The Elusive Tai Chi Shoe

Be with a group of Tai Chi people for even a short time and the conversation will inevitably move round to running shoes. To those not involved we would seem to be either extremely boring or just plain mad but finding the perfect Tai Chi shoe for most of us is as elusive as the Holy Grail.

Recently I did it again! I bought a pair of runners, which I wore a couple of times and now donít like. I have to admit this isnít the first time. My incredibly tolerant husband, Fred, muttered something about Emelda Marcos and then something about a pile of runners breeding like rabbits.

So what is the perfect runner? Does it exist? Since there doesnít seem to be a style that suits everybody, we are all on an individual quest to find out own Holy Grail in runners.

Well it seems to me that there are three styles to choose from. Many of us have tried all three and still vacillate among them.

First we have the slim line version, classic Tai Chi shoe offering no support, no heel and an ideal sole with a circular pattern. Many of us have tried them and love their lightness and the connectedness we feel to the floor but, the big but, find we have great difficulty balancing in a kick when under pressure.

Next there is the "big brother" type tennis/cross trainer runner. These have a built up sole offering super ankle/arch support, a bit of a heel and an amazing array of sole patterns. They can feel bulky and make you feel a bit disconnected with the floor.


The third style is somewhere in between. The sole is flatter more like a regular shoe; the upper can be both "shoe" style and runner. They can take a bit of getting used to as far a balance goes as they often offer less support than their big cross trainer type brothers.


Deciding which style you want is probably a good first step in the elimination process we seem to go through. Some issues worth considering would be:

  • the degree of arch/ankle support you feel you need
  • the amount of heel your leg and back muscles are used to Ė switching to a lower heel may give you mysterious aches and pains caused a change in posture
  • the flexibility of the sole and the degree of connectedness you feel with the floor, both of which you can lose a certain amount of when choosing a style that offers greater support when balancing in a kick, one of those "trade off" dilemmas
  • the amount of flexibility the uppers allow your ankle especially when doing a low crouch move like Snake Creeps Down

Once you have settled on style you are not through the maze yet!

There are still so many to choose from. The first thing I do is inspect the sole; too much grip is hard in the knees. I have taken to the sole of a poor unsuspecting runner with and electric sander to take off offending sticking out bits with great success! Then for the sake of your clubís floor look for non-marking soles. Then I look for arch and ankle support that is enough without being too restrictive. Many years ago I bought a pair of runners which, long ago were relegated to the increasing "gardening class" but the inner soles live on in immortality passing through numerous sets of runners (Fred says 42 or is that the "meaning of Life Ė certainly an exaggeration?!).

Of course the big thing is comfort. While trying then on I have found it worthwhile embarrassing anyone you are with by trying out a few moves. Some walking shoes tip you forward as soon as you take your weight forward which could make things interesting.

There are many shoes around that donít lace up the front other than a lace at the top. These donít allow you to tighten them as the leather stretches. Some people love these shoes because they look very neat and tidy and give a slap kick a super sound!

Cost is one thing that seems not to guarantee anything. More expensive shoes are not necessarily longer lasting or better. Only a few styles of shoes seem to be evergreens and available year after year. If one of these suits you are very lucky because your search is ended!!! Unfortunately most styles seem to last six months or just short of when you are ready to buy a new pair. One wonders if there is a conspiracy at work just to make you go through the whole process of elimination all over again!

Like crusaders seeking the Holy Grail, the search for the perfect runner will no doubt be a perpetual quest and will remain a gigantically boring topic of conversation to the uninitiated. But we will never run out of rejects for gardening!!!!!!!

Si Jie Chris Everett
Golden Lion Academy
Berwick, Victoria
03 9796 1066



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