A couple of weeks ago I took a trip to Chinatown in NYC for a late night snack. After a great meal at Wo Hop Chinese Food restauarant, I decided to browse some of the local tourist shops for a pair of Tai Chi Shoes. I wanted a pair of tai chi shoes I could use when I practice tai chi on a smooth wooden floor. I was looking to purchase a pair of the traditional tai chi shoes with the plastic sole. I walked into the first store I found that visibly carried tai chi shoes and asked the woman working in the store if they had a pair in my size. I told her my shoe size, the shoes she sold were sized with a much higher numbering system then we are used to in the US. The clerk opened a cabinet which contained a large amount of tai chi shoes. She rummaged through quite a few pair for me to try on.
After a few tries I found my size in the traditional plastic bottom sole tai chi shoe. I then noticed mixed into the pile of shoes she was digging through a pair with cotton bottoms. This pair looked to me to be a better quality tai chi shoe, they even had a slight cushion to the sole. It was relatively late at night and the clerk mentioned that the store would be closing any minute. I had to make a quick decision so I purchased what was the seemingly better quality traditional tai chi shoe with the cotton bottom and then headed home.
First thing the next morning I decided to try out my new tai chi shoes. I put them on and they felt very comfortable. When I began practicing my tai chi form it felt like my feet were sliding out from under me. The whole time I felt like I was just trying not to slip. Maybe they just need some time to get used to. In my opinion these cotton bottom tai chi shoes were way too slippery to use on a smooth wooden surface.
*Update: On December 19, 2015, I took another trip to Chinatown and visited the same store to buy a pair of plastic bottom Tai Chi shoes. I am size 10.5 US and fit into a size 45 comfortably. I ended up paying $12.00 for the pair. I knew I was slightly overpaying but it was late at night and I didn’t want to shop around.
I left the store and walked around Chinatown a little stumbling upon another store that sold Kung Fu and Tai Chi supplies. I asked “Do you sell these shoes here?” the merchant replied “Yes, they are $7.00 a pair. If you shop around you can get the best price.
The next morning I tried the shoes out and found the flat plastic sole Tai Chi shoes were perfect for use on a hard wood floor. The Tai Chi shoes slide and grip the floor equally well. I may have paid a little extra but I am definitely happy with my choice.