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Have you ever tried on a walking shoe and immediately thought that something felt off? Like there’s a structure at the arch area that doesn’t feel right, or the sole unit was so stiff that your feet aren’t moving naturally. If the answer to these questions is a resounding yes, there’s a good chance that you tried on a stability walking shoe or a motion control walking shoe.
‘What’s that?’, you ask? The short explanation is, people with high arches tend to put their weight on the lateral side of the foot during the heel-to-toe transition while those with flat or low arches tend to roll their feet inwards during the walking gait cycle. Like people’s feet, shoes aren’t created equal, and some have structures that prevent this excessive inward or outward rolling of the foot to correct a person’s gait and relieve pressure in some parts of the foot.
But not everyone needs specialized footwear because these components could cause discomfort for the user. People with average arches will feel more comfortable using neutral walking shoes - trainers with no or very minimal arch support and no motion control components at the sole unit.
Neutral walking shoes are very easy to find since they are the most commonly produced walking gear by shoe manufacturers. Go to a shoe store, pick up any shoe, and there’s a high probability that you’ve picked up a neutral shoe.
Finding the right neutral walking shoes
Though neutral walking shoes are relatively common, not every single pair will fit your foot the same way. Some pairs will fit snugly while others may feel too spacious. It’s easy to pick a footwear when you’re choosing one from a physical store, but these days, it’s more convenient to shop online. So, how do you find the right pair of neutral walking shoes without trying one on? Don’t worry; we’ve got your back.
Measure your feet
If you were a US size 7 a year ago, there’s a possibility that it has changed. Contrary to popular belief, a person’s foot doesn’t stop changing when they hit adulthood. Various factors could affect a person’s shoe size such as weight gain or loss, pregnancy, daily activities, foot injuries, and so on.
The best way is to get measured by a professional using a Brannock device since that can measure the length, width, and some tools can also measure the arch. But if you’re shopping online, you may have to resort to measuring your foot by yourself. To do this, you need paper big enough to fit your foot without it going over the edges of the paper; a pencil, a pen, or a marker to outline your foot; a measuring tape or ruler; and possibly a friend help you outline your foot.
If you plan on wearing a sock with your neutral walking shoes, it would be best to put them on while you measure your foot. Stand up and step on the paper, this way your weight is evenly distributed. Now, this is the tricky part, it’s hard to outline your foot while standing up, so you need to bend down to do it. If that’s a bit difficult to do, for some reason or another, then call a friend for help. Once the outline is obtained, measure from the longest part of the toe to the end of the heel. Then compare this measurement to the shoe size chart.
Measure your feet at the end of the day or later in the day, when your feet have expanded to the fullest.
When outlining the foot, make sure the pen is upright, and the point of the pen or marker doesn’t go under the foot to ensure accurate measurement.
Measure both feet as the length may have a slight variance; consider the foot with the longer measurement when comparing it against the shoe size chart.
Shoe sizes may vary from one brand to another, so if you have a brand in mind, compare your foot measurement to their chart to get an accurate fit.
Know what you want
Neutral walking shoes come in different styles. Laces, straps, slip-ons - these are just some factors to consider, especially if you have mobility issues, or you find laces and straps to be too cumbersome to deal with.
There is also the various thickness of soles to consider. Some people prefer thick soles especially at the heel for maximum impact absorption while others like thinner soles because they want to feel the ground when they walk. Then there are those who are more happy with the in-between type, the sole unit is not so thin and not so thick.
Having a brand or a few brands in mind will also help in narrowing down your choice. Some manufacturers offer a wide range to choose from while others will only have a few styles available. By providing yourself with options, there’s a more significant chance of being able to get a neutral walking shoe that fits your foot, your style, and your budget.
Know the retailer’s rules
Since you’ll be shopping online, it would be wise to check the retailer’s return and exchange policies. Most online retailers will only facilitate a return, an exchange, or a refund if there are no signs that the footwear has been worn outside. Some won’t accept it if the tags have already been removed, while others are lax with policy. You will also be provided with other information such as if you will be the one shouldering the cost of the shipment or not. If you are unsure of your size, or your foot length falls in between sizes, then you can order two sizes and return the other one that doesn’t fit properly.
Highly rated neutral walking shoes
Here at RunRepeat, we spend hours searching and studying shoes, so you don’t have to. We compile user and expert reviews to give you an overview of how a shoe fits and its performance, among other things. We have a scoring system, called the CoreScore, which is a weighted average of user ratings and expert reviews that have been adjusted to factor in spam, shoes with few reviews, what version is reviewed and the credibility of the expert reviewer. We also scour the interwebs to look for the lowest price offerings so you won’t have to overspend on your next pair of neutral walking shoes.
New Balance 877
The New Balance 877 is a neutral walking shoe designed for men and women in search of a product that provides coziness and support. The upper is primarily made of mesh to keep the inside cool while suede overlays not only add a style to the trainer but also structure and support. The footwear employs the ABZORB midsole which is a proprietary cushioning technology that lessens the force of impact from each step. It also has a removable insert that heightens the purpose of the midsole. As for the outsole, it is made of durable rubber with a tread pattern that promotes traction. It also features that Walking Strike Path technology that facilitates the smooth heel-to-toe transition.
