Walking is a physical activity that almost everyone does multiple times a day, on a daily basis, be it for running errands, doing chores, working, getting fit or just going from point A to point B. If you want to feel comfortable and supported throughout all of these activities, then a pair of special walking shoes may be exactly what you need.
Best walking shoes for women - December 2019
What to expect from the best walking shoes
A perfect pair of walking trainers will make you forget that you’re even wearing one. As these shoes are primarily designed for walking, they have unique features that make it easier for the wearer to walk or stand for long periods without feeling any discomfort.
Walking shoes are typically equipped with a cushioned yet stable platform and a supportive yet flexible upper. This type of footwear may also employ motion control or stability features that aid people with gait issues to walk around comfortably.
These trainers are also meant to distribute the wearer’s weight during the heel-to-toe transition evenly. They allow the foot to smoothly roll forward, from the heel to the ball and the toes, without the user losing balance.
Things to look for in men's and women's walking shoes
Even though most walking trainers are essentially built with the same purpose in mind, different brands, footwear lines, and models may vary a lot in terms of fit and sizing, style, materials and technologies used, etc. That’s why it is important for you to understand what exactly you expect from your to-be pair of walkers before purchasing one.
Just like any other type of training shoes, walking footwear needs to be comfortable for both short and extended periods of use. It should also have features that help to keep your feet protected, comfortable and relaxed.
Brands employ different types of materials in the upper units of their walking shoes to meet the various needs of wearers. Some pairs use a single piece of soft fabric or leather, while others feature varied combinations of mesh, textile, leather, and synthetic materials.
The material in the upper unit of walking shoes is supposed to be pliable to assist the natural flexibility of the foot. But it should also have some firmness to it to keep the foot sufficiently supported.
It is also essential for a walking shoe to be breathable. If it is entirely covered in leather, make sure that it has vents or perforations as these will allow the foot chamber to stay ventilated. Those who prefer a more open construction of the upper could opt for models with larger perforations or with more mesh material.
The collar of the walking shoe should have padding on it. This structure supports the Achilles tendon and prevents the chafing of the skin. It also stops the back of the foot from sliding out of the shoe.
Also, consider the type of closure you feel most comfortable with. There are walking shoes with a traditional lace-up system as well as trainers with a hook-and-loop closure. If you’re not a fan of fiddling around with laces or straps, you can also consider slip-on walking trainers which allow you to simply slide in and go.
The midsole of good walking shoes is characterized by its bounciness. It must be able to provide sufficient shock absorption to prevent straining the joints and muscles of your lower extremities. The sole material should not feel too plush as it needs to have the right amount of firmness to deliver a responsive and steady platform.
Most walking shoes also feature a removable insole. The insert is usually molded to conform to the natural shape of the foot and provide arch support. Users can also replace it with custom orthotics to achieve maximum comfort.
Support and stability
Another important factor to consider is your type of foot pronation, or, in other words, how much the arch of your foot rolls inwards during the walking gait cycle. Pronation is a natural side-to-side movement which helps to shift the weight of your body from the heel to the toes. However, sometimes this shift exceeds a healthy degree of inward rolling, resulting in moderate to severe overpronation. In other cases, the inward roll may be insufficient and makes the foot roll outwards, causing underpronation, or supination. Each type of foot pronation requires the right kind of support from the shoe. That’s why it is recommended to visit a podiatrist to determine your pronation type to know which kind of walking shoes will serve your feet best.
To compensate a slight deviation from the healthy inward rolling of the arch, it is advised to try stability walking shoes. This type of footwear is well-padded and has a small protrusion under the arch without interfering too much with the natural foot motion.
In case of an excessive inward rolling, it is recommended to consider walking shoes with motion control add-ons. These trainers are made with a firmer and thicker midsole unit and employ special technologies that stabilize both the heel and the midfoot section of the foot.
Correct fit and sizing
Finding the right fit in your walking shoe is crucial to the overall health of your feet and legs. Buying something too loose can result in the footwear slipping off at the most inconvenient time. Conversely, purchasing a walking shoe that is too tight results in foot problems such as bunions, callus or corns.
