in. Fortunately our church op shop was open, so for the bargain price of A$3 I got a nice pair of very swanky shoes:

A $3 pair of shoes, sans phone

The important thing about these shoes is that they have a proper wooden heel (well, this one was masonite, but that's close enough) that could be hollowed out to fit the head set. A quick check confirmed that the head set would be able to fit in the shoe, both in terms of area and also thickness:

H500 head set sitting on the heel of the
	shoe, as seen from above

H500 head set sitting on the heel of the
	shoe, side view

At this point our fish got rather interested in what was happening on the kitchen table, probably hoping that it involved fish food somehow.

Our ever inquisitive tandanus tandanus

With a little effort I had the H500 in bits all over the table:

An H500 head set in bits, parts and
	pieces

Then some gentle coaxing with a screwdriver removed the rubber sole from the heel, and sitting the relevant bits of the H500 on the sole while I thought about the best way to layout the headset components in the heel. The big staples were going to be the main thing to dodge. It turned out later that there were some smaller nails that come through from the shoe side, but fortunately they didn't quite get in the way:

Bits and pieces sitting on the shoe

Some digging away with a chisel and a precision screwdriver, and the help of a steel shoe last to hold the shoe still, I had a shoe with a H500 shaped hole in the heel. The big hole is for the H500 board and front cover (which I decided to retain so that the answer/hang up button would work without too much effort). There are two little holes nearer the top of the image to take the speaker and microphone.

Bits and pieces in the shoe

Here it is with the sawn-off front cover in place:

Bits and pieces in the shoe

All that left was to make some appropriate holes in the rubber sole and stick it back on:

Rubber sole with holes cut in it

Here you can see the notch I cut so that I could get the charger connector in. The charger has a quite long plug, so I could recess the head set in the heel, without stopping it from reaching in far enough to allow it to charge. Otherwise I would have had to make the whole front of the headset visible or do some more extensive remodelling of the plastic shell.

USB charger port on the shoe

Here is the side view after I put it back together, showing the little nick I had to make in the side to allow the microphone to poke out.

Profile of heel showing microphone aperture

Went I went to glue the sole back on the heel, I discovered that our contact cement was seven years out of date and had the consistency of silly putty. So after an unsuccessful attempt at using silicone adhesive I decided to nail it on with some brads as a temporary measure:

Shoe with nailed sole

Later on I went to see a family friend who is a cobbler and got him to fix by dodgy nail work and glue in a water-proof membrane so that it could be used on wet surfaces without hydraulically forcing the water into the heel through the holes I made.

Well, that's about it really. A quick call to my brother to make sure it worked properly, and I had a shoe phone.

Me pretending to make a call on my shoe phone

After having much too much fun wandering around the place with a shoe phone, I think the next thing I will do is to move the microphone to the toe end of the phone by cutting the leads and inserting a length of wire, and finding some way to run it discretely so that the shoe can be held toe down when talking. I would love to add a ringer and rotary dial as well, but that might have to wait for now.


Paul Gardner-Stephen
Last modified: Tue Dec 9 14:18:00 CST 2008