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Irish Dance Toe Height: One simple tip for major results

Updated: Feb 16, 2023

Irish dance toe height exercises, Irish dance strength and conditioning

Improving Irish dance toe height has been on my mind! This month on the Target Training Online Institute, one of the videos to be released on April 1 is:

10 Exercises to Improve Toe Height

While developing this video, I incorporated exercises that hit on the key components to improving toe height:

  1. posterior chain strength - glute, hamstring, calf, bottom of foot

  2. quad strength

  3. ankle mobility

  4. double vs. single-leg strength.

I recently published an article about improving toe height for Irish dance focusing on the BACK FOOT toe height. If you haven’t yet checked it out, you can here: Irish Dance Toe Height: "Baby Got Back" Foot Toe Height

But there’s one simple tip every Irish dancer should incorporate into their toe height training for major results…SINGLE-LEG TRAINING.

Irish dance toe height exercises, Irish dance strength and conditioning

When working on toe height, dancers will traditionally perform calf raise after calf raise on both feet,

typically in first position like the photo to the right. This is a great exercise to incorporate into a sequence of exercises but a more applicable exercise for Irish dance is to train single-leg strength.

When performing a championship reel (3 steps), dancers hop off of one foot almost 200 times! And only a fraction of the time are they standing with their weight evenly distributed on two feet. So for Irish dancers, it is imperative that they train each leg separately and build up the strength to hold their body weight on an individual leg throughout their entire dance.

Add this one exercises to your toe height training routine: Single-Leg Calf Raises

Irish dance toe height exercises, Irish dance strength and conditioning

Irish dance toe height exercises, Irish dance strength and conditioning
  1. Stand on one foot with your leg turned out (from your hip).

  2. Begin by pulling your belly button in to engage your core, engage your glutes (your bum), and quad.

  3. While keeping your posture steady and leg straight, lift your heel off the ground with control.

  4. Lift your heel as high as you can (trying to get it directly over the ball of your foot). Watch in a mirror so you can see how high you are lifting your heel.

  5. SLOWLY lower your foot back to the ground

  6. Repeat until you can no longer lift your heel as high as you did on the first repetition. Then rest.

  7. Record how many times you could perform a perfect single-leg calf raise. This may only be a few times!

  8. We only want to perform repetitions to the best of your ability…stop training your heel to only come half way off the ground or that’s how high it’ll be when you dance!

  9. Repeat on the other side. Did you notice that one leg is strong than the other?

  10. Repeat on each foot again and try to “MEET IT OR BEAT IT”. Meaning, see if you can perfectly perform the same number of repetitions again on each foot OR more!


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Irish dance toe height exercises, Irish dance strength and conditioning, Ellen G Waller

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