There is a long and winding story about why I needed to turn block-heeled boots into wedge-heeled boots, but the short explanation is: For Cosplay.
In my hour of need, I turned to the internet, and to my great dismay, the internet failed me. Apparently, not a single person in the history of online tutorials had ever done this and documented their process. Alas.
Lucky for all of you, I decided to document my process and will now explain it in simple, step-by-step detail
You're freaking welcome.
(If, for some reason, you do care about why this happened or want to read another kickass tutorial, check out my mod for Leia's boots from Empire Strikes Back, here on Instructables and on my cosplay blog Geek Girl Hero.)
Step 1: You Will Need...
- Shoes to modify (Block or stacked heels will be easiest)
- 2 blocks of soft carving wood (most likely basswood or balsa)
- Gorilla glue or other wood glue
- A saw (I used a small band saw, but an electric jig saw would probably work best.)
- A rasp (Preferably half-round, but it doesn't hurt to get a set.)
- A ruler or tape measure
- Something to mark on the wood, like a permanent marker
- A craft knife or other small, sharp blade
You probably don't want to risk messing up those brand new heels, so start with a pair of shoes you don't mind ruining. These boots were $8 at the thrift store.
If you're working with knee-high boots, like I was, you'll also want something to keep the boots standing upright while your glue sets. My favorite method is using foam pool noodles.
I also recommend finishing the heel for one shoe before starting on the other. That way, you can figure out what tricks work best, and the second one will go much faster.
Step 2: Mark Your Wood Block
As with any experiment, you'll need to use a combination of science and intuition. In this case, that means measuring the shoe and block of wood, as well as setting them next to each other and eye-balling the angles.
Once you figure out how your block will need to be position against the sole of the shoe, measure the straight edges to get your cutting points, and hold the block against the side of the shoe, using the bottom of the shoe like a stencil to mark the slope. Do this using one side of the shoe for each side of the block.
When you're done, your block should have two roughly matching slope lines on opposite sides, a straight line to mark the top of the slope, and a straight line to mark the bottom of the slope. Depending on the height and size of the shoe relative to the size of the block, the straight lines will either be on the top, bottom, or ends of the block. My heels were just a little higher than the height of the block, so my line was on top, and the slopes went to the lower corner.
Step 3: Cut Your Wood Block
Using the saw, cut the wood block into the general shape of the wedge you need.
Try to get as close to your lines as possible without cutting too much. You'll be shaping the slope to fit in the next step, but the more curve you can get in your first cut, the better.
Be warned: These soft woods generate a LOT of sawdust, so it's best to do this outside or over a tarp.
If you don't have a saw or a safe place to cut, sometimes hardware stores will cut small pieces for customers. Just be sure to actually be a customer and buy something. Maybe something like a saw.
Step 4: Shape Your Wood Block
This is another step that generates a lot of saw dust, so go outside or someplace easily cleaned. I did my shaping over a plastic tub on a wood floor.
Use the rasp to file the slope of the wood wedge so that it fits against the sole of the shoe. If you're using a half-round rasp, use the round side to create curves and the flat side to file down corners and edges. As you get closer, check the wedge against the shoe to see which parts need more shaping and to make sure you don't take too much off.
This part takes a while and is kind of tedious, so be patient and maybe plan to do it in stages.
Step 5: Glue the Wood in Place
Following the instructions on the package, use the Gorilla glue or wood glue to affix the wood to the bottom of the shoe.
Make sure it fits as snugly as possible and that there are no corner or edges sticking out. Stand the shoe upright in an out-of-the-way place and let the adhesive set for the recommended amount of time.
If your shoes are small enough, use a clamp or a something heavy to apply pressure. If you're using boots, put something in them to make sure they don't fall over.
Once the glue has set, try walking around in your new wedge shoe to make sure it's secure and nothing is wiggling. Apply more adhesive as needed.
Step 6: Make 'em Pretty
Congratulations! You now have a shiny new wedge-heeled shoe!
Except that the wood probably looks kind of wonky, and there's almost definitely bits of glue visible, and there's bound to be some gaps, and... Yeah. They're not very attractive.
If you're going for a DIY-Boho-chic kind of thing, you can paint the wood to your taste, but if you want to fake a factory finish, just do what you do with any ugly thing in your house: Cover it with fabric!
In my case, I needed grey wedges for a costume, so I used a contrasting grey vinyl. If you plan to wear the shoes more than once, you'll probably want to use something sturdy, like vinyl or canvas. Cut the fabric into four rectangles that are the length of the wedge, from the center back of the heel to where the sole touched the ground, and the height of the heel from floor to joint (see the orange lines in the pic).
Apply your glue directly to the shoe, then carefully line up your fabric so that the bottom edge is flush with the bottom of the shoe. Starting at the front and moving back toward the heel, press your fabric against the shoe in a rolling motion. Don't try to press it all on at once, because that's likely to give you creases and mess up your angle.
When you reach the back of the heel heel, there should be some excess fabric overlapping the heel. Using the craft knife, trim the fabric so that it creates a straight line up the center back of the heel.
Use a weight or clamp to apply pressure, and allow the glue to set. Test to make sure the fabric is secure and reapply glue as needed.
Once everything is set, use the craft knife to carefully trim the excess fabric along the original sole of the boot. If you can, try to do this in a single cut, without taking the knife away from the fabric, but be careful not to push too hard and punch a hole in your shoe.
Repeat this step for both sides of the heel, and voila! You have a shiny new wedge-heeled shoe that you might not be embarrassed to be seen in!
Now you just have to do the other shoe. Have fun!
Step 7: Optional Additions
Here are some things you might do to put a little extra finish on your new wedges:
- Resole the shoes with rubber or EVA foam
This will cover up the wood completely and add some security to the new wedge. With thick enough soling, you might even get a little more height.
- Cover the heels with canvas or duck cloth and paint them
Unleash your inner fashion designer and make your kickers truly unique!