Michael Jackson and His Gravity-defying Shoes...
When Michael Jackson did the epic 45-degree lean in the video for “Smooth Criminal” it completely blew everyone’s minds, so he wanted to recreate the dance routine in his live performances on tour. Realizing that it would be a bit more difficult to attach wires while performing live, the MJ developed a special shoe to accomplish this maneuver.
Jackson and two co-inventors developed a hitching mechanism that was built into the floor of the stage and the performers’ shoes, thereby allowing performers to lean without needing to keep their centers of gravity directly over their feet.
The system consists of pegs that rise from the stage at the appropriate moment and special shoes with ankle supports and cutouts in the heels which can slide over the pegs and be temporarily attached to the stage. Along with the two co-inventors, in 1993, Michael Jackson was granted a U.S. patent for the magic shoe.
So, the shoes were working great, and everybody thought Michael Jackson was defying gravity. But it was not until, September 1996 during a concert in Moscow when one of the heels came loose from its peg and MJ went flying (but not in a good way) on the stage.
The broken shoe and its twin brother ended up in the possession of the Hard Rock Cafe in Moscow and remained there until after Jackson’s death. The superhero’s shoes were sold at auction for a whopping $600,000.
In the patent, it is stated that the illusion in the music video was achieved by means of harnesses and cables which had to be connected to and disconnected from the floor by stagehands.
It’s a claim that is inconsistent with the footage itself in which shiny objects resembling pegs later used in live performances appear from underneath the dancers’ shoes as the illusion is concluded.