Walking is a great exercise, as long as you outfit your feet properly. When shopping for walking shoes, look for flexibility, stability, and comfort.
Walking is an easy way to add more physical activity to your daily routine. It's free, can be done just about anywhere, and doesn't require special equipment. But it does require a good pair of walking shoes.
Think about the type of walking you do before you shop, says Tom Boland, a certified pedorthist in New York City. Do you walk on pavement, on dirt paths, on even or uneven surfaces? Do you walk slowly or at a brisk pace? The type of walking you do is a factor in choosing the right walking shoes. A knowledgeable shoe salesperson can help direct you to the most appropriate walking shoes for your routine.
Walking Shoes: Features to Look For
The most important features in walking shoes are shock absorption, stability, and comfort:
- Shock absorption. When you walk, your heel strikes the ground first, so it's important to find shoes with extra shock absorption in the heel.
- Stability. As we walk on uneven surfaces, we alternate between pronating (rolling the foot inward, so that the sole of the foot turns outward) and supinating (rolling the foot outward, so that the sole of the foot turns inward), says Boland. Look for walking shoes that help you feel balanced throughout the range of ankle and foot motion.
- Comfort. Comfortable shoe is essential. It's particularly important to have enough room for your toes to move freely. There should be at least a finger's width (about a half-inch) between the end of your longest toe and the front of the shoe.
Some people may have special issues to keep in mind when shopping for walking shoes. Three of the most common issues are excessive pronation, leg-length discrepancies, and diabetes:
- Excessive pronation. This is a common problem. Over time, it can cause the arch of the foot to flatten, resulting in what’s known as "flat feet." People with fallen or flat arches may be more comfortable with an orthotic shoe insert that provides support to the mid-foot. Another option is to look for a walking shoe specifically designed to control excessive pronation.
- Leg-length discrepancies. People who have a discrepancy in leg length may need either an orthotic shoe insert or a heel or sole lift added to the exterior of the shoe.
- Diabetes. People with diabetes need to pay special attention to foot care and shoe selection. Be sure your shoes fit properly and are not too tight. And, of course, be careful to check your feet daily to be sure you're not developing any blisters or sores from your footwear.
Walking Shoes: Shopping Suggestions
Walking shoes can be found in a wide range of prices. You don't need to exceed your budget or buy the most expensive pair that you can find. Just be sure to buy shoes that fit properly. For the best fit, try these tips on for size:
- Shop for shoes late in the day. Feet swell slightly throughout the course of the day, so that's when they are at their largest.
- Wear the type of socks you expect to wear while walking.
- Be sure to have the salesperson measure both of your feet — there may be a slight difference in size between them. Measurements should be taken while you're standing, as feet expand when they bear body weight.
- Try on both shoes and walk around the store. If the shoes feel too tight, try a larger size. Don't make the mistake of thinking that the shoes will be comfortable once they've been broken in.
- As with any other purchase, check the store's return policy at the time of your purchase.
Remember to take care of your foot health and you’ll get even more enjoyment from your walks.
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