At my house, we keep our shoes in a corner just inside the front door. For years, we had an inexpensive, plastic and metal rack, and it was fine—for a time. Eventually, it began to sag and lean over, and one day it came crashing down in a cascade of shoes, boots, brackets, and aluminum poles. It was time for a new shoe rack.   

The beauty of this new rack we designed is that you can size it to fit your space. We have a relatively narrow but tall space, so we built a sturdy new rack to fit. You can tailor it to your needs or copy ours. Let’s get building.

Step 1: Cut lumber to length

This shoe rack can be adjusted in height or width to fit your specific space. Our space accommodated a rack 2’ wide by 6’ tall.

To make one the same size as ours, use these measurements:

  • Four two-by-twos 6’ long
  • Nine one-by-twos 24” long
  • Nine one-by-twos 21” long
  • Six two-by-twos 6” long
cut lumber to length
Four two-by-twos 6’ long
use a speed square to build a shoe rack
use a 14" saw to cut the wood
our shoe rack will be 2’ wide by 6’ tall

Step 2: Sand lumber

Smooth any rough cuts or spots on the boards using sandpaper, a sanding sponge, or an electric sander.

sand the lumber
use sandpaper, a sanding sponge, or an electric sander

Step 3: Mark uprights for rung locations

Set your four 6’ two-by-twos flat on a work surface. Line up the ends and clamp together. Using a tape measure, mark the locations for the horizontal slats of the shoe rack on one board. Start at one end—this will be the bottom—and mark at these points: 8 1/2” from the bottom, 17”, 25 1/2”, 34”, 42 1/2”, 51”, 59 1/2”, and 66 1/2”.

Now that you’ve marked one board, use a speed square to mark the other three boards in the same locations.

Note: These marks will indicate the bottom of the slats.

mark uprights for rung locations
use the speed square to mark the other boards

Step 4: Assemble front of rack

Set two 6’ pieces of two-by-twos on a work surface parallel to one another and 24” apart. Make sure the ends are even.

Lay out a “ladder” using the nine 24” pieces of one-by-twos by placing them flat on top of the two-by-twos. You’ll lay out the “rungs” first, then screw them into place.

Start at the bottom, positioning the first one-by-two “rung” flush with the bottom of the two-by-twos. Set the second one-by-two just above your mark at 8 1/2”, the third above your mark at 17”, and so forth.

With your one-by-twos in place, do a visual check and adjust if necessary.

Screw the rungs onto the two-by-twos with two 2” screws at each end. Since our one-by-twos are made of poplar (a semihard wood), we predrilled our holes to minimize the chance of the wood splitting when inserting the screws.

predrill holes to minimize the chance of the wood splitting
diy vertical shoe rack
Lay out a “ladder” using the nine 24” pieces
use 2" screws for the shoe rack
assemble the front of the shoe rack

Step 5: Assemble back of rack

The back of the rack is similar to the front, but the 21” one-by-twos will lay flat between the two-by-twos and will be screwed into place differently than the front.

Start the same way as the front, by laying out the two-by-twos parallel to one another with the ends lined up, then lay out the rungs just above the marks you made in step three. Once you have them all in place, make sure to double-check your spacing.

Screw the back rungs into place by sinking 2 1/2” screws through the sides of the two-by-twos and into the ends of the one-by-twos. We used two screws at both ends of each rung for extra stability and predrilled first.

 lay the one-by-twos down flat
assemble back of rack

Step 6: Join front and back

The front and back “ladders” will join together with 6” pieces of two-by-twos (three on each side).

Hold the front framework up on an edge, and hold a short two-by-two perpendicular to the frame just below the second rung from the top. Screw the 6” two-by-two in place with a 2 1/2” screw.

Repeat this for the other side of that second rung.

Screw these short two-by-twos just below the sixth and ninth-rungs from the top on both sides as well.

Lay the rear frame alongside the front one, and prepare to fasten it to the short two-by-twos. Note: Be sure the bottom legs of both ladders are even before sinking the screws. If you have another person to help you, you can stand the rack upright to ensure it’s even before securing the screws.

join front and back wooden ladders
Screw the 6” two-by-two in place with a 2 1/2” screw
connect the two wooden pieces together
narrow shoe rack
join front and back of the shoe rack

Step 7: Install felt pads on bottom

Place self-adhesive felt pads on the bottom corners of the rack. 

install felt pads to the bottom of the rack

Step 8: Apply protective finish

While we didn’t stain our shoe rack, we did apply a clear, protective finish. There are many types to choose from: water-based, oil-based, spray-on, brush-on, wipe-on, etc.

For this project, we used Daly’s CrystalFin semi-gloss because it highlights the tones of the cedar and poplar without changing their color drastically.

apply protective finish
how to build a wooden shoe rack
How to Build A Wooden Vertical Shoe Rack

Now that you have a vertical shoe rack to call your own, why not personalize some of your shoes? You can also DIY your own shoe storage bench for another way to organize your footwear. And if you need some inspiration before tackling your next project, be sure to check out our 2019 reflections.