Do I Have To Wear High Heels In Figure Competitions?

Do you need to wear high heels in order to compete and win in figure contest? Find out the truth from Brenda Kelly!

Dear Brenda,

I am wondering if you have an opinion on shoes for figure? Everywhere I look seems to say clear, but I just watched an NPC video where they said to get the thinnest heel possible and that they don't have to be clear and stay away from platforms. If you have time for an opinion, I would sure appreciate it.


Dear Grace,

The NPC/IFBB Figure category is booming. The surprising allure is the absence of a talent/routine round. This is great news for competitive women who are in great physical condition who don't have the desire to put together a routine to compete in the Fitness category.

There are two scoring rounds for Figure, a two-piece round and a one-piece round. Both require suits that meet regulation guidelines and both are to be worn with high heels.

Get your contest info and guideline rules online on the popular NPC website:

There is contact info right there for you to ask NPC Women's Representative, Sandy Ranali, or your own state district chairperson.

Another favorite website offering more extensive direction for stage apparel and protocol is Jon Lindsay's These guidelines help out quite a bit on suits but just mention "high heels".

There are right and wrong choices here in the shoe department for stage:

1. Remember the power of illusion.

      What you want from your shoe is the illusion creating an extension of your leg, not an abrupt, harsh cut across your foot shortening your leg length appearance.

If you are trying to add length or have thickness in your ankles, calves or thighs you are trying to compensate for, stay away from ankle straps. You don't want a cut across your ankle to detract from your illusion of sleekness.

2. Beware of any heel over five inches and a front platform over one inch. The judges also do not like "clunky" heels.

      Last year before the Arnold Classic

Monica Brant

      and I went shoe shopping on Hollywood Blvd. together. Our mission: clear heels. Hers for the inaugural 2003 Figure International at the Arnold Classic and me, new sexy shoes for photo shoots. We ended up falling in love with the exact same shoes! Clear, six-inch with a slightly thicker spike heel, two-inch clear platform and four silver criss cross straps across the top of the foot. We both bought them.

Although Monica doesn't have trouble walking gracefully, one of the point deductions she took while competing was on her shoe height and platform style. When Monica narrowly missed first place after the point tally, it really brought home the importance of shoe detail.

The judges told her to lower her heel and platform height.

She now wears clear five-inch heels with a one-inch platform for competition. She continues to wear our other more trendy heels for shoots and tells me they are her favorite. I love mine as well and wear them for shoots and trade shows where I like to dress sexy. The moral of this story, shoes for competition may have to be different than the ones you might choose as your favorites for other reasons.

3. Choose a neutral color.

    I prefer clear myself. I have also seen success with silver and gold when tastefully added as accent colors. Again, you want your shoes to blend not detract.

4. Wear you shoes around the house for some days to break them in and get more comfortable in them.

      You will be stuck backstage for hours for both pre-judging as well as the awards ceremonies during the night show. Do not have this be the first time you have spent time in your shoes or your feet may suffer. Not good. It's hard to present yourself at your best when your feet are killing you.

The number one issue I have been noticing that needs improvement on the competitive figure stage is polish in presentation. The answer does not lie with more hair and make up. What is sorely needed here is practice, practice, PRACTICE! I always like to work from the judges' perspective.

What Other Things Judges Look For...

Along with the basic symmetry comparisons the judges seem to include just as much subjective opinion in their scoring.

It will be the details that push the points up into your favor. Think about it for a second, what would your decision be if faced with two similar body types in the same good condition? This is where the intangibles involving subjectivity comes into play big time. Make it work for you rather than against you by paying close attention to details.

Many times the judges are drawn to one competitor or another without being able to pin point the exact reason. This is a clear example of polish.

Polish is apparent in its presence as well as apparent in it's absence. Look at any Figure line up and you will be able to easily spot both. Pay close attention to what draws you to one competitor or another. What attracts your eye? Find out how you can add this to your own presentation.

The audience notices the glaring unease and stiffness of women who are not comfortable walking in their high heels and presenting their quarter turns. If an untrained eye sees this, you can bet the judges take note as well and score accordingly.

Walking gracefully in plastic heels that are not made of supple material requires practice. You must practice until you are smooth, comfortable and graceful. It is possible. My coach always had his women athletes' practice our walks and quarter turns in the heels we would be wearing after routine rehearsal. We spent just as much time on this as our routines.

It is important to practice on the surface you will be competing on with the same shoes you will be wearing. You cannot use your carpeted living room or somewhere that does not have a long strip to walk in a straight line. Remember you are trying to emulate the stage conditions.

I have seen line-ups where it looks like many women have never walked in their heels before. Ever. This is not what you want to bring to the stage.

Get with a coach or another set of eyes you trust and have them take you through a mock stage set up containing a walk out, quarter turn sequence and walk off.

I used a technique from dance called sliding. Sliding is walking with your feet facing forward onto stage usually from the side wings while turning your shoulders 1/4 turn so they are square with the audience. It looks great when done correctly.

Make use of your full potential in your presentation scores by putting time and effort into details like the right shoes and walk to pull together your best look.