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Walking is the world’s most popular form of exercise for good reason. It’s often easier than running or lifting weights, for example, but walking also has a surprising number of health benefits, even when compared to more intense exercise. According to experts, walking just 30 minutes a day can significantly improve heart health, reduce joint pain and arthritis, burn calories and even improve mood. Plus, all you need to get started is some of the best walking shoes.
Many walkers use running shoes or sneakers, but if you’re walking often, we highly recommend a pair of dedicated walking shoes. Walking for fitness activates the legs, feet and upper body in a different manner than running or light strolling. The best walking shoes are made to cushion, flex and support the whole body, permitting longer walks while greatly reducing any pain or soreness. Yes, some of the best running shoes also make great walking shoes, but not all running shoes are ideal for walking.
Walking Shoes Buying Guide
The best walking shoes provide a smooth, cushioned heel-to-toe transition, ample support and a comfortable fit for long walks. Here are a few things to think about when shopping for walking shoes.
Support: Foot support is a science. The first consideration is arch support, as people have drastically different arches. High arches that don’t get enough arch support can result in underpronation (supination) which means your foot rolls too far on the outer edge and little toes. Low arches (flat feet) with improper shoes have the opposite effect (overpronation), bending the ankle inwards with each step. Before buying walking shoes, figure out what kind of arches you have and buy accordingly.
Another note on support: try to avoid overly flared soles. Many running shoes have a flared sole, with the back of the sole sloping outwards and down towards the ground. While this is good for runners, it can be detrimental for walkers who need more heel roll.
Breathability: Airy, breathable fabrics on a shoe’s upper reduces the inevitable foot sweat and stink that accompanies walking. This means more comfort and fewer blisters. For the best experience, we also suggest picking up some breathable sweat-wicking socks.
Terrain: Most walking shoes can handle terrains from the sidewalk to the trail, but some are specialized in specific areas. If you plan on walking primarily on the trail, for example, we suggest picking a shoe that’s designed to handle dirt, rocks and roots.
Style: Sure, walking shoes are about function, but it’s always a plus if they’re somewhat fashionable too. After all, one of the benefits of walking is that you can squeeze in some exercise almost anytime (say, through the city on the way to work). If your walking shoes aren’t eyesores you’ll end up wearing them more and therefore walking more.
What Are the Best Walking Shoes?
1. New Balance 990v5
New Balance’s 990v5s recently became a massive trend in the fashion world as stylish people continue to channel Nineties dads. But the 990s are still fantastic walking shoes as well. They’re made of a soft, premium suede and mesh for breathability, striking a balance between casual and athletic. Thanks to a sturdy build and an Ortholite insert, the shoes are great for walkers with high arches and can sustain everything from commutes to long walks for exercise. The 990s are offered in a range of width sizes, making them great for anyone with wide feet.
2. Hoka One One Bondi 7
Hoka One One has taken the athletic footwear world by storm. Their shoes, such as these Bondi 7s, boast ultra-thick cushioning and extra arch support. This provides a smooth rocking motion which improves stamina, reduces stress on the body, and helps anyone with a neutral to underpronated gait. Despite their size, the shoes are shockingly lightweight too. Other special features include a memory foam heel collar to cradle the Achilles tendon, as well as a breathable mesh upper. These Bondi 7s are especially good for walking because the rear of the sole doesn’t have too much flair.
3. Salomon Speedcross 5
If your walks usually involve trails or off-roading, check out these Speedcross 5s from Salomon. The shoes are slim and flexible yet rugged enough for scrambling over roots, rocks and any other natural obstacles. The midsole is made of injection-molded EVA foam and uses Salomon’s EnergyCell technology for more cushioning and rebound with each step. In order to stay breathable while keeping out dirt and debris, the Speedcross 5s use a special knit mesh on the upper. Plus, Salomon’s kicks have enjoyed recent attention as the surprise footwear trend of the past year, making them stylish enough to wear around town.
4. Teva Gateway Low
Another great pair of trail-ready walking shoes are the Teva Gateway lows. They’re essentially hiking shoes that can handle harsh weather thanks to a water-resistant polyester upper. This upper is also part mesh, so you get breathability and flexibility as well. The shoes’ slip-proof outsole is built to handle dirt and rocks, but the kicks feel soft and cushy on concrete as well. Teva has also added an Aegis treatment on the interior which the company claims helps control odor. And while they might not fly in the office, the Gateways showcase the technical look we’re seeing everywhere right now.
5. Allbirds Wool Runners
We’re big fans of Allbirds for just about every activity in modern life. They’re stylish enough for a casual office, comfortable enough for running errands or traveling and great as walking shoes too. An insole made of layered castor bean oil and ZQ Merino wool offers ample cushioning while the kicks’ flexible wool upper cuts weight and adds breathability. This wool’s real show-stopper is a natural talent for moisture-wicking and odor control – even when and if you go sockless. Once they get dirty, just toss them in the wash to clean and sanitize.
6. Mizuno Wave Rider 24
These Mizuno Wave Rider 24s are designed for running, but they make excellent walking shoes. This transitional ability is largely thanks to a straight sole (little flair) and a midsole that’s loaded with cushiony shock-absorption tech. The upper is almost completely mesh, allowing smooth airflow to prevent overheating and sweaty feet. On the bottom is a tough sole that’s meant to withstand hundreds of miles on concrete. There’s not too much grip, so maybe pick another shoe for trail walks.
7. Skechers Ultra Flex
Slip-ons might seem like an odd choice for serious fitness walking, but these Skecher Ultra Flexes prove otherwise. Because the upper is made of stretch-knit mesh, the Ultra Flexes are more breathable and more flexible than laced shoes. Inside the shoe, you’ll find Air Cooled Memory Foam for a soft yet supportive feel. Thanks to a rocking design, movement is very smooth and a channel midsole provides further cushioning and rebound with each step. We’re also fans of the shoes’ look: They’re minimal and modern, meaning you can easily pair them with casual or athletic clothing.
8. Nike React Miler
If your gait is neutral (neither under or overpronated) these Nike React Milers are a great choice. They’re extremely lightweight with a full mesh upper, although Nike’s React sole is actually quite thick. This React sole lends a cushioned feel and plenty of responsive energy feedback with each step. Among other high-performance run/walk shoes, the Milers are also some of the most stylish, which is a big plus if you plan on wearing these while commuting or running errands.