Copyrights Dr Paul Lam. All rights reserved, photocopy for non-profit educational purpose is permitted (for example free copy to give to your paid student is permitted).
What should I wear to practice Tai Chi? A simple answer is loose, comfortable clothes and flat shoes. To expand on that:
Clothing For Normal Practice
Cotton is the best type of clothing to wear for everyday practice because it allows your skin to breath and absorbs sweat. It is convenient to dress in layers because in winter, it can be cold but when you practice, you can work up a sweat. You might need to take some clothes off. In summer, you might get overheated. Again, you can remove a layer. But remember, if you are overheated; avoid practicing in a windy area. And when you practice in a colder area, put on a light jacket. After your practice do not subject yourself to extreme change of temperature quickly, for example if you are hot and sweating, do not go to a very cool and windy place, cool down gradually.
Your clothes should be loose and comfortable. While clothing such as leotards might allow your body to move freely, such clothing is not suitable for Tai Chi. In Tai Chi because mobilizing the Qi is an important goal. Qi travels along its meridians (energy channels), which are close to the surface of the skin, so clothing that stick tightly to the skin such as leotards hinders the flow of Qi. Also avoid tight elastic around your waist and legs because, again, this might restrict the flow of Qi.
The ideal practice shoes should:
1. Feel very comfortable and flexible.
2. Be light, with thin sole.
3. Have broad base support in the sole to help you balance.
4. Have shock absorbent pads in the sole to minimize injury.
Lace-up shoes like the martial art shoes, for example Adidas or Prospect martial art shoes, can be suitable, although they are not designed for Tai Chi practice, and they don't offer good base support or shock absorbance. Shoes specifically designed for Tai Chi are needed. In recent years, many martial art shops sell practice shoes made in China. Some of them are well made and reasonably priced. Do take time to check for quality and try them out carefully with the above four points in mind.
Some people like to practice in bare feet. For others, it might be difficult. Shoes give you good support and enhance balance. Sometimes the ground might be uneven or dirty. Also, if your feet get cold, it could impede the flow of Qi. For people with diabetes, good shoes are essential because any injury to the foot can be very difficult to heal and might lead to serious infection