How to pick the perfect walking shoes for comfortable walks and happy feet!

Choosing the right pair of walking shoes leads to less foot pain, longer walks, and happier feet. The perfect pair of walking shoes for your unique feet will make walking more comfortable and prevent injuries. While it may not seem as intensive as activities like running or hiking, walking can be a serious workout and your feet bear the brunt of all of that impact. Whether you’re new to walking or have worn out your favorite walking shoes, you need to take care as you look for a new pair.

Use these tips to find the perfect walking shoe for you, get sized properly, and get a better fit for more steps and more comfortable feet.

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What Is the Right Walking Shoe?

Close up on walking shoes
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While some people may wear casual shoes or running shoes for walking, most walkers will do best with a dedicated pair of walking shoes. Why?

  • Walking shoes have support in the arch and more cushioning throughout the shoe. Running shoes, on the other hand, should have more support in the heel.
  • Walking shoes usually have a roomy toe box to prevent blisters.
  • Walking shoes should have shock-absorbing soles and good traction.

What Type of Shoe is Right For You?

Woman trying on walking shoes
Iakov Filimonov / Shutterstock

Every walker has different habits and a different body, and those factors make a difference in your shoe choice. Shoes with a breathable upper surface are great for road walkers who want to keep their feet cool, but trail walkers need a more waterproof shoe. Some people prefer the popular “barefoot” or minimalist shoes on the market, but they might not work for a larger athlete or someone with injuries.

Terrain:

Do you walk on mostly flat roadways in your neighborhood, or do you like to get out into the woods for some trail walking or hilly, incline walking on dirt surfaces? Do you mostly walk on a treadmill, or on the road? Both the design of the soles, and the overall shoe itself may vary depending on where you walk.

Intensity:

The more often and more intensely you walk, the more sophisticated and supportive your walking shoes need to be. If you’re doing serious power walking or interval walking workouts, you need a shoe that stays on and performs well. Having a perfect fit is more important the more intensely you walk, and shoes like slip-ons may not make the cut.

Body Type:

If you have a larger body, you may need more supportive shoes. Try a variety of shoes to see if any fit better than others.

Injuries:

Do you have any existing injuries or chronic conditions that need to be considered? If you have any arch or foot issues, try to find a shoe specifically designed for your condition. Many people suffer from foot pain while walking, but the right shoes can alleviate minor foot pain in a lot of cases. This can also be partially addressed with special insoles.

Other Considerations

Price:

Clean new and dirty old shoes
xveron90x / Shutterstock

As much as you might covet the most expensive shoes on the market, you have to face the realities of your budget and take price into consideration when choosing walking shoes. Don’t despair, though – there are great walking shoes available at every price point. You’ll be replacing your walking shoes after 6-9 months, or 500-1500 miles depending on the intensity, so take that into account when budgeting.

Style:

Pair of comfortable walking shoes
Bilanol / Shutterstock

It’s possible that you don’t care at all about what your shoes look like, but most shoppers do care a bit about the style of their shoes. Keep in mind that you may end up wearing your walking shoes out on errands before or after a workout. There are plenty of shoes available that combine style and functionality. The more you like your walking shoes, the more likely you are to wear them instead of alternatives that are harder on your feet!

Walking Socks:

Comfortable walking shoes and socks
Adam Melnyk / Shutterstock

While your walking shoes are an important part of your fitness gear, your socks matter, too. The right walking sock is breathable, well-fitted, and supportive. Materials like wool and synthetic blends are preferable to cotton for athletic socks; cotton retains moisture, leading to blisters.

Your sock selection should vary based on the season. Winter walkers will want thicker, warmer socks, while summer walkers may want lighter socks that still cushion and support your feet. You may want to buy your walking socks BEFORE you purchase your shoes, as this allows you to try the shoes while wearing the socks you plan to use on a daily basis.

Insoles:

Adding insoles to walking shoes
Nozdracheva Galina / Shutterstock

One way to help your walking shoes fit perfectly and provide maximum support is by adding insoles. Insoles come in a variety of styles and range from simple cushioned liners to custom-fitted orthotic aids. They are great for walkers with low arches or painful conditions like plantar fasciitis. Insoles can sometimes wear out faster than your actual shoe, so buying new insoles can breathe new life into old shoes.

If you have a diagnosed foot condition, your doctor can recommend insoles that specifically address your issue. These can make a huge difference in foot comfort. Be careful with self-diagnosis, as wearing insoles for a problem you don’t have can make other foot problems even worse.

Finding the Perfect Shoe

Finding the perfect walking shoe means shopping at a good athletic shoe store, taking the time to properly try on shoes, and being honest with yourself about how each shoe fits.

A good shoe store should have trained footwear experts, not just random salespeople. They should measure your feet and ask questions about your walking habits (how often, how far, road vs. trail, any existing injuries you might have). They should have equipment that lets you test shoes, like a treadmill or an inclined surface.

Man getting walking shoes fitted
adriaticfoto / Shutterstock

When you go to try on shoes, make sure you wear the kind of socks you usually wear for walking. Take advantage of any testing surfaces the store offers and walk around as much as possible in each pair you try on. Don’t fall in love with a shoe’s style and ignore how your feet feel in it. A stylish shoe that fits poorly is a good way to hurt your feet! You do want to find walking shoes that look good on you and that you like wearing, as this will ensure you get as much use out of your new shoes as possible.

One good tip for finding the perfect walking shoe fit is to go on a walk right before shoe shopping. Your feet might expand during your walks, and by trying on shoes while your feet are in “walking mode” you’ll have the best chance of finding the right fit.

Variety of running and walking shoes and 2 phones
Halfpoint / Shutterstock

Once you’ve found a brand and model of shoes you love, you can look to buy replacement pairs online. It can also be helpful to look at shoe reviews online before going shopping at the store. This can give you a sense of the pros and cons of popular walking shoes. Try a site like Zappos or a “best of” list in a reputable publication. But for your final purchase (at least the first time), buying in person is better than shopping online. You’ll want to try out the shoes and walk around a bit to know the fit (and size) are right.

Do take note when buying replacements that many companies update their shoe designs, sometimes yearly. This means that the same brand and model of shoes can fit differently over time. If you’re buying online, find a site that has a generous return policy just in case. Also, take note of the model name of your shoes, so when you go to purchase in the future you can buy the same exact pair.

Get Pacer

Once you’ve found the perfect pair of walking shoes, it’s time to enjoy your walk – 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.

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