How to Choose the Best Walking Shoes for You - dummies

How to Choose the Best Walking Shoes for You

By Liz Neporent

Walking requires little more than a good pair of walking shoes. The right pair of shoes helps prevent injury, improve your performance, and keep you comfortable for up to 1,000 miles.

Walking shoes in general have good shock absorption in the heels and in the balls of the feet. They are a bit stiffer and more supportive than running shoes, although they have a very flexible forefoot (front page of the shoe) to allow for the natural bend of the foot. They feature beveled, or slightly angled, heels to allow for a smooth heel-to-toe roll. Beyond these basic traits, look for a shoe that meets your needs in terms of foot type, injury patterns, mileage, speed, and walking surface.

A good pair of walking shoes generally runs you anywhere between $50 and $100. The price depends on brand, features, and style. Check out the Road Runner Sports catalog, which offers competitive prices and a wide selection of both running and walking shoes.

Finding a shoe to match your foot type

Knowing your foot type and having a basic understanding of shoe terminology under your belt should help you determine the type of shoe that’s best for you. You should always try on any shoe for fit and comfort before you buy.

  • Pronators (those with flat feet and little to no arch) should look for a motion control shoe. They also should look for a board-lasted, straight shoe, which provides support for the inside of the foot and thus prevents you from overusing the inside edge of your foot. Pronators should also look for a reinforced heel counter for control and stability. Sturdy uppers and stability straps can also help prevent inward roll. Shoes with too much padding can exaggerate pronation, so avoid them.

  • Supinators (those with high arches) should look for greater stability and a shoe whose outer sole, insole, and midsole are designed for extra shock absorbency. Slip-lasted, curved shoes are probably your best bet because supinators have such rigid feet. Buy shoes with reinforced material around the ankles and firm heel counters for maximum ankle and heel support. Extra cushioning under the ball of the foot helps increase comfort.

  • Those with neutral feet can wear just about any shoe and be ensured of proper support and comfort, but you may find that shoes that have a curved shape fit best. Even if your feet are neutral and you have no injury issues, don’t skimp on the basic walking shoe features.

Keeping in mind mileage, speed, and walking surface

Walkers who average more than 30 miles a week and/or who walk for speed should look for high-performance walking shoes. Most major brand walking shoes are high performance shoes. These brands include Nike, Reebok, Saucony, New Balance, Asics, and Adidas.

Here’s what to look for in a high-performance shoe:

  • Light weight

  • Lots of specialized, extra features to improve stability, cushioning, and shock absorption, like reinforced heel counters, stability straps, and high-tech midsole and insole materials

  • Removable insoles with some arch support.

  • Cushioning that is firm and springy but not as wiggly as gelatin.

  • Extra cushioning, especially in the heel and ball of the foot.

  • Flexibility that matches the natural bend of the foot.

  • Sturdy uppers, usually made of nylon mesh.

  • D-ring lacing system that allows for variable lacing patterns, which means that the eyelets are situated at various distances from the center of the shoe.

If you do most of your walking on trails or rocky, sloped, uneven terrain, a hiking shoe or boot is a must for traction and foot protection. Hiking shoes have added heel and ankle support, sturdier soles and treads, and uppers made of leather.