Artwork doesn’t have to be left for the walls of your house, personalised wearable artwork is becoming increasingly popular, and with this, more accessible. Let’s take a look at some mega cool custom cycling shoes, ridden by pros and amateur riders alike…
Often bought in plain white or black, cycling shoes are a blank canvas for expressing a little something about yourself and telling a story.
Style is intrinsically linked to road cycling, yet off-the-shelf shoes tend to stick on the conservative side.
Sometimes you get more interesting limited-edition releases by brands such as Sidi’s colourful 90s inspired versions of its anniversary Sixty shoe in yellow, red and blue. But these are few and far between, and the designs are quite often hit or miss.
This is why bespoke, limited-edition, hand-painted cycling shoes are so sought after by many. Being a smaller canvas than a whole bike frame, this is the cheaper way of going custom for something truly special.
As with any form of artwork, custom designs are very different as they come down to personal choice. Likewise, it’s not just the subject of the design and the colours used that are important, it’s also about finding an artist whose style and techniques can deliver the design you’ve always wanted.
Let’s take a look at some of the coolest designs and the incredibly talented artists pulling off these masterpieces.
Some are custom shoes requested by pros, others by riders like the rest of us. Are you ready to be impressed?
Hand painting shoes in the North East of England since 2018 is Charlotte Jarps.
“I first started painting shoes as a hobby alongside teaching Design & Technology,” Charlotte says. “I’d watch YouTube videos and test out different paints and finishes.”
It all took off from there and Charlotte launched her business, jarpz, full time in 2019.
From painting highly detailed portraits of the Joker to the geometric to intricate henna-like patterns, Charlotte is able to use the canvas of the cycling shoe to create any design you desire.
“I work closely with the customer to create the design, looking at how I can transform their idea onto the shoe.
“Some people like to be more involved than others, so the collaborative process is different with each person,” Charlotte says.
Drawing up a digital version of the design on Photoshop, Charlotte guarantees she and the customer share the same vision before the painting begins.
The shoes can be brand new or used, but customers should clean the shoes before sending them over. After receiving the shoes Charlotte explains she gives them a quick once-over clean, “just to make sure”, and then starts prepping the surface—this process depends on the texture and material of the shoe.
“I use Angelus preparer and deglazer to take the factory shine off the shoes and sometimes I need to sand the surface lightly.
“Then I protect the areas of the shoes that won’t be painted using FrogTape, to mask them off.
“Paint-wise I use Angelus leather paint, letting each coat dry in between.”
To ensure the custom paintwork on shoes will last in all weather conditions, Charlotte says she adds a few layers of finisher on top.
Some shoes can take more preparation than others, Charlotte explains, such as those with shiny surfaces.
“The easiest shoes to work on are the matte leather uppers as the paint fixes so well to it,” she notes.
Amongst her favourite brands to paint on are Giro, Fizik and Specialized.
Check out these Vincent van Gogh-style sunflowers. Beautiful.
Then there's this Van Gogh Starry Night. So detailed. You could literally be cycling around with art on your feet...
Prices start at £125, depending on the detail and size of the design, as well as the type of shoe to be customised.
Email Charlotte at hi [at] jarpz.com to kick off the collaborative process of transforming your idea into your very own personalised cycling shoes.
Caitlin Fielder is the partner of Jumbo-Visma rider George Bennett and she has been painting the shoes of riders in the pro peloton for years now.
It all kicked off with a pair made for Bennett ahead of the 2017 Tour de France. Two years later, Fielder redid the shoes as a celebration of how far her custom artwork shoe business had come.
“The ‘17 shoes were the pair that actually inspired me to try to make this weird gig of shoe painting a business... Cool to redo the design because everything’s changed with how I go about painting the shoes,” Fielder posted on Instagram.
Fielder painted these Shimano RC901s for Team BikeExchange rider Michael Matthews ahead of the Tour de France one year. Look at that detail...
While Mathieu van der Poel decided he needed something a little less serious... That's right, Fortnite-themed shoes.
But some of the shoe designs requested by the pros have much deeper meanings… Fielder painted these ultra-bright shoes for Team BikeExchange rider Esteban Chaves to represent his foundation FUN Chaves that supports Colombian children through medical and sports programs.
Black-based shoes aren’t a problem. Fielder used rose gold Angelus paint on these Chinese themed Shimano shoes for Bennett.
Then there’s Fielder’s monument themed designs, including these Milan-San Remo shoes painted in the colours of the Italian flag.
Turning his back on his sports science career, Simon Fellows is the artist behind Artful Kicks.
He has collaborated with shoe brands such as Fizik to produce limited-edition custom-painted versions of the Aria R3 road shoes for the 101st edition of the Giro d’Italia.
Simon finds that the upper of the Fizik Infinito R1 makes an ideal canvas for a design that flows around the entire shoe, as shown in these stunning finishes.
Popart designs, especially those inspired by Roy Lichtenstein, are popular—check out this version…
Designs with personal meanings really do create variety. Simon painted these Giro Empires in an intricate watercolour style for a customer who wanted to reflect their support of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, home to the last female northern white rhino in the world.
Simon was left with only a small number of ideas from the customer on these Giro Empires, admitting he had a load of fun, the finished cartoon Jurassic theme definitely reflects that. Super cool.
Bespoke hand-painted shoes from Simon are in high demand—he is fully booked until August 2021 (for October delivery), so hit him up sooner rather than later if you are in awe of his art.
Cycling shoes can be a wonderful canvas for personalising your look and representing something important to you. While you should be looking at the road ahead, it's nice to glance down at custom shoes that are sure to put a smile on your face.
Anna has been hooked on bikes ever since her youthful beginnings at Hillingdon Cycle Circuit. As an avid road and track racer, she reached the heady heights of a ProCyclingStats profile before leaving for university. Having now completed an MA in Multimedia Journalism, she’s hoping to add some (more successful) results. Although her greatest wish is for the broader acceptance of wearing funky cycling socks over the top of leg warmers.