The Best Walking Shoes Buying Guide

The Best Walking Shoes Buying Guide

These days, there’s pretty much a shoe for anything. From running, to basketball, to boating, and really just about anything else. But what about walking shoes? Yes, there are shoes that are specifically made for walking. That may not seem like a groundbreaking idea, but it’s true.

Technically, you could probably say that any shoe you walk in is a walking shoe - and you would be right. However, if you are going to be on your feet more often than not, or if you are planning on walking long distances for whatever reason in the future, purchasing actual walking shoes is a good idea. But what are the best walking shoes?

There are certainly more than a few walking shoes available on the market, and they can vary greatly depending on the brand and type. We’ve selected two of our favorites for both men and women, to help you with suggestions on which to buy. But before we get to that, let’s first talk a little more about what walking shoes are, and what to look for when shopping for a pair.

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What Are Walking Shoes?

Walking can obviously be accomplished with any kind of shoe, but walking shoes are designed to provide the proper amount of support, stability, and cushioning for walking, as a way to make it as comfortable and easy on your body as possible.

Walking shoes often have the form of athletic shoes, mainly running shoes. This means they have a lot of ventilation, proper arch support, a design that is intended to encourage a natural roll forward from the heel with each step, and plenty of cushioning.

Although not as light and “fast” as running shoes, walking shoes still retain most of the characteristics, albeit with a bit of a more casual appearance. They often have a more sporty look to them, (but not always,) and can usually be worn casually for everyday use as well.

People in walking shoes

Regardless of their overall style, walking shoes shoe provide enough cushioning in the right areas, and the right amount of flex as well, along with a plenty of grip on the sole for better traction for inclines and such.

So, in summary, all the things you’d want in a shoe when walking, whether it’s for a short distance, or much longer. Simple enough, right?

When And Where Should You Use Walking Shoes?

One of the best things about walking shoes is how versatile they are. You can really wear them just about anywhere, and for everything from fitness to work.

Some of the most ideal times to wear walking shoes are when you plan to be on your feet all day. This can include activities such as a walking tour when on vacation, commuting by foot, and of course, going for long walks just because.

How To Identify The Best Walking Shoes

Typically, there are four core aspects to be mindful of when selecting your next pair of walking shoes. This obviously doesn’t cover every last detail, but these four features matter the most.

Cushioning

The most common complaint with any type of shoes after walking for an extended period is general foot pain. Walking shoes are all about cushioning, so it’s important to choose a pair that has enough plush cushioning to both protect your feet and provide an added measure of comfort.

The most cushioning should be in the heel area, as this is where your foot strikes first with each step. Some added cushioning at the forefoot is recommended as well.

Putting on a walking shoes

Traction

Proper traction is needed for a truly great pair of walking shoes. Some casual shoes may have a very smooth tread that may not be very stable or secure on some surfaces. Look for shoes that have at least a small amount of tread. This helps add stability on slanted surfaces as well.

If possible, try to find shoes that have a durable, harder carbon rubber outsole. These soles are able to withstand much more wear, and last much longer than softer soles.

Ventilation

Feet need to breathe. Wearing shoes for an extended period of time can cause your feet to get hot, creating sweat and moisture. This is bad for your feet in more ways that one, and can also cause odor, along with blisters over time. Make sure that you select a pair of shoes that has lots of ventilation to allow air to escape and keep your feet as cool as possible.

Style

The style of the shoes doesn’t affect the fit and comfort, but it’s still important. Since walking shoes can be worn casually and more often than other shoes, finding a style that’s to your taste is always a good idea. Fortunately, walking shoes are available in endless styles, so it’s not too hard to find some you’ll be fine being caught wearing.

Fit

While you aren’t going to be doing any high-impact physical activity with your walking shoes, it’s still essential to make sure that your shoes fit as best as possible. If you end up with the wrong size, you can still end up with sore feet, and even aching back and legs.

With a proper fit, your feet will feel secure and snug, but also without being crammed at the heel or the toe areas. This includes both at a standstill, and when taking strides.

Here is a quick summary of how each part of the shoe should fit.

People in walking shoes
  • Heel - The fit of the shoe around your heel should be snug, but not overly tight. A little movement from your heel in the shoe is okay, but it should be very minimal, otherwise you’ll experience discomfort and an improper stride.
  • Instep - The shoe's upper (the part that runs along the top of your foot) should be snug and secure around your instep. Shoe laces are almost always used to accomplish this. When laced and tightened, the upper should press against your foot to keep the shoe in place, but without being too tight.
  • Width - Your foot should be able to avoid crossing over the side of the insole when moving side-to-side. If the shoe is too narrow, you'll feel the base of your little toe sitting on the edge of the shoe last.
  • Length - There should be a thumb's width of space between your longest toe and the end of a shoe inside. To measure this, stand with your shoes laced up, and then wiggle your toes. If they have adequate room, you are good to go.
  • Feel - After checking all of these aspects, take a brief walk with your shoes and make sure everything still fits as it should. The shoe should support your strides in a natural way, without altering it. If you feel a noticeable deviation from your normal stride, double-check each part of the shoe to make sure it’s fitting right.

The Best Walking Shoes For Men

The following two shoes are our current favorites for men. Both of them are very versatile, and display all of the things one should look for in a great pair of walking shoes for any purpose.

