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How To Buy Walking Shoes

Walking shoes are performance footwear products designed to meet very specific functional requirements of the sport. The mechanics of walking are distinct from other activities, such as running or aerobics, so it is important to wear a walking shoe to get the most comfort and efficiency out of the activity.

How to Buy Walking Shoes

If your primary exercise activity is walking, it is important to buy shoes designed specifically for walking. Modern walking shoes have been engineered for the unique stride and stress demands of exercise walking.

Heel Construction

  • Walking shoes have a low-profile heel with a slight bevel on the lateral (outer) side of the heel to steady the foot and ankle, help prepare you for roll-through, and encourage an efficient foot strike
  • Shock absorption isn't as big a requirement in walking shoes as it is in more high-impact activity shoes
  • The heel on a walking shoe should be specially designed to accommodate the natural roll-through motion of walking

Cushioning and Heel Height

  • Walking shoes have low heel profiles because walkers need less heel cushioning than runners
  • Most walking shoes will have a relatively low midsole profile since a walker's cushioning needs are only moderate
  • Heel counter--This is a plastic or composite material used to reinforce the heel area and increase stability. It will keep your foot snugly in place and centered in your shoe as you walk.

Flexibility

A walker's foot flexes more than a runner's during toe-off, therefore the make-up and construction of a walking shoe must allow for this flexibility.

  • Flex Grooves
    • Cut horizontally across the forefoot of the outsole or bottom of the shoe, allowing the foot to bend and flex properly
    • In shoes without flex grooves the and outsole materials should be flexible
  • Upper materials
    • Walking shoe uppers are sturdy enough to be supportive but are also breathable and lightweight
    • All-leather shoes are the sturdiest and most stable, but they are heavier and less breathable
    • Shoes that combine leather and lightweight, breathable, synthetic mesh materials offer both durability and breathability and are typically more lightweight
  • Toe Box
    • Walking shoes offer more room in the toe box to allow your toes to flex up during heel plant and spread out and flex during the toe-off portion
    • A toe box that is too small will restrict the muscles and tendons in the foot and lead to pain and cramping
    • As a general rule, you should have about 1/2-inch (about a thumb's width) between your longest toe and the front of the shoe and 1/2-inch between your longest toe and the top of the shoe

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When To Buy New Walking Shoes

  • The easiest way to tell if you need new walking shoes is to look at the soles. If they are worn out or unevenly worn, they should be replaced.
  • Walking shoes should be replaced every 500 miles, or every six months, mainly due to the breakdown in cushioning that occurs
  • If you are wearing your walking shoes for activities besides fitness walking, those miles count, too

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Determining Your Shoe Size

  • Determining your shoe size is essential to a comfortable fit
  • Don't assume your shoe size is the same as it has always been. The shape of your feet changes over time.
  • For the perfect fitting shoe, see Determine Your Shoe Size

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Fit Tip

Toe AreaWidth AreaHeel Area
Allow (thumbnail's length) of space between top of longest toe on largest foot and the end of the shoeFoot should fit comfortably without stretching the upper over the midsole of the shoeHeel can move but is not supposed to slip

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