"You want me to workout in heels when I can’t even walk in ‘em good?” After inviting a friend to my first Heel Hop class, she was less than thrilled with my explanation of Heel Hop, a new fitness program founded by So You Think You Can Dance finalist Kamilah Barrett. My friend wasn't game, but it seemed like fun, so I gave it a try. I was not disappointed.
What is Heel Hop?
First on Kamilah’s agenda is helping people get over misconceptions about Heel Hop. A classically-trained dancer with fitness credentials, she is best known for her on the first season of So You Think You Can Dance and as a dance coach on MTV’s Made. But her background as a certified fitness instructor coupled with her experience as a performer is what makes Heel Hop a well-though out, practical program for the everyday woman. She calls it a "high heel instruction manual" that’s safe for all fitness levels. Not only is the mix of dance-infused cardio and strength-training moves meant to give you a stronger lower body and a smaller waistline, but it also unleashes confidence and puts the spice back in your life. Based on her experience in hip hop and salsa dancing, with a leaning toward barre and fitness instruction, Heel Hop is a real workout, not just some hybrid pole-dancing class with a hip-hop edge.
What's Different about Heel Hop?
I asked her about what sets Heel Hop apart from other dance fitness programs like Zumba, pole-dancing, and salsa dance lessons, and she was quick to explain the importance of Heel Hop. “Women don’t carry a pole [in their daily lives], we carry our heels. In Heel Hop, the class teaches you that your spine is your pole. Your spine is your bar.” Kamilah continues, “The calisthenics involved in walking in heels is completely different than any workout and can affect muscles no other program can touch.” The point of the workout is to, “zero in on the smaller parts of the intrinsic muscles used when wearing heels.” It’s not just about dance, but about gaining what I’ll call heel endurance. I’m all about that, any woman knows we all want to be more comfortable in heels.
My First Heel Hop Session
I walked into the class of women lying on the floor doing ab exercises, in heels of course, and thought, ‘okay, I can do this…’ That was just the warm-up. The class progressed with subtle heel taps at the barre, leg raises, and slow, sensual walks. All sexy, but also intense to do once I took a stab at it. I thought I was in good shape, as I workout regularly with a Crossfit group, but never had my hip flexors, inner thighs, or obliques hurt so good with such simple moves. When she’d mentioned that most women lack the tissue-metabolism to keep themselves in heels without pain, I was in total agreement. The class ended with a rousing catwalk like experience as we cheered each woman into walking model-like across the floor. It was a fitting end to the workout.
The How-To of Heel Hop
Let’s face it: heels are a girl’s rite of passage. Walking in heels is one of the major events that happens as you become a woman. My first pair of heels came around age 16 for junio prom, but these days girls even younger are wearing heels and they are no longer for special occasions. While you’ll never catch me in Ralph’s in heels, I will agree that we could all use a little help in making sure we wear heels well. We’ve all seen women walking awkwardly in heels and look a little off. We’ve also seen stars like J. Lo and Beyonce make walking in heels looks easy. What Heel Hop offers is a way to right the heel-wearing wrongs by teaching women how to distribute their weight properly in heels, practice correct posture and improve their gait, one session at a time. She says after a night on the town, taking Heel Hop classes could mean the difference between a walk to the car or a trip to the podiatrist.
The X-Factor: Self-Esteem
Even if this workout really can help me walk better in heels, I thought about what would keep me coming back. My answer: the same thing that keeps me buying heels: confidence. Kamilah says heels symbolize sensuality, security, and freedom. The other women in the class said similar things including strength and self-esteem. Ditto on all for me. I see heels as a way to express myself and my self-confidence. This element of inspiration is what piques Heel Hop members as told by the testimonials on her website. One woman said she takes the class because she wanted to be able to own her walk when she went out. Lucy and Chloe, close friends who don’t workout regularly mentioned wanting to walk “right” in any pair of heels they buy. Demara, who recently had foot surgery said she was there to help her recovery and continue her 40-pound weight loss. She says this is the first class that helped boost her self-esteem- no scale needed.
Nicole thought that this was a just-for-fun thing at first, but expressed Kamilah’s expertise and personal attention have proven more than she expected, “She really understands fitness and I feel so much more balanced when I walk in heels.” Not just physically, but I feel empowered. I feel free after class.” Fathiyyah, the one woman who’d done the class more than ten times, was quick to point out her skepticism, but says she wears heels more often now that she knows how to “work ‘em right.” She mirrors Nicole's sentiment that she's energized after class. She adds that her attitude has improved overall, but especially when wearing heels. Kamilah says that’s exactly what she’s going for, “I want women to feel safe, celebrated, and not judged. That feeling of being on a pedestal is definitely what a girl wants.
What’s Next for Heel Hop
If you’re interested in trying out a Heel Hop class, buy the 60-minute DVD, or check Heelhop.com for a class near you. Kamilah currently has a residency in Beverly Hills at Muscle Mechanics on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but she's on the move so check in before you go as more locations and classes are being added in the Los Angeles area. She’s developing an instructor’s manual in the coming weeks that will help her train Heel Hop teachers, who she calls Heelers. Also on her docket is coaching Japan’s mega-girl group Max for their upcoming tour. When she returns to the states, she’ll be rolling out Heel Hop to heel-wearers across the nation. We’ll be on the lookout for women who know how to "own" their heels.