Do you need shoes for Pilates?

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shoes for pilates

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Pilates is a great way to improve your strength and mobility, but are you prepared with the right footwear for the job?  Do you even need shoes for Pilates?

Shoes are not always necessary for Pilates as it is usually performed barefoot or with socks. However, if you have foot issues or require extra support, you can wear shoes with a flat and flexible sole. It is recommended to consult with a Pilates instructor before wearing shoes during a class.

Wearing special shoes for Pilates workouts can provide many benefits that can help enhance your performance. In this article, we’ll explain why it might be beneficial to invest in appropriate shoes for Pilates and look at some different types of footwear available. 

Do You Need Special Shoes for Pilates?

In general Pilates is practiced on a mat, indoors, and so shoes aren’t required. Grippy socks are a better option in this situation, but what if you want to take advantage of the beautiful weather and do Pilates outdoors?

In this situation, if you’ve got a mat you can practice outdoors the same you would indoors, with bare feet.

However, as some moves require you to take your feet off the mat, you may prefer to practice with shoes on, to project your feet from any sharpe stones or other items.  Shoes might also be required if you’re using a thinner yoga mat as any small stones will be easily felt through the thin material.

As mentioned, a pair of grippy socks would be my general recommendation. These special socks provide much better grip on the mat and help you keep your balance during various exercises, however they don’t offer much additional protection should your feet have to go off the mat.

Regular sports shoes, designed for running, walking or general exercise are a good choice. While these might be comfortable and offer some support, they are not necessarily designed with Pilates exercises in mind.

Some clients prefer to wear shoes when using Pilates equipment such as the reformer machine.  I prefer barefoot or non-slip Pilates socks, but everyone is different in what workout clothing they feel most comfortable in.

I tend to find shoes can feel bulky and prefer not to wear them, but it’ll depend on your location and if that’s going to be a problem for your feet.

Benefits of Wearing Shoes for Pilates

If you are in a situation where you’re wearing shoes you should benefit from extra stability and grip when performing various exercises and movements when not on a mat.  Shoes also offer support for your feet and ankles, very handy if you’re practising on a loose surface.

And of course shoes are designed with cushioning in mind. This cushioning helps to absorb shock from  any jumping exercises or where your feet land hard on the ground. 

Disadvantages of Wearing Shoes for Pilates

There are actually some disadvantages to doing so. 

Decreased foot flexibility – Wearing shoes during Pilates can decrease foot flexibility. Pilates exercises often require the feet to move and flex, but shoes can limit this movement. 

Decreased balance – Shoes can also decrease balance during Pilates exercises. The soles of shoes can grip the mat, making it harder to slide or pivot during movements. This can lead to decreased balance and stability, which can increase the risk of injury.

Decreased sensory feedback – When you wear shoes during Pilates, you lose some of the sensory feedback from your feet. This feedback is important for balance and coordination, and can help you better engage your muscles during exercises. Without this feedback, you may not be getting the full benefits of your Pilates workout.

In conclusion, while it may seem more comfortable or convenient to wear shoes during Pilates, there are actually some significant disadvantages to doing so.

So unless you absolutely have to wear shoes, go barefoot or wear grip socks instead. 

Final Thoughts

I never wear shoes while doing Pilates unless I absolutely have to.  I always tell those in my Pilates class it’s better to be bearfoot or wear grip socks, don’t use regular socks as they’re often very slippy.

Pilates socks are comfortable, lightweight and as they’re non-slip socks they reduce the potential risk of injury.

It’s important to wear comfortable clothing that allows you to move freely, so it is best to avoid baggy clothing and opt for form-fitting items instead.  Want more clothing advice?  Check out my article on the clothes to wear to Pilates.

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