The perfect walking shoes make your walks more comfortable, help prevent injuries and allow you to get more steps every day. For walkers, choosing the right walking shoe is critical for getting more steps and hitting your 10,000 daily steps (or another goal) while feeling great and keeping comfortable. Every sport has its own set of equipment that helps participants perform their best. Golfers need the right clubs, baseball players need the right gloves, and walking enthusiasts need a good pair of walking shoes.
Whether you’re just starting a walking program or trying to hit an impressive step goal, choosing the right shoes can help protect your knees and feet. Here’s how to find the right shoe for you!
Know the facts
Picking the right shoe for you is so important that it’s noted by even the most prestigious health organizations. Shoes, like tires on a car, can lead to a long and happy road of walking or pit stops in the form of doctor’s visits and injuries.
Use these tips from the Mayo Clinic to understand what to look for.
- Know your foot type. Are your arches low, high, or neutral? Your arch type determines the type of arch support you need, the support for the rear-foot you need, and what levels of stabilization and cushioning you need in your shoes.
- Know the parts of a shoe and how they can help you. These include the:
- Toe Box – A roomy toe box can provide comfort and reduce toe injuries;
- Heel Collar – Cushions and supports the back of your foot;
- Insole – Provides cushioning and support for your arch.
- Gel, foam, or air pods – These features provide cushioning and reduce impact each time your foot hits the ground.
Walking Shoes versus Running Shoes
You actually can walk in running shoes, but should you? Running shoes and walking shoes are not the same, and if you’re walking heavily then some features of running shoes may not be desirable for walking. Check this information from shoemaker New Balance on how these differences can determine how happy and healthy your steps can be. (You can also refer to the Mayo Clinic’s piece or other takes on running vs walking like here and here.
What are the major differences? When walking, body weight tends to be more evenly distributed across the length of the shoes than when running. Running delivers most of the compression to specific points of the foot and therefore requires much more support than a walking shoe. The walking motion is more like a rocking chair while running is a hopping motion where both feet are off the ground at certain times. For more info on walking vs running, check out our piece!
Walking shoes are designed for the specific needs of walkers. With a more flexible forefoot design and greater arch support, they fit the specific walking motion. Running shoes tend to have more heel cushioning to protect the foot at the most common point of contact for runners.
Pick the Best Shoe for You
Don’t go it alone – get help! Running stores can be very helpful in making the best choice for your individual needs. Your local running store will often have a walking section or at least a selection of walking gear, and the experts there can help you find the right shoes for you. Smaller running stores will often have more personalized service, but bigger sports stores might have a better selection. You’ll need to check what’s available in your area and don’t be afraid to check several stores before you make a decision. Your walking shoes are your most important piece of walking gear, and once you find a brand and store that you like it becomes easier when you eventually replace them.
Many dedicated running stores will take you through a process to pick the right shoes for you. For example, Fleet Feet Sports, a large group of stores with a running and walking focus, has a method that has been developed over the 40-year history of the company. Called “FIT®”, this process starts with a review of your individual needs and then reviews your form. This could be as simple as watching your walking form to a highly sophisticated computerized modeling of your feet and how they hit the ground. Once your needs are determined, you’ll get a shoe suggestion.
Try Before You Buy
Walking shoes, just like cars, should be taken for a “test drive” before you buy. Most shoe stores, but especially running and walking equipment stores, will let you walk around in selected shoes before you buy. Even the best or most expensive shoes need to fit your feet properly or they won’t be effective in getting your steps. Make sure that when you try on shoes, you’re wearing the same type of socks that you plan to wear when you walk. Different sock types can make the fit feel completely different!
When you try the shoes, pay special attention to how they feel. Are they too tight in certain areas? Those tight areas could rub your foot during a walk and cause discomfort. Check how the arch support feels to determine if the shoe gives enough support. If the shoes don’t “feel right” to you, try to find a different pair. You might find that the newest or most expensive shoes just aren’t right for you, and that’s ok!
500 Miles of Happiness
Most walking shoes will last between 300 and 500 miles. (See how many steps that might be in our piece on how many steps you’ll get in a mile!) How far yours will take you are determined by many factors including body weight, the design of the shoes and your walking and stride style. Picking the best shoes for you can make those miles (and your feet) happy! The happier your feet are, the more steps you’ll get in Pacer and the fewer injuries and less discomfort you’ll have to deal with.
The Pacer app can help you figure out how many steps and miles you have gone in your perfect shoes. We hope you’ll walk many happy miles in your favorite shoes with the Pacer Pedometer app giving you motivation and memories along the way!
If you haven’t downloaded the Pacer app yet, download Pacer for free (on mobile)! You can also check out our website (mobile or desktop) or follow our blog for more great walking and healthy lifestyle tips.