Why Do Pole Dancers Wear Heels?
It’s such a simple question that can have dozens of answers depending on who you ask. Some of the most common responses are that it helps you feel more confident, sexy, and empowered. It helps elongate your lines and counterbalances your weight so you can achieve tricks with ease. It helps improve muscle tone, saves energy during inverts, adds momentum to your spins…
So much of the exotic style is built around having heels that can serve you well, meaning not just any pair of heels will do. Walking into a pole studio with everyday street heels won’t go over so well for your feet.
Heels made for pole dancing are comfortable and well balanced, so you can rock and tip over those toeboxes, kip, and clack without worry, and remove strain from your feet while dancing.
While you may prefer going barefoot in the studio, which has its own benefits, especially if you haven’t mastered the foundation moves yet, there’s still something special about rocking your sexy 6-inch heels in your favorite exotic routine.
Chances are, you’re at least interested in giving them a try if you’re reading this article.
The first step is finding the right size, style, and material for your heels. Once that box arrives at your doorstep, you’ll start your journey of learning how to walk in your heels. After that comes learning the anatomy of your heels so you can walk with ease, flow around the pole, dance, and throw your personal flare in.
The most widely accepted and popular brand is Pleaser. They’ve stood up to the test of time and athleticism shown by pole dancers in the club and in the studio. Ellie brand heels are making a breakthrough in the pole dance world as well. With both brands on the market, there’s a healthy variety to choose from. Other, smaller retailers are beginning to pop up on the radar of many pole dancers, but Pleaser and Ellie are the top dogs.
We like to recommend Pleaser and Ellie heels as they’re both rather popular and trustworthy, having been time-tested and dancer-loved. These heels are designed for dancers who will be on their feet for hours, helping absorb the shock of their body weight, cushioning joints, and they add the perfect counterbalance for flowing dance routines and powerful tricks – not to mention they add height and help elongate the look of your legs.
Dance heels often fit a little differently than street heels. A good size may feel snug or tight to begin with, which makes it unfortunately tough for many dancers to feel confident in what their true size is.
To test your heels, put them on as you usually would, with the arch of your foot against the arch of the heel. The back of the heel should line up with the back of your foot, creating a beautiful line. If the heel sticks out beyond your foot, the size is too big.
Once you’ve worn your heels enough, you should be able to take them off and notice an indent in the sole where your foot rests. If worn properly with the arch of your foot against the arch of the heel, this indent should be less than half an inch from the back of the heel. Likewise, in this position, your toes should be flush with the heel.
You may find that your toes overhang a little as your foot slides forward, especially while you’re dancing. This is normal.
If the overhang is leaving you with crushed toes during your floorwork, there is hope.
Try strapping your ankle strap tighter; the strap should be flush against your ankle. Leaving a gap between the ankle strap and your leg will allow your foot to slide forward more than it needs to.
Of course, as you tighten the strap, always leave room for blood circulation in your leg, never tighten the straps beyond that.
A perfectly fitted heel will have your whole foot covering the covering the sole area with nothing hanging over the edges – that includes your toes – so buckle up that ankle strap.
If it’s a little tight, don’t worry, the material will stretch out with wear. If you’re wearing something with patent straps, you can try stretching them to fit using a hairdryer (and a sock to protect your feet!) Boots can typically be laced tighter or looser against the calf.
Closed Toe VS. Open Toe Sizing
If you typically wear a half size, there’s a general guideline that comes in handy when working with open toe heels vs closed toe heels. Many people who wear a full size may still benefit from following this guideline.
For open toe (or sandals) always size down. For closed toe (or boots) always size up.
If you have wide feet, consider always sizing up no matter the type of heel.
My first pair of Pleasers were 6-inch black PU Delight-609’s. Typically wearing a size 6.5, I chose a size 6. The heels fit like a glove. I was worried at first about my toes, which hung over the edges, but I later fixed that by tightening the ankle strap.
I later purchased a pair of 7-inch open-toe, open-heel boots in black patent. I chose a size 7, and thankfully so; despite the fact they were open toe, I felt they would have been uncomfortable in a 6. I was able to lace these in the back in addition to a side-zipper, which not only meant I could change out the lace colors to rock my red and black theme, but I could adjust it against my calf.
Soon after that, considering it was summer and the boots were a little too warm for my tastes, I went back to the ankle straps and purchased a pair of 8-inch Flamingo-809’s in a red patent, size 6. These fit even better than the black PU as the patent material felt better on my fit, giving it more room as it stretched. I was again able to tighten the ankle strap to keep my toes in.
