Heel Thyself: All-male stiletto classes on the rise

At high noon on Wednesday hundreds of men - unaccustomed to the challenges of walking in high heels - will don pumps and totter across Churchill Square.

Men in Heels: tips for 'walking a mile in her shoes' from a stiletto master

In his dances classes, Edmonton's Gregory Caswell teaches men the finer points of strutting in stilettos. 0:38

At high noon on Wednesday hundreds of men — unaccustomed to the challenges of walking in high heels — will don pumps and totter across Edmonton's Churchill Square.

It's part of the annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes YWCA fundraiser, aimed at helping women, children and families walk away from violence.

The wobbly trip can be quite a challenge for men more used to brogues or running shoes.

It's something Gregory Caswell knows from the blisters on his feet, and from teaching other men how to strut their stuff in stilettos.

"They are painful shoes," Caswell said during a Wednesday interview on CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.

"But slowly but surely you learn what your body needs to do to accommodate that extra three to six inches that is under your heel."

Caswell is an instructor at Dance Code in Edmonton, where he teaches men how to dance in heels. He's also artistic director of Edmonton's only men in heels dance group, Man Up.

"When we first started Man Up, four out of the five of us had never walked in high heels before," Caswell said. "And the first class we took together was like a bunch of baby giraffes walking across the room.

"A Man Up show usually lasts about 45 to 50 minutes for a reason. By the end of it, we're usually ready to just have a few drinks and sit down."

Caswell offers a handful of weekly classes for men keen to master heels. The sessions inside the Queen Mary Park studio draw a range of men. While most students are members of the local drag queen community, some are merely curious, and a few have been brought in by their wives.

"There are a lot of men out there who want to learn how to dance in heels," said Caswell. "The class is open to all genders and skill levels, but specifically it's a welcoming environment for men to come and put on heels and learn how to walk, and move and dance in them. It's always an adventure."

After getting put through their paces, students put their new shoes to the test in a complex musical number.

Beginners always struggle, at first, but soon find their centre of gravity, Caswell said.

"It think that they have a lot of fun in the class. It is a very profound experience for a lot of them to put on heels for the very first time and feel that self-acceptance They feel more confident."

Like so many of his well-heeled students, Caswell has learned to love the feel of a good pump on his foot. He'll walk across Churchill Square in six-inch tuxedo-style stilettos.

"I have to say my legs have never looked better."

About the Author

Wallis Snowdon

Journalist

Wallis Snowdon is a digital journalist with CBC Edmonton. She has nearly a decade of experience reporting behind her. Originally from New Brunswick, her journalism career has taken her from Nova Scotia to Fort McMurray. Share your stories with Wallis at wallis.snowdon@cbc.ca