Three Things to Consider Before Buying Walking Shoes

A reliable pair of walking shoes can make your exercise more comfortable and enjoyable.

Woman walking
Walking is a great way to exercise without causing harm to your joints or muscles.Daniel Reche via Pexels

According to doctors, walking for 30 minutes a day, several days a week, is a great way to improve and maintain your overall health. Some important health benefits of walking include increased heart and lung fitness; a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke; improved management of conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, joint and muscular pain or stiffness, and diabetes; stronger bones and improved balance; increased muscle strength and endurance; and reduced body fat. To get started walking your way to good health, all you need is an OK from your doctor and a good pair of shoes. You’ll have to see your doctor for his approval, but the following notes should help you zero in a comfortable pair of walking shoes tailored for your feet.

Support

Merrell Men's Moab 2 Vent Hiking Shoe
These specialized hiking shoes provide the support needed for walking in the park or on wilderness trails.Merrell

The support you’ll need in your walking shoes is directly related to the type of feet you have. People with naturally high arches tend to experience excessive joint and muscle strains because their feet don’t absorb shock well. Shoes with a curved last and ample cushioning can help absorb some shock. People with neutral arched feet, on the other hand, tend to be more comfortable in shoes with firm midsoles and straight to semi-curved lasts, and moderate rear-foot stability. People with low-arches or flat feet often benefit from a walking shoe with a straight last and motion control to help stabilize their feet.

Cushioning

Skechers Women's D'Lites Memory Foam Lace-up Sneaker
These lace-up sneakers feature a cushioned insole, along with a padded tongue and collar for comfort.Skechers

Compared to running, walking is a very low-impact form of exercise. While running requires your shoe to absorb two to three times your body weight with each stride, walking’s gentler motion requires your shoe to absorb only one to two times your body weight per stride. Since walking causes less impact on your feet than running does, while providing much of the same health benefit, a true walking shoe doesn’t require as much cushioning in the heel as traditional running shoes do. Walking shoes generally focus on providing cushioning under the balls of the feet. Good cushioning is very important to a comfortable feel. Without shoes that feel comfortable, you’re less likely to go walking, so less likely to reap the many health benefits.

Fit

Skechers Women's Go Walk Joy Walking Shoe
These walking shoes are lightweight and flexible, with a high rebound insole.Skechers

Wearing comfortable walking shoes that fit your feet correctly can help prevent injuries like blisters. Walking shoes should leave about one-half inch of space between your longest toe and the end of the shoe—approximately the width of your finger. Width should ensure that the side-to-side fit is snug but not tight. Additionally, the toe box of your walking shoes should have enough room for you to wiggle your toes freely without pressure, but not loose enough that your feet slide around in the shoe. As far as heel fit, the shoe should cradle the heel firmly so it can’t slip around in the shoe. Note that if one of your feet is larger than the other, buy shoes to fit the larger foot. Lastly, consider what socks you will be wearing when walking. If you prefer thick socks, that might require a little bit larger shoe size that if you wear thin ones.

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