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Pole Vs. Pedicure: How to Win the Battle For Cute Toes

By on February 17, 2015

Pole has been great for me in a lot of ways: stronger body, healthier mind, fantastic friendships, and my pedicures have never been better!

No, that’s a lie. My poor, poor toes.

While I still treat myself to pedis for fancy occasions, or as a pick-me-up, I cannot escape the fact that they will be ruined – utterly decimated – by my next pole class. So, I usually walk around with toes that look like this:

Sad pole toes
Sad pole toes

Tragic, no? Ain’t nobody wanna look at those puppies.

I miss pretty feet! But, rather than resign myself to having gnarled toes for the rest of my pole life, I decided to do some research. I set about testing some different toe décor methods, just to see if maybe hope wasn’t totally lost.

Bad Star Wars Joke
Princess Leia Kitteh needs a pedi

I selected three types of nail work: standard polish, Jamberry nail wraps, and gel polish, and did a compare test over the course of a couple of weeks. What was involved in my compare test? Lots of shoulder rolls. Lots and lots of shoulder rolls. Oof.

Trial 1: Standard Polish

First up was the standard polish, which I had applied professionally for optimum results. Also, I’m incapable of doing anything beauty related that doesn’t look like it was applied by a drunk 5 year old with free access to the Wet N Wild rack at CVS.

I selected Black Cherry Chutney by O.P.I. – not only was the color gorgeous, but it allowed for excellent contrast to my actual nail, giving me a chance to see immediately when wear would occur.

Are you tired of looking at my toes yet?

The results: I admit to avoiding floorwork for a bit, just because I loved that my toes were pretty for once and wanted it to last. But true to expectations, one solid class with some floorwork destroyed the big toe on my dominant foot. The other foot had a scuff on the big toe, but was otherwise intact.

Pros: Cheaper professional option – the price of this pedicure is in the mid-range ($25-$45 on average), and it’s nice to sit in a massage chair for a while, if your salon offers them. Can also do a DIY experience to save even more money!

Cons: No real lasting power when it comes to pole. Can seem expensive if you have to keep getting new pedicures, because the old ones are quickly ruined.

Pro Tip: Bring a solid topcoat with you to the salon and have your nail pro apply it on top of your pedicure. Fellow BK Blogger Veruca Blue swears by INM Out The Door Top Coat, saying it lasts through her aerial adventures and her love of surf & sand here in SoCal.

Trial 2: Jamberry Nail Wraps

My next test came from Jamberry Nail Wraps. What are Jamberry? You can check out their site here, but in short, they are cute, colorful nail wraps that you can heat up and apply to your nails at home. Jamberry can be purchased online, and they function a little like Tupperware for your Toes – people can host parties with consultants, most of which can happen online! They come in a huge variety of colors and patterns, including holiday themes, sports themes, and much, much more. They even have a design builder that allows you to craft custom wraps. I actually did this with photos of my cats, because I am an unabashed crazy cat lady.

cat wraps
My “Crazy Cat Lady” custom wraps from Jamberry Nails

The results: I wore these in a choreography class and did scrape up the big toe on my dominant foot (again). It wasn’t quite as worn as the regular polish, but it did still suffer trauma.

Pros: Can apply at home as a DIY pedicure. Tons of color and pattern options, which means lots of customization and nail accent possibilities! Fairly easy to remove. Lots of online assistance with “how to” instructional videos and Pinterest ideas for looks.

Cons: Each sheet is $15 and can last through a few applications (their consultants say 4, but I’m skeptical). Custom sheets are more expensive. The nail wraps can be challenging to apply. I ended up with some ripples, but I would imagine you get the hang of it over time. I’m a little OCD, so I was bothered that the nail wraps don’t always fit your nail size correctly, but that’s me. I’m also wildly impatient, so I didn’t work as hard as I probably should have to put them on correctly. Again, I should never be responsible for my own beauty maintenance.

Pro Tip: If you select a busy pattern with smaller markings, you can stretch the length of your wear AND each sheet of wraps by cutting off small pieces to use as patches! This is a great option for polers, as we usually just need little patches here and there, versus replacing an entire wrap!

Trial 3: Gel

Last but not least, I gave gel pedicures a try. I have had gel manicures in the past, and they were great looking, but generally left my nails devastated underneath – each removal left my nails thinner and weaker than before, so I stopped doing them. I had never done a gel pedi before, but it was recommended to me as the best option for pole dancers looking to extend the life of their toe looks.

The results: Incredible durability, especially when compared to regular polish. My polish remained intact and vibrant, even after floorwork, although some scuff marks can appear. I was able to rub the scuffs off the polish, though, and saw no damage underneath.

Pros: Amazing color and overall durability, plus options for awesome nail art!!! Long lasting, and able to incorporate caps/extensions/fixes for breakage.

Cons: Expensive for a decent quality option, particularly if you add nail art into the mix. Mine were $60+ for the pedicure and nail art (I had one accent nail with hand-painted art). Home removal is not really an option, unless you have the tools.

Pro Tip: Search out CalGel mani/pedis. I was pointed toward CalGel by Aerial Amy, who swears by it. After trying it on my fingers for a few months, I’ve really liked it. The issues I had with weak nails and breakage from other kinds of gel have diminished with CalGel, and it strikes me as much more durable than regular gel. The gel itself allows the nail to respire, meaning that it can remain healthy underneath the polish, and the removal process doesn’t require grinding of the actual nail surface.

Cal Gel
Cal Gel Art. Photo courtesy of Natasha Wang. My fingers and toes are on the left; her toes are on the right. Yes, I got kitty art. Duh.

The Verdict:

Out of the three options I tried, the CalGel is my pick for polers for its resiliency in floorwork and the endless nail art options one can choose for their toes (and fingers!). It’s more expensive, and requires time at a salon, but if you can afford it, try it! I do think, though, that for those on a budget, the other regular polish or Jamberry wraps can work – they just require a little ingenuity!

Danielle C.

Danielle C.

Creative entity, cat mom, dog auntie, consumer of too much sugar. Pole and lyra enthusiast, amateur foodie, local explorer. One half of Poleitical Clothing. Read my musings at
Danielle C.

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