What to wear when you do tai chi is a common question for (and from) beginners. Loose, comfortable clothing is typical. Shoes are perhaps more important for tai chi and martial art attire. Flat, low volume shoes are the best.
I prefer something I can wear in practice and on the street, but it’s not easy to find a good compromise. A good and light indoor practice shoe will fall apart pretty quickly out of doors. I found a pretty good middle ground with the Bushido (http://www.shopbushido.com/bushido-shoe/) that I have gotten at Valley Martial Arts in Glendale, California. The soles in the front are flat, smooth rubber and the rear has a herringbone type of tread. “Shaolin” is stamped on the sole in the case of my pair. The drawback for these is that they have a mesh construction over the top, so dust and sand can get inside. I actually don’t have much trouble with that and I still like them for their durability and lightness.
Of course, the ol’ standby from Shanghai, Feiyue (“flying forward”), is probably one of those shoes that every martial artist owns at some point. Bushido makes a Feiyue type shoe with their name on it that sells for $20. I find them to be hot in summer and cold in winter, but I still have a pair and where them around the house all the time to practice. Easy to get at Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Tiger-Claw-Feiyue-Martial-Shoes/dp/B00MH2QMWO).
I’ve had Tiger Claw shoes, too, which lasted a long time (tigerclaw.com). They sport a cool Chinese tiger character on the top. The have only one model and two colors: black and white)
The Onitsuka Tiger by Asics shoe is very close to the same thing as the Bushido. There are many models to choose from, including suede and leather, which presumably would last longer on the street. Check it out and let me know what you think.
http://www.zappos.com/onitsuka-tiger-by-asics-ultimate-81-exclusive-black-stone-grey. These Asics cost about $20 more than the Bushidos ($55) for what I think is about the same quality.
Adidas makes a martial art shoe that I wore when I first began studying tai chi. I like them because they lasted so long and they have a slightly higher top than other martial arts shoes. However, they are not lace up. The have an elastic, slip-on feature that’s cool, but I prefer lace up because I can tie them as tight or loose as I like. Still, the Adidas shoe is pretty good. Unfortunately, they are sold out a the Martial Arts Mart where they were recently on sale (http://www.martialartsmart.com/a90-sk.html).
Skechers (http://www.skechers.com) makes some shoes I’ve seen others wearing and I think they look really good, but I’ve never tried them out and I think they are overpriced.
You’ve probably gathered that there are a lot of options for martial arts shoes out there. Choosing can be a bore, so my rule of thumb is go with inexpensive as possible and see what works best for you.