When running, we typically hit the ground flat-footed, whereas when we walk, our foot hits heel first and then rolls onto the toe. Therefore, the walking shoe is different from the running shoe. Walking shoes are often lighter in weight, with more stability in the heel, a flexible sole and more bend in the toe than a running shoe.
When you try on a walking shoe before purchase, there should be a fingernail’s width (or about half an inch) between your toes and the end of the shoe. Your toes should be able to move freely, your heel should not slip and the shoe should not pinch or bind, especially across the arch or ball of your foot. You need to be measured also for width and arch. Feet with low or high arches or no arch (called flat-footed) require different shoes, and a too-narrow shoe can lead to hammertoes and other foot problems.
To find the right shoe for your walking workout, remember these shopping tips:
- Visit the shoe store at the end of the day, when your feet are slightly swollen. This way, the shoe will fit correctly after a long walk.
- Bring in your old shoes. A knowledgeable salesperson will be able to tell a lot about your feet by examining where and how your shoes have been worn out.
- Replace your shoes at least once a year. There could be damage to supportive features invisible to the untrained eye.
- Walk around on a hard surface in the store for as long as you can before purchasing the shoes. Make sure they feel good and do not rub in any strategic places.
- Wear the type of socks you normally wear for your workouts.
- Once you have made your purchase, wear your shoes around the house for a few days until you are sure they will work for you.
If you question the suitability of your selection, bring your shoes to our office so we can check the fit and perform a gait analysis. Use your walking shoes for workouts only—do not wear them for errands or when hanging out with the kids. Above all, remember: A shoe can receive the best reviews or be worn by the most successful athlete, but if it does not work for your foot, it will not do you any good.