A good pair of walking shoes is one of the most important investments you can make if you’re a serious walker. Your feet have to do a lot of hard work when you’re logging steps. It’s easy to think that shoes are all the same, and don’t matter as long as they cover your feet.
The right shoes can help you prevent injury and keep you moving forward with comfort and confidence. They’ll also help you avoid foot pain, walk longer and hit your step goals! Here are some additional tips on choosing the right walking shoe.
Note: If you haven’t downloaded the Pacer app yet, download Pacer for free (on mobile)!
Get Professionally Fit
The best way to be sure you have the right shoes is by visiting your local running store. Don’t let the word “running” intimidate you! Most running stores fit both runners and walkers and are very happy to help newcomers. Their staff are trained to fit individuals based on their unique needs, whether they walk, run, or something in between. They can also help you find the right shoes, whether you usually walk on a sidewalk, a trail, or inside on a treadmill or walking track. They’ll watch you walk and determine if you need extra support or have issues such as overpronation. All these factors help them select the perfect shoes for your body, gait and activity level. It can be useful to go and get fitted even if you know what kind of shoes you want, as newer versions of walking or running shoes often fit differently than older versions.
Make sure that you replicate your normal walking conditions and gear when you go to try on your new shoes. Perhaps most important is to wear the same kind of socks that you do when you go walking. Shoes that fit correctly in dress socks or thin socks may be too tight in thicker, walking socks. The closer you can match your ideal walking conditions, the better fit you’ll get.
Try on shoes later in the day, or consider going for a short walk before trying on your shoes. Feet can sometimes swell up a bit after a walk and often swell up later in the day. Trying on shoes after your feet swell a bit can help ensure that the shoes don’t become too tight midway through your walk.
You can also do a bit of research online to look into various brands of walking shoes to get some ideas prior to heading to the store. This can also help you identify particular features of walking shoes (Waterproof? Lightweight? Breathable?) that you can look for when you get to the store.
Take Your Time
Set aside enough time so that you can walk around the store for a few minutes before making your decision. Sometimes shoes can feel great when you first put them on, but may start to cause pain or irritation after a bit of walking. Make sure to wear both shoes when you test-walk your shoes! Sometimes our foot sizes and shapes can vary slightly in ways that can make one foot uncomfortable while the other feels fine.
If you’re a serious walker, your walking shoes can be the most important piece of equipment you’ll have! It’s worth it to take a few extra minutes to make sure you’ve picked the right pair. If you’re feeling nagging doubts, or you feel unsure, find another pair (or find a store that allows take-home trials so you can return them – see below).
Take Advantage of a Trial Period
Most reputable running stores are eager to make sure they fit you with a shoe that’s just right. They often have a generous return policy that allows you to return shoes within a reasonable amount of time, even if you’ve worn them outside. This alone is a great reason to get your shoes from a specialty shop rather than picking a pair off the shelf at a regular shoe store.
Check your store’s return policy. Try to find a store that allows you to take your shoes back home and try them out. Then wear the new shoes for several days. If you discover any discomfort, head back to the store. They may be able to suggest small alterations such as tying them differently or adding an insole. If the shoes truly aren’t working for you, they should be able to help you find another pair that does.
Don’t Keep Shoes Forever
After many miles together, you can grow attached to your favorite shoes. They may feel comfortably worn and broken in, like an old pair of blue jeans. The problem is that even before they begin to look broken in, your shoes may already be far less effective in their ability to properly support and cushion your foot. This can lead to discomfort or even injury.
The average lifespan of a walking shoe is between 300-500 miles. Three hundred miles is equivalent to approximately 634,000 steps. Does that number seem daunting? If you consider a goal of 10,000 steps per day, you could reach that number in just over two months! Thankfully, it’s easy to track your step data in the Pacer app. Once you’ve reached that 300 mile/634,000 step point, start examining your shoes regularly for signs of wear and tear on the sole. Plan to replace them when they start to wear down or if you feel any new and unusual aches or pains after a walk or run.
Pay special attention to the grip on your soles, especially if you frequently walk in wet conditions or indoors where floors can be slippery. The grooves and patterns in your soles help the shoes grip the ground, and when they start to wear out it’s much easier to slip on smooth surfaces. Safety is most important, so if you feel yourself slip at all when walking there’s a good chance you need to replace your shoes!
Rotate Shoes or Add an Insole
You can also rotate several pairs of shoes to stretch out that 300-500 miles over a longer period of time. Giving your shoes a day off can allow them to air out and also allows the cushioning to spring back into place. Walking on a fresh pair of shoes every day can give you more cushioning and more support. You can also try slightly different fits and colors which can give you subtle variations depending on your mood and condition each day.
Insoles can often wear out faster than your soles, which can cause cushioning to be reduced. If you’ve examined your soles and they’re not worn out, adding some new insoles can make your old shoes feel almost new again!
Your Shoes Should Make You Happy!
Fit and feel is most important, but try to find a pair that makes you happy and fits your style! You’re more likely to wear your brand new walking shoes if they look good on you. Putting looks over fit is a major mistake, but there are plenty of great walking shoes in different shapes and colors. When your walking shoes fit well and look great, you’ll walk more and feel great!
These tips should help keep your feet happy and help you keep racking up the steps!
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.