What type of shoe is best suited for tai chi practice? That is the million dollar question. The wrong shoe could inhibit your form, making it difficult to turn or pivot and possibly even lead to knee problems. The right shoe will help you connect to the Earth, pivot on one leg and twist easily without knee strain. So how do we pick the right shoe? I can tell you it is not that easy. Through the years I have tried many different shoes, dozens of shoes. Many have served me well in one aspect or another. Many lead me to believe they were the one, until my hopes were shattered when discomfort set in. At this point, I think I have compiled enough experience on the subject to offer you a few tips and possibly save you some time and frustration.
Floor surface is an important factor in shoe choice. For example, almost any shoe will pivot nicely in the soft grass. Bare feet work nicely on soft matted floors. Since most of my practice is done in the studio, I am going to focus this article on shoe features that work best when practicing tai chi indoors on a hardwood surface.
“Comfort” is the most important feature. Seems like a given, but you would be amazed at the number of people who try hard to make an uncomfortable shoe work because they are certain this particular shoe is going to be the best tai chi shoe ever. I have been there, just let it go.
The second most important feature,” Flat Soles”. I am talking about real flat soles with no tread, like boat shoes. Flat soles help you connect to the ground and really feel the Earth. You definitely want to avoid shoes with heals or heavy tread.
Tied for third are “Light Weight” and “Flexibility”. I have practiced in heavy shoes. Let someone else lift their legs and kick with heavy shoes. Flexible shoes help you move through the transitions smoothly. Both of these features help your connection to the Earth.
Fourth is “Durability”. Good luck finding a shoe that fits all the other categories and lasts.
I like shoes that breathe and thought about including that in the list, but decided it’s probably just my own preference. I prefer my dog’s to be well ventilated, rather than hot and moist.
Currently, my personal favorite shoe for tai chi is the Rata Vulc by Van’s (pictured). These shoes are very comfortable, lightweight and flexible and seem to be holding up after several months of tai chi practice.
Hopefully this article has provided you with some good information to help you choose a good shoe for your tai chi practice. Happy shoe shopping!