I don’t plan on going back to the PU material, but I’m glad I started out with them. I’ve concluded that 7-inch patent ankle-strap sandals are my ideal pair of heels.
There are a few key guidelines when it comes to choosing a heel size. The fit is going to vary depending on the style and the brand you purchase, so consider what you’re looking for in a heel as well.
- Pleaser heels are great for individuals with regular and wider feet, while Ellie heels may be better for individuals with narrower feet.
- Remember that all patent heels will stretch with wear. Other materials may not stretch enough to make any real difference, and PU materials may flake in areas with heavy use.
- Try to order from a place that offers free or inexpensive returns. If your heels don’t quite fit right, then exchange it for a different size!
- You can use your typical street heel size as a guideline, but always, always, always order based on the size chart provided and the measurements of your feet. Many shoe stores will gladly measure your feet for you.
- Again, if you’re in-between sizes, a good rule of thumb is to size down for open-toe heels, and size up for closed-toe heels.
Men’s Sizing Guide
Men, we know you envy those long lines, too. You can absolutely wear heels to perfect your sexy flow routine. For some of you, it may feel a little daunting to go and order your first pair of heels, especially if it’s your first foray into any kind of heels. There’s nothing to worry over; the process is rather straightforward. Follow the same guidelines that women use and pick out your favorite style.
Measuring your foot and ordering according to the size chart is the best option, but you can start with a baseline of shoe size as well. Since many heels are sized in women’s sizing, simply order for a men’s size equivalent. You can convert a man’s shoe size to women’s by adding two sizes to the women’s size. For example, a US man’s 9 would convert to a US women’s 11.
Choosing Your Height
The height of your heel depends on their purpose just as much as they do looks and comfort level.
For example, are you comfortable in heels, or is this your first time ever wearing any type of heel? Are you using these heels in a studio, at home, or at the club?
Some studios have guidelines about heels. At home, consider the space you’re working with and what height you can safely work with without hitting walls or furniture. Some clubs may have a height limit or minimum, depending on the environment.
Remember, especially at home, the higher your heels are, the higher your center of balance will be. It’s harder to hold your balance with just your feet the higher you are, so be wary of uneven flooring, whether it’s carpet, debris on the floor, or a mismatched floorboard. Even well-matted rugs can be dangerous to walk on with heels in the 8, 9 and 10-inch range.
Recommended Starting Height
When it comes to choosing a starting height, it’s important to remember that you are playing with your center of balance. Your shoes will become an extension of your leg in the same way stilts do. It can look daunting even going with a short platform, especially if you’re not used to wearing street heels every day. No matter the height you go with, you’ll have to learn how to walk in them.
You’ll feel a little off balance at first, but before you know it, it’ll become second-nature.
When it comes right down to it, however, your heel height is an individual preference. Always remember that over what others tell you; you aren’t required to wear any specific height. It is true that too short and you won’t be able to perform heel tricks as well, and too tall you may lose your balance, but in the end, it’s up to you, finding that sweet spot for your body and comfort level.
In general, an excellent starting height is 6 inches. While you might see your Instagram icons rocking 8, 9, and 10 inches, it’s critical to get used to wearing heels, both in height and technique first.
6-inch heels are a comfortable medium where you’ll receive all the benefit of wearing dance heels without the instability of higher heights. In other words, 6-inches are the perfect height to keep you in the shallow end while you learn to swim, rather than diving right into the deep end of the pool. You’ll begin growing your confidence and skill at a measured pace this way.
If you’re taller, you may feel more balanced in 7 or 8-inch heels than 6 inches. Likewise, 6-inches may be too tall for your height, and you need to start smaller. Pleaser even manufactures a few cocktail styles down to 2 and 3 inches, but you won’t get the full benefit of dancing in heels. If you need to go lower than 6, you may want to consider 5 inches or forego the heels altogether for now.
6-inch heels are a great way to discover the height you prefer, giving you a solid baseline for reference. This height also keeps the height of your arch larger, helping you stay well balanced with an ideal weight distribution across your foot.
If you’re still feeling a little uncertain at the mention of 6-inch platforms, remember that the inches are in the heel, not the platform itself, so a 6-inch heel typically has a much-less-daunting platform height of about 3.5 inches. This isn’t much more than many prom platforms.
How Tall Is Too Tall?
We all come in different body shapes and sizes, and that doesn’t exclude height!
Many of us who are on the shorter side envy the long lines that tall women can make and want to jump right into wearing 7 inches and higher. Likewise, if you’re taller, you may not like the feeling of towering over everyone else in their heels.
