I began a thread last week about wheel walking, but it turned into a thread on ‘old’. I had wished it had side tracked to shoes, so I’m happy that you bring up the shoe question.
I think I have found a great shoe for flatland unicycling. The shoe is an Onitsuka/Tiger Ultimate 81. This is a retro design, but upgraded.
This was the first fully supported running shoe, but the form is great for unicycling. The sole is absolutely flat. The tread is a honey comb with each cell containing a circle (looking like tiny suction cup). So the tread is very regular in all directions. It also smoothly rolls half around the toe, and up the back.
The sole also is very narrow. It doesn’t extend beyond the upper anywhere. It is as narrow as the Converse Allstar.
The upper is leather, actually a brushed leather, nicely padded. It is also nicely rounded so that your foot gets pushed back on to the pedal if it gets too close to the crank. Since I am a beginner and kind of clumbsy, the sturdy upper is great protection when compared to the Converse.
The inner lining is synthetic, and there is good arch support.
Personally I have sensitive feet. If the shoe weighs too much, my ankles start to hurt. Allstars make my feet hurt almost instantly, not because of weight, but the sole is so poorly supported. The Ultimate 81, I wear all day, every day, since I have three pairs!
In Seattle they sell them at Urban Outfitters, but I don’t know if that is a national shop or not. I think unicycle.com should get into the apparel business as well, and sell this shoe! Think about it unicycle.com: except for a few unicyclists that like to destroy equipment, most of us keep our unicycles for a long time. Apparel wears out quickly! Sell stuff that wears out quickly, and make everyone happy in the process. I have found that unicyclists have very unique requirements in apparel. With shoes, the width of the sole is important. I just learned that skateboarders like wide shoes to keep their foot from rolling over.
So back to wheel walking. I think once you can do it, you could probably do it barefoot, but a good shoe might help you learn faster. My thread was about pre-skills, and I think I have stepped back from wheel walking to work on the ‘tire idle’. The points I got from that discussion was that I need to be better at idling than I am. I need to do a slow, small stroke idle. The tire idle seems to put your center of gravity forward, so I’m wondering if one foot idle with foot extended would be a good pre-skill.