Top Pick: ASICS Men’s Gel-Tech Walker Neo 4

ASICS Gel-Tech Walker Neo 4’s are a well-rounded shoe that appears rather simple to the naked eye, but features some strategic engineering and innovation within, resulting in one of the most comfortable shoes you can buy.

Overall, the Gel-Tech Walker Neo 4’s are very lightweight for a walking shoe, while still providing enough stability and support when standing for long periods. ASICS’ gel technology is found in the heel area, creating plush cushioning that is also reflexive, enhancing natural gait when walking.

Asics Men's GEL-Tech Walker Neo 4 Walking Shoe

Another great thing about these shoes is the amount of ventilation found throughout. The breathable mesh begins above the toe box, and runs to the stop of the upper, and also along most of the sides of the shoe. The tongue portion is very padded, allowing for a soft feel even when laced tightly.

For those that wish to use an orthotic, the sockliner is easily removable. A dual-density midsole system provides a noticeable amount of cushioning that forms around the foot, while supporting the arch and stride as well. High-abrasion heel plugs in each shoe help prevent wear on the parts of the sole that are most used.

In terms of a superior overall walking shoe that’s perfect for numerous uses, it’s hard to beat the Gel-Tech Walker Neo 4’s. They are built for both comfort and durability, and make even the longest periods of being on your feet more than tolerable.

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Runner Up: New Balance MW411V2

New Balance’s MW411V2 shoes are very sleek and minimal in appearance, and feature many of the same aspects that make New Balance shoes so popular in the running world. The MW411V2’s are made for walking, but also have a build and design that makes them great for those that have to stand for extended periods of time due to their occupation.

The body of the MW411V2’s is mostly leather, with some strategically placed perforations for ventilation. This is found on the sides of the shoe, and also throughout the upper.

Soft mesh material around the ankle area helps keep the shoe secure, but without feeling to stiff on each side.

New Balance Men's MW411V2 Walking Shoe

Plush cushioning is found all through the insole, with the softest area being the heel. The added cushioning makes standing very comfortable, without giving a flat, bottomed-out feel after standing in one place for awhile. Midsole support is both rigid and soft, resulting in a noticeable amount of stability.

The MW411V2’s combine comfort and style into one package. The shoes look great, and feel even better, making them an excellent choice for your next pair of walking shoes.

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The Best Walking Shoes For Women

The next two pairs are our current top picks for women’s walking shoes. Each pair offers the best combination of factors you should look for in walking shoes, packaged in appropriate sizes for a woman’s foot, along with style and coloring as well.

Top Pick: Nike Women’s AF1 Flyknit

The Air Force One has long been one of Nike’s most popular shoe lines, and for good reason. They offer classic Nike styling and Air cushioning technology, along with a high-quality feel and unique design that only adds to the already impressive level of comfort.

These particular AF1’s are made from flyknit material, creating a soft, breathable body all over, and one of the most snug-yet-plush fits you can find for any shoe. The Air cushioning in the heel absorbs most of your strike with each step, seamlessly carrying your step forward through the rest of the motion. At a standstill, they are just as comfortable.

Nike Women's AF1 Flyknit Low Casual Shoe

The tongue of the AF1’s are made from leather, giving it a more distinguished look, and a better fit along the upper too. The lacing above the tongue is more intricate than most, resulting in an added measure of adjustability in terms of preferred tightness.

The shoe’s soles are constructed from carbon rubber that falls somewhere in the middle in regards to firmness. The tread is on the smooth side, with rounded layers under the heel and forefoot for better stability and traction.

The AF1’s are very simplistic, yet they make the most of a unique construction that makes them incredibly soft and snug through the foot. The prestigious nike style and aesthetic are merely an added bonus. This is one of the best all-around women’s shoes on the market, and perfect for walking.

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Runner Up: Adidas NEO Women’s Lite Racer

The women’s NEO Lite Racer from Adidas manages to fit both walking and running shoe technology into a casual design that is fashion and comfort oriented. You get a trademark Adidas look, along with plenty of added cushioning and stability built in, making these one of the most versatile walking shoes you can buy.

The body of the shoe is both textile and synthetic, making it very well-ventilated, breathable, and surprisingly lightweight.

Despite feeling like running shoes at times, the NEO Lite Racers have a significant amount of stability and cushioning that can be felt when walking or standing. An entirely mesh upper offers an added amount of ventilation, making the NEO Lite Racer perfect for hot weather.

adidas NEO Women's Lite Racer W Casual Sneaker

Adidas’ cloud foam technology is found in the cushioned insole, which is made from visco-elastic rebound foam that actually contours to your foot for a perfect fit. It’s also removable for those that use an orthotic. A high-abrasion EVA midsole adds even more cushioning, with increased durability that won’t wear down easily over time.

The Adidas NEO Lite Racers are top-tier walking shoes that are great for daily wear, the gym, aerobics, and much more. Their potent combination of form-fitting insoles, unique color options, and superior breathability make them an obvious choice for anyone looking for a light walking shoe that will always keep your feet comfortable and stable.

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Conclusion

Hopefully you are now much more informed about how to choose the best walking shoes for your own needs. While there are tons of options available, we love these four different shoes for men and women, and highly recommend that you begin your search by strongly considering any of them.

Always be sure to do your research on sizing, and don’t ever hesitate to send them back for a different size if they aren’t right. The small bit of hassle will pay off over the long run, and your feet will thank you.

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