“I love to dance in shoes and have learned a few things over time about what works and does not work for me.”
Selecting your first pair of shoes can be exhilarating and daunting all at the same time. So many colours, styles, brands, height, heel types. Can I dance in regular shoes? What if I’m a half size? With this post I’m hoping to help you navigate all those questions.
Can I pole in regular shoes?
No! for safety reasons you need dance shoes. These have been specially engineered to ensure the heel does not snap off while you dance. However I recommend to inspect your shoes from time to time to make sure noting is breaking or coming loose.
What type of shoe do I want for Pole?
When I talk about pole dancing shoes I am referring to exotic dance platform heels. Yes you can pole in all sorts of shoes from ballet slippers to sneakers however for this post we will be talking about exotic dance platform heels. There are lots of different brands of exotic dance platform heels available however my preference is Pleaser. Actually I only own Pleaser shoes. I have tried a few other brands however they never seem to fit correctly.
Things to consider when selecting your first pair of shoes…
Finish: It’s best if the finish of your shoes sticks to the pole. Selecting a shoe that is made with a patent finish or clear plastic will ensure this. If you are not a fan of patent, faux leather is an alternate grippy finish; however it does not offer the same level of grip as clear plastic and patent. You also have many other choices of finish, however selecting something other than clear plastic, patent or faux leather will compromise your feet grip; imagine dancing in socks. Also it’s good to note that clear Pleaser shoes then to fit a little narrow, not great if you have wide feet or a high arch.
Shoe or boot: Either is the answer. The only reason I would recommend a boot over a shoe is that it helps with ankle stability. One of the most common injuries when starting to dance in shoes is rolling your ankle; if you have weak ankles boots will give you a little bit of extra support. Boots will not stop you from rolling your ankles; ankle stretches and stability exercises is the best for this; however there is nothing that will truly stop you from ever rolling your ankles this is always a risk when dancing in shoes. There are some negative impacts of dancing in boots. You will build ankle stability faster in shoes, as less support means more ankles and leg muscle activation. If you select a boot that meets my “grippiest finish requirements” you end up with a large grip surface. One would think this is a good thing – not really? Some dancers become depended on the grip their boots provide; clear plastic and patent finish are actually grippier then skin! As for super tall boots the grip they offer can also interfere with your moves; as it’s hard to slide a boot along your pole to readjust in a new move. If you are going to go with boots stick with short; at least for your first pair.
Side Note quick tip for boots with laces: If your boots also have a zipper; tie up the laces permanently with a knot, then cut them and tuck the extra strands inside your boot. This will prevent your heel from getting tangled into your laces when you dance.
Close toe or open toe: Your choice, the only thing this will affect is the size. I’m usually a 9 1/2 in regular street shoes; in Pleaser’s I’m typically a 9 in open toe shoes and boots and a 10 in closed toe boots. Closed toe shoes just don’t work for me as I’m a half-size. That being said, I have met dancers with all sorts of crazy preferences when it comes to size. Someone I know always buys her dance shoes 2 sizes smaller than her street shoes. Other dancers swear by getting the size up if you’re a 1/2 size and using an insert to make them fit properly. Conclusion go try a bunch of styles on before you buy your first pair!
Slip on or something with straps: Slip on’s risk slipping off mid spin. Some dancers are used to them and have no issues with slip on however I strongly suggest something that you can strap to your foot as your first pair.
Height: I recommend to start with 6 or 6 1/2″ heels. This gives you enough height to use the slides on your shoes for tricks. The higher the platform the more damage you will do to your ankles if you accidentally roll them. Once you are super stable in your shoes; go as crazy as you are comfortable with. Just remember the higher the platform the more likely you will damage your ankles if you roll over in them. My favourite height currently is 7 1/2″. If you already have great ankle strength and flexibility; 7 or 7 1/2″ is a great starter height option for you.
Heel type: There are 3 main types of heels that Pleaser shoes make: wedge, stiletto/round tip and u-shaped tip. I personally do not like the wedge heels as I often like to grab my heels when I dance. If you are looking for the most stable heel it’s the u-shaped tip; however now that I am used to dancing in heels I much prefer the stiletto/round tip. So once again it becomes a personal choice as to what heel type to go for. If you are very new to pole dancing and shoes I recommend to stick with a u-shaped tip for your first pair.
Clear, coloured or decorated platform: As far as performance and stability it really does not matter. Other then making sure nothing sticks out of your platform, I would not even pay attention to this when selecting my first pair of shoes. There are pros and cons with each choice. The colour on your platform will wear off with time, obviously if the platforms are clear this will not happen. If there are decorations attached to the platform you risk popping them off. The highly decorated platforms then to have a concave shape at the toe; this actually works in your favour for wear and tear. If you do a lot of floor work your shoes end up starting to talk; this is not as much of an issue with the shoes that have a more concave platform toe. However these also have a negative side to them; they don’t have as much of a toe stop. (The tiny bit of sole that wraps around the front.)
Plain or fancy: For your first pair stick with shoes that do not have to many embellishments on the patent/plastic portions; embellishments on the heels and/or platforms are ok. The reason for this is that the more buckles and bling on the patent/plastic portion the less grip you will have. The bling also can get in the way.
Examples of too much bling…
Examples of just enough bling…
Cost: Buy something reasonably priced, these will probably not be your last pair. My everyday practice shoes always cost $60 or less. I do own many pairs that where much more than that, however they are reserved for performances and special days. Your shoes get beaten up pretty bad in class while learning new tricks and floor work!
All that being said you can dance in any Pleaser shoe, some just make it easier than others.