It's estimated that 6 million pairs of souvenir clogs are sold in the Netherlands each year.

How to Decorate Plain Wooden Shoes

by Lindsey Landis

Traditional wooden shoes, known as clogs or klompen, are still worn by Dutch farmers and fishermen today. The oldest pair was found in Amsterdam and is thought to have been made in 1230. These sturdy shoes protect farmers' feet while they work, keeping them from sinking into the typically wet soil of the Netherlands. Fishermen added a curved toe to their shoes to help them pull in their nets. The shoes are generally made of willow or poplar. Some are still carved and painted by hand, but you can buy a plain pair straight from the factory and add your own designs.


Before decorating your shoes, make sure any rough edges are thoroughly sanded down. Use a fine-grain sandpaper to smooth the interior and exterior surfaces. Then, wipe the shoes with a soft cloth, or use a makeup brush to remove any loose dust. If you want to carve a design into the shoe, do this before you apply other decoration. When you're happy with the texture of your plain shoe, you can add a base layer of stain or paint.


Trace your design onto the shoe with pencil before you apply paint. Use a stencil if you're not confident in your freehand ability. You can make a stencil with stiff paper. Use spray adhesive to secure it temporarily to the shoe and paint within the lines. Allow the paint to dry completely before removing the stencil. Coat the entire shoe in a layer of clear polyurethane to protect it from damage.


Wooden shoes can also be decoupaged with images cut from magazines or gift wrapping paper. Use a foam brush to apply a thin layer of decoupage adhesive to the shoe and let it dry. Spray latex primer onto the backs of your images and place them in the desired positions on the shoe. Apply two or three more coats of the decoupage adhesive, allowing each layer to dry for 10 or 15 minutes before applying the next. When the final layer has dried, brush on a clear acrylic sealer.

Traditional Dutch Motifs

Though there is certainly no limit to the decorations that you can add to your wooden shoes, many people are attracted to the charm of traditional Dutch motifs. Two common images that appear on klompen are windmills and tulips. It is also typical for farmers' shoes to be painted bright yellow with red details. When your shoes have dried, use them as a rustic accent in your home or wear them with thick woolen socks for gardening.

About the Author

Lindsey Landis has more than seven years of combined writing, editing and marketing experience in the book publishing and media industries. She holds a journalism bachelor's degree from Indiana University and studied art history at the Universita di Bologna in Italy. Landis currently works at the Chicago Reader and manages her own author development services company.

Photo Credits

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