Finding the Perfect Tai Chi Shoes
A few weeks back, I traveled to Chinatown in New York City. I intended to get a late-night snack. Following a great meal at Wo Hop Chinese Food restaurant, I decided to check out some nearby tourist stores in search of a pair of Tai Chi Shoes. Specifically, I was looking for shoes I could use when practicing Tai Chi on a smooth wooden surface. I wanted the classic Tai Chi shoes with plastic soles.
I spotted a store that carried Tai Chi shoes. I walked in and inquired if they had my size. I explained to the store attendant that the Tai Chi shoes she had on sale were sized using a different numbering system than what I was used to in the US. The store attendant then opened a cabinet full of Tai Chi shoes and looked through several pairs for me to try on.
A Slippery Situation
I tried on a few pairs of shoes. I finally found the right size in the traditional plastic-bottomed Tai Chi shoe. While the store attendant was sifting through the cabinet full of shoes, I saw a pair with cotton soles that appeared to be of superior quality. The soles even had a slight cushioning to them. Since the store was closing soon, I had to make a swift decision, so I went ahead and purchased the seemingly better quality Tai Chi shoes with the cotton bottom before leaving for home. However, I lived more than fifty miles from New York City.
The next day, I put on my new Tai Chi shoes and found them quite comfortable. But when I began practicing my Tai Chi form, I immediately felt like my feet were slipping from under me. I struggled to maintain my balance and tried to prevent myself from sliding. While it's possible that I just needed time to get used to them, I feel these cotton-bottomed Tai Chi shoes were much too slippery to use on a smooth wooden surface.
As an update, on December 19, 2015, I returned to Chinatown in NYC and revisited the same store to purchase a pair of plastic-bottomed Tai Chi shoes. I wear a size 10.5 US and found that size 45 fit me comfortably. I ended up paying $12.00 for the pair, and although I knew I might be paying slightly more, I didn't want to waste time shopping around since it was late at night.
Choosing the Right Tai Chi Shoe
I left the store and walked around Chinatown a little more. I found another store that sold Kung Fu and Martial Arts supplies. I asked, "do you sell Tai Chi shoes here?" the merchant replied, "Yes, they are $7.00 a pair." If you shop around, you may get a better price.
The next day, I put the shoes to the test. The traditional flat plastic sole Tai Chi shoes were perfect for use on a hardwood floor. The plastic bottom Tai Chi shoes slide and grip the floor very well. I am happy with my choice even though I paid a little extra. Cotton bottom Tai Chi shoes are for carpets. Traditional plastic bottom Tai Chi shoes are for both carpeting and pavement.
In summary, my most used and worn pair of Tai Chi shoes is the rubber bottom shoe. Second is my pair of white Kung Fu shoes, and my least used and almost brand new Tai Chi shoe is my cotton-bottom Tai Chi shoe. My favorite would be a slip-on Kung Fu shoe without laces.
Do you practice Tai Chi on carpeting, concrete, or hardwood? That is the question you should ask yourself.
When choosing a Tai Chi shoe, choose a pair that fits your need.
If you don't live near Chinatown in NYC or a Martial Arts store, you can conveniently buy Tai Chi shoes by using the affiliate links on this page, which will support Tai Chi Daily at no extra cost. As an Amazon Affiliate, I receive compensation for qualifying purchases.
I just stumbled upon your post, because I live in NYC, do taiji, and Googled stores in Chinatown that sell taiji shoes. Usually on a wooden floor I do taiji barefoot or in cotton tabi. Outdoors I’ve been wearing leather moccasins that recently developed a large hole in the sole, so they’ll have to be replaced. They’ve been great because they’re perfectly flat. But if there are leaves outdoors, that too makes leather soles slippery, which is why I started doing taiji barefoot. It’s really much easier to balance barefoot, indoors or outdoors, but I’m concerned about sticking to a wooden floor when doing movements that require a 360 degree spin—-it feels hard on the knees when barefoot. I echo your concerns about cloth soles being slippery indoors. Sometimes my tabi feel slippery too, so I shorten my stance. My new taiji teacher mentioned the other day that if you get the cloth soles taiji shoes wet when they are new, then wear them outdoors all day, they will develop a patina on the sole that prevents slipperiness. So you may yet find a use for those cloth soles taiji slippers…