Start with the basics -- do you overpronate, which indicates that you need motion control shoes? Or do you have a neutral gait and can wear lightweight neutral shoes? If you haven't had your stride analyzed before, now is the time to find the serious running shoe store in your area that will assess you as part of their service. They will watch you walk and may even video you on a treadmill. This will allow them to steer you into motion control shoes vs. neutral shoes.
Running shoes vs. walking shoes: Don't be shocked to find out that running shoes may be better for fast walking than shoes that call themselves walking shoes. Many so-called walking shoes don't have the design and technology needed for faster walking. They are often built to be stable, comfortable and sell at a lower price point. It is much easier to find running shoes that fit the profile needed for a walking stride. Don't buy crosstrainers for walking, they are built to be stable and inflexible and won't assist your stride.
More: Should Walkers Wear Running Shoes?
Flexibility is the Key to Fast Walking Shoes: When walking fast, your foot flexes through the step, with a roll from heel to toe. Your shoes need to be flexible enough to flex with that natural foot motion, rather than being rigid and unbending. Your fast walking shoe should bend in the ball of the foot, and you should be able to twist it from side to side. But too much flexibility can also be a problem. Minimalist shoes that offer no support may not be the right choice, especially as you age. If you can bend the shoe completely in half, it may be too minimal.
Flat Shoes - Small Heel-Toe Drop: Classing running shoes have a higher heel than toe, to balance out the foot strike when runners land on their midfoot or forefoot. Because walkers strike with their heel, they want little difference in height between the heel and the ball of the foot. The minimalist shoe trend for runners is producing more and more shoes with a low heel-toe drop or offset, more in line with the needs of walkers. As a fast walker, you want to avoid shoes with a big heel-toe drop or offset. You can't always judge this just by looking at the shoe, as the designs may hide the truth. Ask the salesperson or consult the shoe manufacturer's product information.
No Flared Heel: Flared heels provide stability, and you will see some very aggressive heels on trail running shoes. But walkers strike with the heel, and a chunky flared heel isn't a good landing zone for a walking step. In fact, a shoe designed for walking would have slightly undercut heel. These will be hard to find on a running shoe, but you may find it on some walking shoes.
Cushioning: When walking fast, you want a lightweight shoe but it needs to have enough cushioning so your feet don't take a beating from the impact. The amount of cushioning you want will depend on the mileage you walk with each workout. If you keep your walks to three miles or less, you will need less cushioning. But if you are walking six miles or training for a half marathon or marathon, you need shoes with more cushioning and should avoid racing flats and minimalist uncushioned shoes. At that length of workout, you will need some cushioning.
How Should a Fast Walking Shoe Fit? A properly fitted shoe leaves room at the toe for your foot to expand as you walk, and you shouldn't feel a too-snug fit at any point of your foot. Neither should the shoe have a sloppy fit. If your feet have too much room to move around, you can end up with blisters. Shop for shoes after you have spent 30 minutes or more on your feet so they will be in the condition as when you walk. Plan to buy walking shoes that are larger than your dress shoes, as much as a full size larger.
- Top Picks for Racewalking Shoes
- Top Picks for Performance Training Shoes
- Top Picks for Motion Control Shoes
Next Page: Assess Your Baseline for Fast Walking