A correct-fitting walking shoe should be snug yet non-restrictive at the rearfoot to keep the heel steady and comfortable. However, the toe box should provide ample space for the toes to splay naturally throughout the walking session. Brands like New Balance, Skechers, Ryka, Propet, Saucony, and Brooks offer their shoes in a range of width profiles, from Narrow to Wide and Extra Wide walking shoes.
Getting the right walking shoe size is also very important as this could easily make or break your walking experience. Keep in mind that brands use different lasts when making their walking shoes which results in different sizing schemes. Also, the materials used in the upper as well as the padding, or lack thereof, may influence the choice of the size.
Tip: A person’s foot expands significantly as the day progresses. It would be wise to purchase a walking shoe late in the afternoon, when the foot is fully expanded, to be able to obtain a suitable size and fit.
One more thing
The previous section lists only the primary parameters that you need to consider before settling on a specific pair of walking shoes. Other criteria may include some of your personal preferences such as the shoe’s weight, overall style, color, etc. If you are on a budget, then you might focus on the less expensive walking shoes. If you are a fan of one particular brand, then you will start your search with that one. Perhaps you want to start with the most popular models and see what other buyers say about it. It’s all up to you.
We have created RunRepeat to help you find all the information you might need when shopping for a new pair of shoes. By adjusting the filters and selecting your gender and size, you will find a customized selection of the best footwear available on the market right now. Click on any of the models on the list to see more information about each one along with the discounts from more than 200 online retailers. Good luck with getting the right pair of walking shoes!
Frequently asked questions
What is the difference between walking shoes and hiking footwear?
Walking shoes and hiking footwear differ in design and functionality. Walking shoes are lighter, more flexible, and mostly fall below the ankle which means they don’t offer too much ankle support. They are also built with moderate durability and do well when used on flat surfaces. The midsole of a walking shoe is soft to absorb shock but still provide steadiness. Their upper unit may be made of water-resistant materials, but there are also breathable options made from light materials.
Hiking footwear is relatively heavier compared to walking shoes because it utilizes materials that are more durable and thicker. It also provides more cushioning because it is meant to be used for extended periods and on rough terrains. Hiking boots usually cover the ankle to deliver better support when traversing uneven surfaces. Their midsole may be reinforced with metal plates to prevent the arch from overly stretching to avoid the development of plantar fasciitis. Its upper may use water-resistant or sometimes even water-proof materials.
Though some people may prefer using walking shoes for hiking because it feels lighter on the foot, it may not last as long as a hiking shoe would because it is made of softer materials. Also, the traction on the outsole of hiking footwear delivers better grip because they are meant to withstand all sorts of conditions.
Are walking shoes the same as running shoes?
Walking and running require different body mechanics and, thus, call for a different type of support and cushioning. Running is more brutal to the lateral side of the heel as this is usually the point of impact. A runner’s heel absorbs about 2 - 3 times of the person’s body weight because the foot lands on the ground harder. In walking, the foot strike happens at the center of the back of the heel, and it is subjected to only 1 - 2 times of a person’s body weight. That's why running footwear is designed to be prepared for harder impact in the heel.
Walking also evenly distributes the person’s body weight across the foot, rolling from the heel to the toes at a slower pace. In running, the heel bears the brunt of the impact and runners spend only a brief moment on the balls of their feet and toes. This foot-to-ground interaction is the reason why the construction of walking shoes and running shoes are different. Typical running shoes have thicker midsoles than walking shoes because of how hard runners land on their feet. Walking shoes are typically cushioned evenly while running shoes often have more padding in the heel since it is the initial point of impact.
The uppers of these trainers are also different. Most running shoe uppers are made from light and breathable materials since running can generate more heat in the foot. Mesh ensures that the foot chamber is well-ventilated. The uppers for walking shoes come in various materials such as leather, mesh, suede, synthetic, knit, jersey, and more.
Can running shoes be used as walking shoes?
Yes, running shoes can be used as walking shoes since these trainers are well cushioned and often have technologies that deliver exceptional comfort. Another benefit of using running shoes for walking is that there are more styles and available colorways for running shoes compared to walking shoes. However, the downside is that running shoes are generally pricier than walking shoes because of the different technologies used in them.
What makes walking shoes different from workout shoes?
