How To Dance Like Michael Jackson: Nail Your Shoes To The Floor

How To Dance Like Michael Jackson: Nail Your Shoes To The Floor

In the music video for Smooth Criminal, Michael Jackson and four backup dancers used cables and harnesses to lean a full 45 degrees, a move that’s physically impossible for an unsupported human body. But somehow, Jackson also performed this dance move live on stage without any visible support. It turns out that in addition to developing impressive core strength, Michael Jackson nailed his shoes to the floor.

Screenshot: Michael Jackson

As explained in a recent scientific paper, Jackson used a patented shoe modification, cutting a slot in the soles of his shoes.

(According to the patent, the shoes were also taller than they looked, with a fake sock covering some of their ankle support.) The stage was prepped with nails sticking out unobtrusively. Jackson would slide his slotted shoes onto the nails, locking him into the floor, so he could move his centre of balance forward.

Slideshow Image
Slideshow Image
Slideshow Image
Slideshow Image

The shoe patent, now expired, hasn’t been secret for a long time, but this scientific paper, published in the Journal of Neurosurgery in the context of treating dance-related “injuries that may perplex the neurosurgeon,” renewed some interest.

Even with the extra support of being nailed to the floor, says the paper, Jackson still had to use all his strength as he leaned, straining his Achilles tendon to stay ramrod straight. So if you want to pull off this dance move, you need a rigged stage and dance skills.

Maybe try learning to moonwalk instead. Here’s an old but clear video guide to that more achievable dance move.

You can see the deep lean in the music video below, starting at 7:04. But as we mentioned, this instance was achieved with waist harnesses, not with Jackson’s special shoes.


  • I’ve never understood why is signature dance move was called the “moonwalk”. I mean, he slid backwards across the stage with both feet always on the ground. If he was actually moonwalking he’d be taking giant floaty steps…

    • The moonwalk was originally done by mimes and dancers, and was intended to make them look like they were walking in one spot. It looked like they were walking at a much slowed down speed, similar to what you’d imagine walking on the moon would be like. Visually similar, but that’s not what Michal Jackson was doing.

      Jackson was actually doing a move called the backslide (which had been done numerous times in the past) and made it famous. When asked what it was called (at Motowns 25th anniversary show), he called it the Moonwalk, and the name stuck. So really, he just picked the walking in place name, and used it for that move instead.

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!