Skechers Equalizer 2.0
The Skechers Equalizer 2.0 is a slip-on athletic and casual walking trainer for men. It features the Skech Knit upper which is crafted to deliver a sock-like fit but has open weave mesh panels that keep the inside fresh. It follows the brand’s Relaxed Fit design which is a medium width, but the toe is roomier to allow the toes to spread. The Dual-Lite dual-density midsole attenuates shock, and it also functions as the outsole. Inside, there’s the Air Cooled Memory Foam insole that conforms to the shape of the underfoot to provide maximum coverage and comfort. It is lined with a breathable material that allows air to circulate and keep the foot cool.
Saucony Echelon LE2
This pair of neutral walking shoes is designed to deliver a steady platform thanks to the full-length POWERGRID system. It is manufactured to keep the heel centered upon impact and evenly distribute the pressure during the heel-to-toe motion. The Echelon LE2 has other technologies that keep the foot comfortable and supported such as the SRC Impact Zone at the heel, the dual-density S SL EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate) foam, and the removable ComforLite sockliner. The outsole uses two types of rubber, the iBR+ which is lightweight and contributes in shock absorption and the XT-900 which is a carbon rubber material that is durable and grippy. A full-grain Garment leather protects the foot from outside elements. This material has perforations that to keep the inside well-ventilated.
Brooks Dyad Walker
For those who want comfort during extended periods of walking, the Brooks Dyad Walker features technologies such as the BioMoGo DNA which is a biodegradable midsole that can retain is plushness for a longer time when compared to traditional foam units. This platform allows it to deliver comfort by decreasing the impact of each step and providing a cushiony footbed. It has Dual Arch Pods in the middle of the sole unit to prevent excessive twisting at the midfoot during the walking gait cycle. Providing traction is the full-blown rubber outsole that is slip-resistant in most surfaces. Keeping the foot supported is the full-grain leather upper.
Frequently asked questions about neutral walking shoes
How much do neutral walking shoes cost?
On average, they cost about $50 to $120, depending on the brand, style, and construction. But here at RunRepeat, we scour the interwebs to get you the best price. You could get neutral walking shoes for as low as $35.
Are neutral walking shoes suitable for people with diabetes?
Yes. Some of the models are ready to accommodate such conditions. You need to look for shoes with the HCPCS code = A5500 which means that this footwear was designed for the unique needs of people with diabetes and is eligible for Medicare reimbursement.
Are all neutral walking shoes cushioned?
No, some neutral walking shoes, like the Vibram Furoshiki, barely have a sole unit in them. This type of footwear caters to people who like to feel more ground contact when they are walking. There is a belief that walking barefoot strengthens the foot and leg muscles, and could help relieve some foot issues. But most neutral walking shoes have moderate or thick platforms. Some models have thicker cushioning unit at the heel since that’s the part of the foot that receives most of the impact and because people strike with their heel first when their foot lands. So, having ample impact absorption at the back is vital to keep the foot protected and comfortable, especially when you’re traveling by foot for long distances.
How do I clean my neutral walking shoes?
Neutral walking shoes could be made from various materials, especially the upper. Some trainers use mesh, while others have leather or suede. So, cleaning them largely depends on what the footgear is made of.
Leather: A simple brushing would suffice as that would take care of most surface dirt. If there is any caked-in dirt, wiping with a damp cloth or using a toothbrush dipped in a warm soapy solution will do. Make sure to follow that with a wipe down using a clean damp cloth. If the unit gets soaked, remove insoles and laces if possible then clean and dry them separately. As for the shoe itself, let it air dry for 10 hours or overnight. A special solution can be applied to the upper to give it water-, oil-, and stain-repelling properties.
Suede: Use a suede brush to remove dirt and fluff the fibers to keep it looking new. If it gets thoroughly wet, follow the same instructions as stated in the leather section. After drying, use the suede brush to fluff the upper material.
Mesh/fabric: Trainers that have cloth uppers can be cleaned in the same way as those using leather.
Do NOT throw it in the washing machine unless the manufacturer stated that the pair of neutral walking shoes is safe to machine wash.
Do NOT use a heat source to dry the trainers as that could compromise the build of the footwear.
Are there brands that offer customization for their neutral walking shoes?
Unfortunately, brands that do offer customization, such as Reebok, do not have this service in their walking shoe line. If you want to spice up your trainer’s look, the simplest way is to get a pair of new laces and follow one of these lacing techniques to update the style of your kicks. Aside from changing the look a bit, the lacing patterns also help in making the upper fit better.
Can you use neutral walking shoes to run or cross-train?
Though some people think all shoes are the same and can be used for pretty much anything, neutral walking shoes are designed to deliver comfort during extended periods of walking and standing. Most of these trainers lack the proper plushness as the midsole to support and cushion high-impact movements such as running and plyometrics. They also lack structural support at the upper to keep the foot steady during dynamic motions. If you are planning on training for a marathon, it would be best to invest in proper running shoes. If you are to pursue CrossFit or other high-intensity workout sessions, then buying footwear designed for CrossFit or a workout shoe would serve you well.
Did you know…
… that even if you have a neutral pronation your foot still rolls inwards when you walk? People with neutral pronation roll their foot by about 15%. This slight inward movement properly distributes the weight of the person as the foot moves from the heel to the toes. It helps in keeping the ankles and legs properly aligned during the walking gait cycle.