Another type of footwear that may be confused for a walking shoe is a workout trainer. Daily workout shoes tend to have more supporting structures that keep the foot firmly in place during both forward and lateral movements. They also have better ankle support to prevent the heel from wobbling during dynamic workouts. Additionally, workout shoes use a cushioning platform that has the right amount of softness and density. It needs to be flexible to accommodate plyometrics and sprints, but hard enough to keep the foot steady during squats and lifts.
Some walking shoes do offer side panels for reinforced lateral support, but most of the time, they only serve to add style. The most important movement that walking shoes need to accomplish is the smooth heel-to-toe transition, not side-to-side movements. Unlike other training shoes, walking footgear employs technologies that ensure a smooth and well-padded forward movement. Thus, prolonged walking on the firm sole of workout shoes can result in fatigued feet.
What is the difference between walking shoes and sneakers?
A casual sneaker could easily be mistaken for a walking shoe. Fashion sneakers come in a vast variety of shapes, sole unit heights, and upper designs. They mostly go with casual wear and are oftentimes used to make a fashion statement as they tend to be more aesthetically appealing compared to walking shoes. Some sneakers receive the DNA of popular sports footgear silhouettes. However, not all technologies associated with the original shoe are present, taking a back seat to style.
Unlike sneakers, walking shoes prioritize comfort and functionality over fashion. While sneakers could still provide a comfortable footbed, a pair of dedicated walking shoes is designed to deliver support and stability on top of comfort. Sneakers are usually neutral and do not offer arch support or technologies that could help alleviate foot issues such as overpronation or supination.
Are there any stylish walking shoes available on the market?
Yes, there are. If you are tired of wearing orthopedic looking footwear or ‘dad shoes,’ though they’ve recently made a huge comeback, one brand to consider is Skechers. This American footwear company has a wide array of walking shoes that come in different styles from slip-on, sporty, rugged, and even something a bit more formal. Most of its walking shoes employ a breathable knitted or mesh upper, but some models use synthetic leather. As for the midsole, Skechers walking shoes are equipped with a unit that effectively attenuates shock and is also flexible to promote natural foot movement that prevents foot fatigue. The bottom of the footgear may or may not be lined with an extra layer of rubber, but either way, they are built durable and offer traction on most types of surfaces.
Are walking shoes heavy?
Walking shoes vary not only in their design and construction but also in weight, so choosing which type to get is only a matter of preference. This type of footwear typically weighs between 300 and 400 grams per shoe. But you can also find walking shoes that are very lightweight that do not exceed 300 grams per trainer.
Where can I buy walking shoes?
Aside from the brands, many online retailers also sell walking shoes. But if you don’t know what exactly you are looking for, checking out numerous websites could quickly turn into a daunting task. Don’t worry; you only need RunRepeat for all your shoe shopping needs. Browse through our extensive collection of trainers from various brands then click on a model that interests you to see the different prices from various retailers. You can also compare multiple shoes at once to get a better sense of the prices and features of the different models. Depending on the brand and style, walking shoes cost from about $50 to $120. But thanks to our proprietary algorithm, you can get a pair for as low as $30.
How long do walking shoes last?
Ideally, walking shoes should be replaced every 6-9 months, but that depends on how much you use the trainer for walking. If users walk around 4-5 miles a day, then in 6-9 months, the walking shoe will have traveled about 1,000 - 1,500 miles and will show signs of deterioration in one form or another. Some of these signs include the outsole getting worn out, or the midsole starting to compress or disintegrate, and parts of the upper beginning to unthread or detach.
To prevent injuries, always make sure that the walking shoes are in great condition. Regularly check the walking shoe for any signs of degeneration. If portions of it are starting to detach or unravel, it would be best to no longer use it.
How do I take care of my walking shoes?
Depending on the materials used, keeping walking shoes clean is relatively simple. If a walking shoe is made of leather or synthetic material, a simple wipe down with a clean cloth will suffice. A damp cloth may help remove dried up mud. Special polishers may also help in prolonging the life of the leather.
Walking shoes that use mesh, knit or jersey for the upper may be gently washed by hand and air-dried. It is not advisable to use a washing machine or a clothes dryer as the heat and tumbling action may bring damage to the footwear.