How to stretch vinyl boots (carefully)

A couple of weeks ago, I rambled about how I was so incredibly excited that I was finally going to have a pair of Sailor Moon boots to call my own.  The boots showed up on Monday, and I excitedly went to try them on, only to find out…

…that my calves were a little too muscular for these boots.  Curse you, muscular calves! (Well, not really, I like my calves.)

I ended up messaging the seller (Catzia) telling her the boots didn’t fit my calves, and I asked if I could exchange them for a larger size in hopes that they might fit my legs better.  She said she’d be happy to exchange them, but before doing that, I should try to stretch the boots out using a hair dryer to see if I could get them stretched out enough to fit. And it worked!  They were snug, but I could zip them up all the way!

While I was waiting to hear back from Catzia, I found a number of “how to stretch shoes” tutorials out there. When I came across the hair dryer method, I figured it’d work for the boots (but didn’t want to try it until I’d heard back from Catzia) – but most of these methods focused on making the foot area of a shoe wider, not necessarily the calves.  And they all focused on leather shoes, and not vinyl boots.

Enter The Crafty Nerd, armed with a hair dryer and a pair of epic Sailor Moon boots.

How to stretch vinyl boots with a hair dryer

Not pictured: cat who bolted as soon as I pulled out the hair dryer.

Supplies you’ll need:

  • the boots you want to stretch
  • a hair dryer
  • a little patience

Step 1: Put one boot on, and zip it up almost as far as it’ll go on your leg.

yes, I know it’s the same photo from earlier. 😛

Step 2: Set your hair dryer to high heat, and turn it on.  Heat the section of your boot just above where the zipper is for about 20-30 seconds – go all the way around your leg to help warm up the vinyl and encourage it to stretch a bit. If your leg – especially the exposed part – gets too hot, it’s time to stop.

Step 3: Carefully pull the zipper up through the area you just heated.  You should be able to get it up through that area easily.

Managed to get it zipped up a little more, thanks to the power of heat!

Step 4: Repeat step 2 with another section of boot, heating for a maximum of 30 seconds or when your leg gets too hot.  (You don’t want to burn yourself!)

Step 5: Repeat step 3, pulling the zipper through the newly heated area.

Keep working through steps 2 and 3 until you’re able to zip your boot all the way up.

Hey, it’s all zipped!

Once you’ve got the first boot done, it’s time to do the next boot – just follow the same process you did for the first one.

Yaaay, boots!

After you’ve got both boots stretched out, wear them for a little bit to help them keep their shape.  (I left mine on for an hour after I first stretched them.)  You’ll likely need to repeat the process a few times before they retain their shape permanently, so don’t be surprised if you put your boots on a few weeks after you’ve stretched them the first time and they don’t quite fit perfectly.

A couple of caveats:

  • If you don’t have a high tolerance for heat, be careful and only do small sections at a time with a bit of a break in-between, or try using a lower heat setting. Please don’t burn yourself – I know that sometimes cosplay involves pain (especially with shoes!), but you don’t want to end up hurting yourself before the event you’re cosplaying at.
  • Don’t use a heat gun (usually used to help shape Worbla or other cosplay materials) on your boots.  You’ll probably melt them and seriously injure yourself. Again, please don’t burn yourself.
  • If you’ve tried the stretching method I’ve described and your boots still haven’t stretched enough to fit properly, you might need to try a different pair of boots.  Don’t try to overheat the vinyl, or try to cram yourself into something that doesn’t fit properly – you’ll likely end up hurting yourself, and that’s no good.
  • Since you’ll be aiming a hair dryer at your legs for a fair amount of time, you might want to set yourself up someplace where there’s a fair bit of airflow so you don’t overheat.  My first stretching attempt was done in my tiny bathroom, and I got warm pretty quickly in there – even with the door open.

Hopefully this tutorial will help other cosplayers with their vinyl boots – even if they just need a little bit of stretching to make them fit properly!

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