Yoga is most commonly performed barefoot, but there are a number of situations in which a person might want yoga shoes. If you’re in the market for yoga footwear, we have plenty of suggestions for you!
Can you wear shoes while doing yoga? Sure! Although yoga shoes are still uncommon to see in the yoga studio, they are growing in popularity, as both men and women purchase them for use at home and in public places.
If you’re wondering which are the best yoga shoes for women, or which men’s yoga shoes are the most durable, that depends on several factors. You’ll need to take into account your shoe size, how often you perform yoga, and the reasons why you want footwear in the first place.
Let’s talk about why folks wear yoga footwear, and then we’ll give you a list of the best yoga shoes on the market right now.
Reasons For Wearing Yoga Shoes
Why would someone prefer to wear shoes while performing yoga? We can think of a few situations where it makes total sense.
Perhaps they feel their feet slide around too much on the mat when they sweat while barefoot, and they want shoes to add some traction. Maybe they’re performing yoga in a non-traditional setting, such as a public park, where shoes might feel safer since you never know what’s in that grass.
Some folks with flat feet find that yoga shoes with arch support can help their practice, while others with medical issues such as plantar fasciitis prefer the solid support of a shoe. Some tough-guy athletes might feel more comfortable wearing shoes since they’re used to wearing footwear during situps and pushups, and that’s what feels natural.
And maybe some folks just have a thing about feet, and don’t like to expose them in public. Hey, we’re not here to judge! Whatever your reasons, we’re here to find the best footwear for you.
Different Types of Yoga Footwear
We’ve already written about yoga socks, which can be useful for folks who have many of the concerns discussed above. However, socks don’t provide the level of traction or arch support that some yogis want from a shoe.
What kind of shoes can you wear for yoga? There are a couple of different styles. There’s the “five fingers” design of shoe that has individual toe holes. Then there’s the soft footwear like watershoes. And finally, there are more traditional tennis shoes that offer greater support.
One note: There actually aren’t that many shoes that are manufactured and marketed as “yoga shoes.” You’ll find that most of the footwear that is appropriate for yoga was actually created for something else, such as ballet, dancing, walking, or water shoes.
The main qualities in good yoga shoes are being flexible, supportive, and comfortable. Also important: Some level of breathability, and good traction, so that you’re not sliding around on your mat. Lots of shoes have these qualities, even if they’re not specifically “yoga shoes.”
Top Yoga Shoes for Women: Vibram Five Fingers V-Soul Cross Training Yoga Shoe
Vibram makes a bunch of different versions of lightweight footwear that can be worn anywhere, from the water to the yoga studio. The Vibram Five Fingers V-Soul Cross Training Yoga Shoe is perfect for yoga or pilates. It covers the toes while exposing most of the foot, so you’ll barely notice that you’re wearing it.
Currently available in black or lavender, the Vibram Five Fingers model has a velcro strap that secures so you can get the exact fit you want in terms of tightness. These shoes are great for walking too, as long as you break them in first so they adjust to your feet.
Another Great Women’s Shoe: Vibram VI-B Fitness and Yoga Shoes
The Vibram VI-B Fitness and Yoga Shoes are similar to the V-Soul, except these are slip on yoga shoes without a velcro strap. They’re also made of mesh across the foot and toes, which gives your skin more breathability than the V-Soul.
This shoe has a 2mm sole sockliner, so it’s about as lightweight as you can possibly imagine. The grip on the bottom of the shoe is fantastic, which will serve you well whether you’re wearing them for yoga or walking around the neighborhood. And they’re easy to clean – just pop them in the washing machine on cold!
Soft Slip On Yoga Shoes: FitKicks for Men and Women
FitKicks refers to their slip on yoga shoes as “athleisure” shoes, because they work great for athletic endeavors or just lounging around. The FitKicks for Women come in more than a dozen styles and colors, while the FitKicks for Men offer a handful of different designs.
FitKicks almost look like thin slippers. They’re soft and comfortable. These are so lightweight and foldable that you can squeeze them into almost any bag or pocket.
Though they appear simple, FitKicks have some subtle elements that are cool and useful. The pull tabs at the heels allow you to easily take them off after yoga class. There’s a protective toe guard to keep you from stubbing your toe. And the sturdy, grippy soles are designed to match the movements of your feet.
Best Yoga Shoes for Men: WHITIN Cross-Trainer Barefoot & Minimalist Shoe
If you must wear a yoga shoe, why not one that feels like it’s not even there? The WHITIN Cross-Trainer Barefoot & Minimalist Shoe is one of those pieces of footwear that makes it feel like you’re barefoot because of the way it’s designed to conform to your foot as you walk.
You can wear the WHITIN shoe for jogging, hiking, yoga, or just about anything else. The excellent traction on the bottom would be great for a yoga practice. These shoes are shockingly durable and long-lasting. They come in a huge range of attractive colors, and they’re also vegan-friendly, made with no animal products at all.
