I am 5'4" tall. Really. That is how tall I am. It is also how I write that in an essay. ☺ Saying "5 feet, 4 inches" is also correct but the symbol method is clearer since it's how we usually write measurements.
However, if it's a technical or scientific essay then it needs to be standardized to inches and centimeters (for accuracy and widest audience) so I'd say: