How Do I Choose the Best Pilates Shoes?

C. Mitchell

Choosing Pilates shoes is largely a matter of personal taste and comfort, because shoes are rarely required for Pilates practice. Participants almost always engage in exercises barefoot or in socks. Some people prefer to wear shoes, either as a means of better gripping the Pilates mat or as a way to keep their feet from getting cold. Foot and ankle rotation is an important part of most Pilates instruction, however, which makes finding the right shoe essential. Look for something that is flexible, lightweight and leaves your ankle free.

Shoes are rarely used during Pilates.
Shoes are rarely used during Pilates.

The majority of the Pilates shoes on the market closely resemble ballet slippers; they usually are very minimalist, made of pliable leather or elastic and attach with only the simplest straps or ties. Still, there are many varieties, which makes choosing the pair that is best for you largely a matter of fit, comfort and — of course — price. It usually is a good idea to do a bit of research before making your selection. If you have a regular Pilates instructor, start by asking for his or her advice. Professionals often have inside knowledge of Pilates supplies and can give you an informed recommendation.

A Pilates instructor should be able to assist a student in choosing the best Pilates shoes.
A Pilates instructor should be able to assist a student in choosing the best Pilates shoes.

Different Pilates shoes are optimized for different things. The simplest shoes are often little more than sturdy socks, although most come with grips on the bottom that can help your feet stay stable on the mat, making some stretches and poses easier. Shoes that are designed to be used on reformers or other Pilates equipment are often a bit more dense. They are often made of rubber or other material that is tough but still retains flexibility. More specialized shoes come with weighted soles to provide added resistance during leg work, although these usually are not recommended for casual practice.

Whether your foot can move comfortably is perhaps the most important question to ask when choosing Pilates shoes. Unlike most ordinary shoes, shoes optimized for Pilates should not have to be broken in. They should be comfortable the moment you slip them on for the first time. Pinching, tightness or stiffness are all signs that you should try a different size or style. You should choose a Pilates shoe that is attractive and that you will enjoy wearing, but if the fit is improper, your whole workout could suffer.

Cost is a final consideration for many shoe shoppers. Depending on the materials that were used to make the shoe and the perceived prestige of the brand, the price on what is otherwise a simple slipper might be exorbitant. It usually is a good idea to shop around and look into more than just the mainstream manufacturers if price is a concern for you. It also is important to keep in mind that shoes need not be marked specifically as Pilates shoes to serve your needs. Looking in the dance or warm-up sections of your shoe store might lead you to lower-cost alternatives that will work just as well.

The majority of Pilates shoes closely resemble ballet slippers.
The majority of Pilates shoes closely resemble ballet slippers.

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