Top Men’s Yoga Shoes with Arch Support: WHITIN Canvas Barefoot Sneakers
If you like the WHITIN Cross-Trainer but prefer a more traditional sneaker with arch support, say hello to the WHITIN Canvas Barefoot Sneaker. Like WHITIN’s other shoes, this canvas sneaker is soft, and it comes with a wide foot to allow the toes room to breathe. The built-in arch support and traction on the bottom make it a good choice for anyone considering men’s yoga shoes.
Our only caution is to take some time to choose the right color. We’re not necessarily big fans of the way the red and aqua shoes look. But the gray and black models are quite stylish. You could definitely rock these with jeans or casual shorts.
Women’s Athletic Sneaker: Ahnu Yoga Flex
Despite its brand name, the Ahnu Yoga Flex isn’t really made for yoga. It’s designed for running and other athletic endeavors. The Ahnu Flex is a straight-up tennis shoe. They just gave it the name “Yoga Flex” because its cushiony sides are flexible, like people who perform yoga are flexible.
Still, this is a really good shoe. It’s soft and comfortable. So if you insist on wearing yoga sneakers, this is a great one to go with. The mesh design offers a perfect level of breathability so your feet won’t sweat. And the sole has a “Dual Density Memory Foam Footbed,” which is a fancy way of saying that it has a great level of cushioning.
Also, the color combinations are gorgeous. We love Atlantis (teal and yellow), Dragon Fruit (maroon and periwinkle), and Orange Zest.
Relaxing Footwear: Sanuk Women’s Yoga Sling 3 Prints Sandal
The Sanuk Yoga Sling 3 Sandal is not designed to be worn in yoga class, but it is designed for folks who live the yoga lifestyle. There’s a plain black version of the Sanuk Yoga Sling 3, but we love this print version, which comes in Black Dragonfly and Argon Oil Dragonfly.
This sandal goes great with a patterned hippy skirt, sarong, or a pair of leggings. It’s stylish and comfortable enough to wear to the park or anywhere around town after you leave the yoga studio.
Consider Also: ToeSox
We feel compelled to mention ToeSox here because they’re so popular. ToeSox straddle the line between socks and shoes. They’re made from soft sock material, but they do have grippy dots on the bottom for traction on your yoga mat. They’re very effective for yoga sessions, but you wouldn’t wear these as shoes outside the studio.
ToeSox are actually more expensive than many of the shoes listed here, so we suspect a lot of folks will stick with a shoe as their preferred yoga footwear. If you like ToeSox, we’ve got a lot more similar products listed in our rundown of the top non slip yoga socks on the market.
Yoga Footwear Frequently Asked Questions
What are the most important factors when purchasing yoga shoes?
Pretty much the same factors that you consider when buying any shoe! Consider how comfortable they are, how durable they will be, and whether you like their physical appearance.
The extra factors that you’ll want to take into account are flexibility, breathability, and traction. You need a shoe that has some give and can adjust when you’re twisting your legs and feet into all sorts of postures. Mesh and open-toe shoes are ideal for allowing air to circulate and keep your feet from sweating. And you need a solid grip on the sole. There’s no point in wearing shoes on your yoga mat if they don’t have sufficient traction to keep you in place. All of the recommended footwear in this article meet these criteria.
Do people wear shoes during yoga class?
Not often. A majority of yogis still prefer to go barefoot, or possibly wear socks. To avoid looking out of place, you can contact the studio ahead of time to see if they are cool with shoes being worn in class. Chances are they won’t mind, unless you’re borrowing one of their mats, in which case they may be more resistant to it.
How do you wash yoga shoes?
Check the label for each individual item to be sure. But in most cases, you can just pop them in the washing machine on cold and air dry. This varies by product – of course you’re not going to throw a tennis shoe or leather sandal in the washer. But most of the soft shoes made from cotton and synthetic rubber-like materials will be just fine in a machine.
Are the sizes of yoga shoes the same as normal shoe sizing?
Not always. Because most yoga shoes fit tight like a glove, getting the proper fit is important. This is where you’ll have to rely on the product descriptions and the existing user reviews on Amazon.
Many yoga shoes fit exactly like normal, while others can be a size bigger or smaller than you’re used to. Some brands, like FitKicks, only offer small, medium, large, and XL versions. So follow their sizing chart for those specific items to get the best fit.
What other yoga products can be helpful with shoes?
As mentioned, yoga socks are a popular alternative to shoes. Beyond that, for home practice we always suggest having cork yoga blocks for stability and support, and a bolster to cushion your back or limbs during challenging poses.
If you have issues with your joints, perhaps gloves or knee pads would be a wise investment. Both can help cushion your joints, and many newcomers find them useful, especially if you’ve got a yoga mat that is on the thinner side.
Finally, while many yoga shoes can be tossed in the washing machine, some yoga mats require hand-washing. See our guide to washing a yoga mat with either a machine, natural disinfectants, or mat wipes.
Related Blog Posts
If you find yourself without a yoga mat (while traveling, for instance), read our suggestions for mat alternatives. Here’s a guide for what you need to know about performing yoga with carpal tunnel. And here’s our ultimate gift guide for yoga enthusiasts!