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How to Shop for Walking Shoes

woman lacing up her shoes before going for a walk
Kanut Srinin/Shutterstock

If you enjoy walking and plan to do a lot of it, investing in a pair of walking shoes is worth it. Before you go out and buy any type of sports shoe, however, learn why wearing the right type is important.

Why You Should Wear Walking Shoes When you Walk

Just like you wouldn’t wear bowling shoes to play football, you shouldn’t wear running shoes when you’re walking.

Next time you’re walking, focus on the function of your foot. When you walk, you start with your heal on the ground and then roll through to the forefoot before lifting to take another step. Walking shoes need flexibility at the front of the shoe for the proper roll if you want to avoid sore feet on your walk. Running shoes often have a stiffer sole and are flared at the heel to add stability during the run.

Wearing walking shoes—instead of the wrong kind of shoes like those intended for sports, casual wear, or other activities—will ensure you suffer less foot pain, help you avoid shin splints, and should help increase your endurance. The right fit will help you avoid blisters.

How to Find the Right Pair of Walking Shoes

The right pair of walking shoes is about more than finding the right size. You need to look at the shoe itself before trying it on. Walk around in them and get a feel for more than one pair before you make a final decision.

What to Look for First

Before you even try on potential walking shoes, look over each pair you’re considering. Check the following:

  • Heel: Walking shoes shouldn’t have a flared heel like running shoes, which won’t be flexible enough for painless walking.
  • Sole: Make sure it’s flexible in the area of the ball of your foot by giving it a twist.
  • Balance: When you place the shoe on the floor, it should sit with the toe slightly lifted from the floor so it rocks forward when you push on the front.
  • Insole: You want a walking shoe with good arch support, but you can also invest in removable insoles.

You also want to make sure the shoe cushions your ankle, is breathable, has tread for traction, and offers plenty of room to wiggle your toes.

Your Foot and Proper Fit

What your foot looks like matters when it finds the right shoes or the insoles to help make them fit perfectly. A few things to consider about your feet are:

  • Length and width: Wearing the wrong size shoes will lead to painful blisters, so be sure you know your proper shoe size, including width. Your shoe salesperson can do an accurate measurement for you in-store.
  • Arch: Know your arch type. Your arches help distribute your weight evenly, which makes walking more comfortable. If you need arch support, look for shoes that offer it.

Once you have the right size shoes and the proper support, start trying on shoes. There are things you want to look for when you get your shoes on and stand or walk in them:

  • Wear the right socks: These are walking shoes, so, while shoe shopping, wear the socks you typically would wear on a walk.
  • Shop at the right time: Don’t shop first thing in the day. Your feet swell as you walk, so try shoes on after you’ve had a full day or at least after you’ve gone for your usual walk.
  • Have your feet professionally measured: If you’re shoe shopping in the right stores, salespeople trained in sizing customers for shoes can assist you—to help you find what’s right for you.
  • Pick the right store: To get the best shoe-buying experience, shop at shoe stores—not at big box stores.

Your shoe size can change with weight loss, weight gain, and as you age. Even if you think you know your proper size and fit, have your feet measured again just to be sure.

Always try on both shoes, not just one. Move your toes around and make sure you have half an inch of space between your longest toe and the shoe front. Standing in them will let you see if they’re wide enough for your feet. You don’t want a tight fit; you want a snug fit.

Talk a walk down the store aisle and judge for comfort. If your feet are slipping around inside, try a size smaller. If they don’t feel comfortable, try on a different pair.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow has been a professional writer for almost two decades. Yvonne has worked for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and much more as a writer and editor. She's also a published poet and a short story writer. Read Full Bio »

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