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What Are Leg Warmers? Guide to Best for Dancers!

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For many of us, simply thinking of leg warmers might resurrect memories of the 80s, the movie Fame, or any number of dance class moments we experienced personally. Maybe you never experienced the 80s or have no idea what leg warmers are.

Leg warmers are like a sock, but with a hole cut out for the toes so dancers and ballerinas can slip them over their shoes to keep their legs and feet warm. Leg warmers help dancers keep their feet, and ankles warm, and they are worn before, during and/or after dancing to prevent cramping and/or injury.

Whether you’ve worn them yourself, or whether you’ve never understood why anyone would choose to wear them, we’re here to give you information on all things leg warmers.

What are leg warmers?

Leg warmers are like a footless sock, and they vary in both length and material, in form and function.

Some leg warmers cover only the ankle and lower leg, while others go as high as the mid-thigh.

four images of different lengths of legwarmers

The material they’re made of varies from natural wools and cotton to synthetic materials that imitate them, depending on the manufacturer. I used to jokingly refer to them as leg sweaters.

Why do dancers and ballerinas wear leg warmers?

Dancers and ballerinas wear leg warmers to keep their legs and ankles warm, which assists in preventing injury.

Without optimal levels of heat, muscles are prone to injury. Warm muscles allow for increased blood flow and oxygen, which help them stay strong, and not be as sore from lactic acid buildup.

For dancers wearing leg warmers can help prevent injuries before they start, and are very handy, especially when dancing in the colder months for helping muscles to warm up faster and be less likely to experience cramping.

Are leg warmers good for ballet and why?

Yes, leg warmers are good for ballet, because they help keep the muscles warm, and can be slipped on and off easily as needed during a class.

Maintaining warmth in the muscles is important because it increases blood flow and oxygen, promoting strength, decreasing soreness from lactic acid buildup, and preventing injury.

In ballet, the attire of tights and a leotard don’t offer much in the way of insulation, so leg warmers can help muscles retain heat.

Some leg warmers can also offer a small amount of compression, which is helpful in blood circulation, and injury prevention.

Why do ballet dancers sometimes wear only one leg warmer?

Ballet dancers will sometimes wear one leg warmer if they are recovering from an injury on that side, or if they’re trying to prevent injury on that side.

Another reason might be if the muscles on that side are over-worked, or even cramping.

Are leg warmers really practical to wear for dance class?

Yes, leg warmers are practical for dance class as long as they aren’t too bulky to inhibit or restrict movements.

Leg warmers are more practical than other options such as track pants, for the main reason that they are easier to slip on and off.

Full leg coverings such as track pants for example can make it hard for dancers and teachers to see their body lines in the mirror, leg warmers are more practical because they don’t affect that.

Many leg warmers made by dance manufacturers have a stirrup option so that they fit under the arch. This leaves the heel, metatarsal, and toe areas to be unaffected by wearing them. This way, the ballet slippers or pointe shoes are still in contact with the floor in the same way they would be without the leg warmers.


The following are a few of our favorite legwarmers for ballet and dance! Click on an image to go straight to the store to buy them. All links are affiliate which means if you choose to buy them you are helping to support Danceparent 101 at no extra cost to you!


When buying legwarmers for kids, you want them to stay up and in place. You do not want either end or opening to be too wide.

The main thing you are looking for are legwarmers that are not going to constantly fall down and distract your dancer!

It is usually also best to not buy leg warmers with stirrups as if they are not placed correctly in the arch of the foot, they can be lumpy and hurt or annoy young dancers.

These ones from Dancewear Solutions come in adult and kids sizes and can be bought in pink, grey, or black. They can be worn scrunched down like this or stretched up over the knee for a more streamlined look!


These thigh-high legwarmers from Dancewear Solutions are perfect for dancers and come in both pink and black.

We love that the stirrup for older dancers meaning they can go over your dance shoes.

But what we think is one of the better qualities is that they are not bulky meaning your teacher will not immediately be asking you to take them off!

These particular ones only come in black or pink – but honestly, they are the main two colors you need anyway!

These fun legwarmers are sold by Capezio on Amazon. They are thin so they don’t restrict movement when worn thigh-high.

Apart from the fun colors, what we love about them is that if you want, you can get a scrunched and fuller look by wearing them below the knee which isn’t too bulky!

Do you wear socks with legwarmers?

You do not generally wear socks with legwarmers, unless, this is what you prefer to wear with your dance shoes. Legwarmers usually go over the top of dance tights or even bare feet and legs.

If you wear socks with them without dance shoes you might find socks do not give you enough traction, depending on what surface you’re dancing on.

Bloch sells a dance sock called blochsox however, always exercise caution when doing any turns out jumps. It’s a good idea to test them first with some smaller movements to make sure you aren’t going to slip.

When did leg warmers go out of style?

Leg warmers went out of mainstream fashion style after the 80s, but they have always been worn by dancers and ballerinas in dance class.

Leg warmers have bounced on and off of the trend train several times, and will probably continue to do so as time goes on (yikes). Like many other fashion fads, they seem to be on the every 20ish year comeback cycle, reemerging with a swift kick of energy for a few years, then just as quickly being ushered out by the sound of in coming bell-bottoms, or some other reappearing fad.

Leg warmers are considered somewhat of a staple of 1980s fashion, which was perhaps bolstered by things like the movie and show Fame, and by people like Jane Fonda in her aerobic exercise programs.

Eventually, people were even wearing them over their jeans, which in retrospect (pun intended), was a bit much.

Being fashionable is fine, but not when you’re sitting in Math class, dripping sweat onto your trapper keeper because, even though you wore a sweater over your turtle neck, with long socks under hi-tops and pegged jeans, you felt the need to add those rainbow, knee-high leg warmers over top —because it would look totally rad.

Are leg warmers in style at the moment?

Leg warmers are always in style for dancers and ballerinas!

In mainstream fashion they are a staple of the Japanese Anime Manga or the Harajuku aesthetic.

Vogue will regularly do articles on the leg warmer and how they are currently worn in mainstream fashion. Most recently they wrote about how tik tokers are making a statement wearing them in this article here.

Can leg warmers improve circulation?

Yes, leg warmers are used by various types of athletes and dancers to keep the legs warm, as well as offer slight compression —both of which improve circulation.

Good circulation is necessary for preventing various types of injuries, arthritis, tendonitis and for keeping soft tissues and joints working at their optional levels.

If you are after a pair of legwarmers that can be used specifically for compression why not check some of the following from out! Some are specifically for the knees – but these too can help dancers if needed!

What can you use instead of leg warmers?

If you don’t have leg warmers, you can use a pair of socks, by simply cutting the toe area off.

Another option is to cut the ends off the sleeves of an old sweater. Of course, if you have the time and ability, there’s always the option of knitting them yourself.

How do you make leg warmers?

Leg warmers are usually knitted or crocheted from wool or a synthetic material that imitates wool.

Manufactured legwarmers usually include spandex or another similar material that has an elastic quality to ensure the legwarmers stay up and in place.

If you don’t know how to knit or crotchet, or don’t have the time, some people cut them from socks or sweaters, or just sew them together from a stretchy material. 

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