A lot of us started out using those black cloth shoes with the thin brown rubber soles from China. I also used to use the ones with layered cloth soles. I experimented with similar shoes with slightly thicker soles. The first time I saw Yang Zhenduo and Yang Jun in the gym at Hood College in Maryland, I was very interested in the fact that Yang Zhenduo was wearing running shoes Ė Nikes I think Ė and Yang Jun was wearing rubber tennis shoes from China. I immediately started wearing more substantial shoes myself. The first ones I found were the Adidas Gazelle. I believe they were intended to be soccer shoes. They had wide toes, a very flat sole with rubber bottom and no tread pattern at all. This made them ideal for practicing on less-than-ideal surfaces, such as carpeting. I wore them happily for a few years and then the company discontinued them. Another shoe that came out from Adidas called Campus was very similar to the Gazelle except that it had a tread pattern, which made it less successful for taiji on rugs; it wasnít bad on hard flooring or outside surfaces such as cement or asphalt. I wore that until they discontinued it. This year the only descendant of the Gazelle shape I could find was Adidas Superstar. Itís a somewhat clunky-looking leather basketball shoe with a rubber top to the toe. The sole is just like the Campus.
Dave Barrett has been wearing the low-topped Jack Purcell model canvas tennis shoes made in the USA by Converse for many years and recommended them to me. Last year I came across a pair in a local mall and tried them. They are very much the old-fashioned sneaker of my youth in the sixties. Made of vulcanized rubber and canvas, they lack some of the cushy comfort of leather tennies like Adidas, Reebok etc. Their crowning virtue is a flat rubber sole with no tread pattern which tames even the stickiest rug. The biggest problem with these has been availability. After that first pair, I never saw them again in any shoestore. Recently, poking around on the web, I found the Converse site, www.converse.com which has a very cool searchable database of retail outlets carrying each product. They also had a link to a mail order place in North Carolina called American Athletics: www.americanfootware.com. You can order from the site but they donít have secure server, so I called their toll free number 1-888-CHUCKS1 and ordered two pairs of Jack Purcells. Including shipping the two pair cost $84, that is $42 each. I received them via UPS in exactly one week. 4/25/00 Note: they now have secure server
How about you? What shoes work for practicing taiji? Let me know by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I will post your answers here.
I have been studying and teaching t'ai chi for a while now and have gone through a number of different shoes. I had started with several models of Nike crosstrainers. They gave me plenty of support and comfort. The sole designs were bothersome on certain surfaces, yet I originally trained in a studio with a hardwood floor and had no problem there. Last summer I still had the Nike crosstrainers for when the classes were held outside at a local park. We had the option of using the brick paved sidewalk (with difficulty spinning) or using the grassy area. The crosstrainers overall are good for outside. When class is inside, I have either been using a pair of Asics wrestling shoes or going barefooted. The school floor is covered mostly with firm rubber/foam mats. Going barefoot challenges my balance yet increases leg strength and balance. This is not for everyone and I don't generally recommend it. The Asics wrestling shoes are good to use. They give plenty of support with the high ankle collar. They are a flat soled shoe that allow me to get a good feel of the ground beneath me. Be careful of which model you use; some have a sole design that is more conducive to our needs of movement/footwork with the t'ai chi forms. I hope this information is helpful to you.
Michael R. Coulon
I enjoyed your shoe fetish article. My personal preference? Well, I still like the old Chinese cloth shoes, but the quality of these is not what it used to be; the elastic that holds them on seems to wear out right away. So for some time I've been wearing Airwalks, a model called "Squads" with a nice flat profile, soft black suede uppers, a minimal tread pattern, and comfortable cotton lining. They seem to last forever.
I just loved your shoes thoughts. Here in Brazil we have all kinds of shoes, but there is a national industry making the Traditional Chinese cloth shoes in a very nice way, good quality and very comfortable. I think practicing Tai Chi we should have a contact with the earth and our soles should be feeling the ground. In such a way, we get balanced by also this contact with the earth. By now this is the one I buy every year.. Soft, and comfortable. Sometimes using too much, it smells a little bit, but it's part of nature isn't it?
Yang Chengfu Tai Chi Chuan Center - Brasil Maria Angela Soci - diretora www.sbtcc.org.br
Way back in the 60's and 70's I used to wear Jack Purcell shoes exclusively to play four-wall handball, tennis, and other racquet sports, because with their flat soles they allowed you to slide your feet very precisely that last inch or so as you addressed a shot in order to get into the best possible position for it. Alas, when I wore out my last pair about 20 years ago, Jack Purcells seemed to have become as extinct as the dinosaurs. Although these days I no longer try to bang balls around courts any more (being now somewhat aged and but a tattered thing), I have had reason to continue to mourn those old shoes. Because these days I try to do Tai Chi Chuan instead (which is much better!), and I have always thought that Jack Purcells would be the ideal shoes for Tai Chi Chuan. But I didn't have any, of course. So I was stunned by your wonderful 03/10/2000 note on the Yang Family web page. Jack Purcells live! And right now, this very minute, I have on my old feet a gorgeous, brand new pair of them. They just arrived this morning from americanfootware.com. as per your note. I have done two reps in them already, am about to do my third. They are perfect!! Thank you, thank you, thank you,
... was thinking about your question with sneakers and decided I could not help. You see my sneakers have to match my outfit. Until I broke my foot in the summer of '98 that was all I was concerned with. Now, I have a pair for the morning, another for the evening, one for hard floors such as concrete and one soft floors such as carpet or wood, and finally,other pairs for hot and cold weather. Now comfort has become my priority. I liked it better when it was for looks. Why? The sneakers only cost about $10 at Pay-Less. Now, I even have 2 pairs of the same shoes one for left-foot and one for right-foot.
I practice at home on a carpeted floor (low pile) and have for some time worn inexpensive running shoes (usually $30 cloth Reeboks) with soles worn smooth. (I keep my old shoes, referring to them as my "inside shoes" and never wearing them outside because the soles are so thin.) My heels are relatively thin and the cushioned heels and arch supports of the running shoes seem to provide more stability than bare feet. (Though, I believe that to some degree, the low-pile carpet helps with stability because it "cradles" the foot, shod or bare.)
I have long wondered about shoes, so enjoyed reading your discussion (Master Yang Zhen Duo's Nikes had captured my eye also.)
I've appreciated your shoe article as well as the various responses from other tai chi practitioners. The kind of shoes we wear is the subject of many a conversation among our group! Personally, I've tried a few different kinds including the black cloth shoes with both rubber and cord soles, the Jack Purcells you mentioned in your article, and various cross trainers (mainly my old worn-out shoes). The Reebok Classic Exertion Lo that I'm currently wearing have proven to be my favorites. The uppers are leather and there is good support. The problem I had with the cloth shoes and the Jack Purcells is that they didn't have the support I need. Also, my foot slid too much inside the Jack Purcells. The soles of the Exertion cross trainers are pretty much flat and are made of a harder rubber so they are good in the turns. And, there is adequate cushioning for standing those longer hours during seminars. I bought mine at Sports Authority, and I've seen them at other sporting good stores ($45-55). They are made for both men and women.
Well, that's my contribution to the shoe discussion. Thanks again for starting this dialogue!
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