The most important piece of equipment for walking is a pair a walking shoes. It pays to take the time to get the right shoes, not just buying what is the cheapest or the most popular. You may be surprised to know that the place to find the best walking shoe recommendations is at the best running shoe store in your area. It's also likely that the best fitness walking shoes for you will be running shoes.
The Right Shoe For Your Stride
The type of shoe you need breaks down into a few major categories. Lightweight performance trainers are great all-around walking shoes for those who don't need motion control. If you walk very long distance (over five miles at a time), a cushioned shoe might be more comfortable. Stability shoes are for midweight people who do not have severe motion control problems, but who want a stable and durable shoe.
Motion Control for Overpronators
If you overpronate, and especially if you are a heavy person who overpronates, you may need the correction and support these firm and heavy shoes provide. Overpronators can prevent injury by wearing these shoes. Have your gait analyzed at the best running shoe store in your area to determine whether you overpronate and need motion control shoes.
Walking Shoe Fit
You must locate the best athletic shoe store in your area, the place where the serious runners go to buy their shoes. That is where you will find the fit experts who will take the time to fit you into the right shoes. Don't trust your walking comfort to a salesman who doesn't know pronation from prunes. Get fit right, then you can choose to keep patronizing that store, or order your shoes online. Look for stores that offer foot analysis. That is a good indication that they are serious about getting you into the right shoe and they know their business.
Flat and No Flare
Walking shoes should not have a high heel. The heel should be no more than an inch higher than the sole under the ball of the foot. Walkers strike first with the heel and roll through the step, while some running shoes have a built-up heel for the runners who strike mid-sole. Walkers also do not need flared soles. These give some runners stability but get in the way for heel-striking walkers.
Walking shoes must be flexible or your foot will fight them as it rolls through each step, leading to shin splints. Twist them - they should twist. Bend them and they should bend at the ball of the foot, not in the middle of the arch. Set them down and poke the toe - it should rock as the toe should be slightly off the ground. If it passes these tests, it may be ok for walking.
An appropriate pair of running shoes will cost from $60-120 US suggested retail. If the usual price is less, you are buying the mass market knock-off shoes without the comfort features. If you pay more, you are paying for style. Shop for sales and close-outs on the good shoes.
For racewalking, you will want the most flexible and lightweight shoe possible. Some of the performance trainer shoes work well for racewalking, but others turn to even more specialized shoes or even to custom shoes. Minimalist shoes may be great for racewalking shorter distances. But if you will be racing for over five miles, you may want more cushioning and support.
Walking Shoes or Running Shoes?
If you look for flexible, flat shoes with a minimum heel drop, they will work for walking whether they are labeled as running shoes or walking shoes. Similarly, there are many shoes labeled as walking shoes that are not flat and flexible.