I’m frequently asked for a recommendation for the best shoes to wear for tai chi practice and training. When considering a shoe there are two main points to consider. First, the foot should not be elevated at the heel. This eliminates most cross-training shoes from consideration due to their considerable heel cushioning. Second, you should be able to feel the ground with the soles of your feet. Choose a shoe with a thinner sole, rather than a thicker one.
These days, choices abound. Within the past few years the “barefoot running” movement has gained much traction in the community. Barefoot runners choose a shoe that leaves very little between their feet and the ground. This strengthens the foot and allows for natural movement. Tai Chi practitioners benefit as well due to the ideal construction of these shoes.
Brands such as Merrell, Brooks, Vivo, and New Balance offer barefoot running and walking shoes with the features that we’re looking for in a shoe. Local running and sporting goods stores carry them, but you can also find them online at major shoe retailers. Some of these are made for the trail, some for running and some for daily wear. It’s best to try them on if you can.
If these shoes are new to you, please give your feet a chance to get used to them – I don’t recommend wearing them all day long to start – build up to it. I think that you’ll find that this type shoe will do a nice job of letting you feel the ground while enhancing your stability and balance.