Of course, your space should be able to accommodate your heel height, as you want to be able to move around unimpeded whether you’re on the pole or doing some sexy floorwork, without the worry of kicking another classmate or bumping into furniture and walls, but this is an issue with your space, not your heel height.
In truth, there is no “too tall” – In the 1700s, your heel height denoted importance, so rock those heels, however tall they are!
You can be an average-height minx or a towering goddess; so long as you feel comfortable on your feet and enjoy what you’re doing, your confidence in heels will grow.
Embrace your inner power and accentuate those sexy lines; create your own stage persona and lose yourself in the music around you. You’ll find that confidence and boldness grow, allowing you to rock those heels comfortably. Pole is all about pushing the boundaries of who we are and growing to become the best possible versions of ourselves, and heels are a part of that journey.
Choosing Your Style
Style is everything when it comes to the aesthetic art of pole. There are a few guidelines for selecting your heel style, however:
- Avoid metal studs or anything that will scratch the pole.
A single strap buckle tied around your ankle is fine, but don’t go buying gothic heels with 12 heavy buckles and metal spikes across it, else you’ll scratch the pole and ruin the finish and grip over time. Likewise, you risk hurting yourself on the sharp metal, especially if you’re a lover of floorwork.
- Avoid slide-on sandals for trick-heavy routines.
You can risk your shoes flying off during power spins or inverted transitions if you don’t have anything holding your heels on your feet. If you prefer the look of slide-on sandals, you can always purchase clear add-on straps to attach to your heels.
- Remember, your heels will get scuffed!
Scuffs are the name of the game when it comes to pole. Like bruises, many dancers wear their scuffs like badges of pride, showing off the use and how well their heels have served them. Pole dance heels are meant to be scuffed, clacked, kipped, dragged, and roughed up. This is fine – purchase that pair you fell in love with anyway and feel sexy and confident in what you wear. If you’re still overly worried about scuffing, consider purchasing a pair of clear heels meant solely for practice. Clear heels are often less expensive than others, and scuffs and scratches will be less visible.
Ankle-strap sandals are typically open-toe heels that have straps that buckle around the ankles to help secure the heel.
These ankle straps help keep your foot in place and provide better stability overall. Regular open-toe heels like these are the top recommendation for beginners looking for their first pair of heels, as it helps you get used to wearing them.
Slide-on sandals are open-toe heels without ankle straps.
These are easy to get on and off quickly, and the strapless sandal look creates a more seamless line from your leg to the heel. These heels are more likely to fly off your feet during powerful spins or inverted tricks, but you can purchase clear ankle straps to place over the heel and give you that added security and support.
Ankle boots are typically closed-toe and end lower to mid-calf.
Many styles sport a lace tie in the front or back and a zipper on the side which helps you get the heels on and off quickly, while the lace gives you control over the tightness around your calf.
Boots are typically better for dancers with weaker ankles as the sides will provide more support. Ankle boots are not as hot (temperature-wise!) as higher boots.
Knee-high boots are typically closed-toe and come to a stop around your upper calf or just below the knee. Many of these styles sport a zipper and provide lace in the front or back to give you control over tightness.
Thigh-high boots typically go above the knee, ending at the lower-to-mid thigh. Many of these styles sport a zipper, and almost all have lace to provide better control over tightness.
Choosing Your Material
The material you choose goes beyond looks; patent is better for sticking on the pole for tricks, while PU/faux leather materials will help you slide around the pole for flow routines.
Patent material has the feel of plastic. It is a very shiny, almost mirror-like material. It does stretch with wear, which means it may be a little tight in the beginning, but you’ll get a custom fit molded to your foot as you break it in.
If the plastic is too tight, it can be stretched by warming the plastic with a hairdryer set to low and sliding your foot in. You’ll want to wear a thin sock during this process to avoid burns.
Patent is also an excellent material to help you grip the pole. Especially if you are wearing boots, this comes in handy, giving you the grip needed to climb and perform tricks, especially ones that are harder in heels, such as Cupid.
PU or Pleather
Also referred to as pleather, or PU (polyurethane) this material looks and feels much like leather. This material does not stretch as well or as much as patent, so you won’t likely notice much stretching as you wear it in. This means you won’t get the custom, stretched fit that patent will, but PU will help keep you foot in place if you have trouble with patent over-stretching.
PU has less grip than your skin will so be prepared to only use these heels for low flow and floorwork routines if it interferes with contact areas.
Overall, PU breaks down quicker than patent does, and it can flake in areas of high-use, but patent will stretch over time, potentially too far. They both have their pros and cons, so choose which one works best for your needs.