They may seem similar but in reality, running and walking are very different activities and require their own specialized footwear. Running is a high-impact sport. When you walk, you impact the ground with 1.5 times your body weight; however, when you run, you impact the ground with 3 times your body weight.
Most runners land on their heel, midfoot, or ball of the foot. Walkers land on their heel and the weight then rolls through the ball to the toe. This gentler motion is what allows your feet to absorb approximately 1.5 times your body weight; in addition, your body weight is distributed much more evenly on the foot. Also, when you're walking there are points where both of your feet are on the ground at the same time, dividing your weight. As you can imagine, this is very different than running.
Real walking shoes are made to reflect these differences.
- To help the foot naturally roll forward walking shoes generally have undercut heels instead of flared heels or big heels. Walking shoes should not have a big difference in height between the heel and toes.
- To allow walkers to push off with their toes and achieve a better range of forefoot motion, walking shoes generally have more flex at the forefoot (in other words, through the ball of the foot). Walking shoes need to have some flexibility at the arch, yet not too much. (Remember that if you need a stability or motion control shoe you will have less flexibility in your shoe.)
- To provide support where your force is the heaviest, good walking shoes should have good arch support.
In general, running shoes have more cushioning in the heel and forefoot. Walkers need less cushioning than runners but still need some. Running makes your feet hotter and running shoes often have mesh to allow for breathability. You don't necessarily need this in walking shoes. Just as it's vital that you wear the right shoes for running, it's important to wear the correct shoes for walking. The right shoes can help prevent injury and make walking more enjoyable.
Many brands make walking shoes, and there is a wide range of styles and fits to cater to nearly any personal preference. Click through below to see a few of the more popular styles, or browse our entire walking shoe collection!
Brooks Addiction Walker Suede
New Balance 1365
New Balance 928v3
Saucony Echelon Walker 3
Hoka One One Bondi SR
Saucony Omni Walker 3
Brooks Addiction Walker 2
Skechers Max Cushioning Premier
When you are trying on walking shoes make sure you get the proper support for your arch type. You can use the same wet test that runners use. A good rule of thumb is that a high arch means you have less natural shock absorption so you should look for shoes with more cushioning. Flatter feet offer less support, which can cause muscle and joint stress—you may need stability shoes.
Just like runners do, keep track of your mileage. An average pair of shoes lasts for 300-500 miles. However, if your outsole is worn or if you feel less support, it's also time to buy new shoes.
Luckily, there are many different walking shoes to choose from and many of the large, trusted brands make shoes specifically for walking.