Shoes for Taiji
The feet are the foundation of the physical body. Any weight-bearing exercise program--including taiji--should begin with assessing your foot health, getting your feet into shape, and finding shoes that will promote foot health. And yet in western culture, the feet are the most abused and misunderstood part of the body. This makes no sense. Allowing your feet to function up to their full potential will improve your balance and your ability to do taiji set up to your full potential.
Foot Health Information
For those of you that are interested in learning more about foot health, the education section of the Natural Footgear website is a great place to start. It has a very comprehensive, well organized collection of articles by health care professionals and excellent short videos by podiatrist Dr. Ray McClanahan. They also sell selected shoes from several companies that feel they can recommend. The site is run by a naturopathic physician and a chiropractor.
If you are interested in learning more about the functioning of the feet and foot health, I highly recommend The Barefoot Book by Daniel Howell, PhD This is a very clear, concise look at how the feet work and the body mechanics of walking. There is also a lot of information about shoes that are bad for and good for your feet.
Below are some resources for finding good shoes.
Xero Shoes Their Z-trek sandals and Prio athletic shoes are the one's I (Jen Kano) wear for taiji. They also sell huarache sandal kits which are a great way to get health-promoting footwear at a fraction of the cost of ready-made. And it's an easy, fun do it yourself project.
Lems Shoes Their Primal 2's are a good choice of taiji. They are very flexible and have a nice wide toe box.
Softstar Shoes This company makes all their shoes by hand in the US. Because of this they are more expensive than shoes by Xero and Lems, but they do make great shoes.
Making your own huarache sandals (cheap)
Not so sure about this minimalist shoe thing? You can make your own very inexpensively to give it a try. All you need is a pair of cheap zori (flip-flops) and some polyester cord. You can get suitable zori (make sure the soles are nice and flexible) at Walmart for 98 cents a pair and some 5/32" paracord for a few dollars at either Walmart or Michaels. Cut the uppers off the zori and use the existing holes to add your own laces. Lacing instruction videos can be found at Xero Shoes. It's easy and fun--give it a whirl.