What are walking shoes?
If you walk a lot, you may want to find a pair of suitable walking shoes. These aren’t just shoes for walking to work, or running errands, but shoes for serious lengths of walking, and are in many ways similar to running shoes and other athletic shoes. However, there are a number of things which differentiate walking shoes from running. They are designed to accommodate the very different way in which the body’s weight is spread across the foot, and to specifically protect the arch and allow for flexibility in the ball of the foot.
When choosing a pair of walking shoes, it is very important that you consider your individual, personal foot type, and select shoes based on this. Every pair of shoes will support the foot in a different way, and you need to ensure that you are receiving support where you most need it, in order to avoid putting unnecessary strain on your feet and legs.
What is your Foot Type?
If you aren’t sure what type of feet you have, you can try dampening the sole of your foot and standing on a piece of paper to see your footprint. If most of your foot is visible in the print, you have flat feet. If only the ball of your foot and a narrow strip along the outer edge is visible, then you have high arched feet. If your footprint is somewhere in the middle, then you have neutral feet.
This foot type flattens and rolls inwards when weight is placed on it, so it is best to find a shoe which offers plenty of support alongside the inside edge of the foot. Flat feet also tend to be overly flexible, decreasing stability, so a stiffer and less flexible shoe is ideal. Especially look for soles where the midsole is firmer in the center of the shoe than towards the toe and heel. You should also look for shoes which are nice and firm around the heel area, as this adds extra stability.
High arched feet
Feet with high arches tend to be much less flexible, and more rigid. Weight is generally carried on the outside edge of the foot. The main thing for people with high arches to look for in women’s walking shoes is a well cushioned sole, as this will absorb shock, thereby reducing the impact that inflexible feet can pass on to the legs. The sole should be flexible and soft, providing cushioning rather than support.
This is the ideal foot type, so there is less that needs to be remedied when buying women’s walking shoes. There can still be a slight tendency for the foot to roll inwards, so look for a shoe that counters this, as well as offering a cushioned sole. Your foot should already offer reasonable shock absorption and stability, so these are not paramount concerns, but a reasonable level of cushioning will make your walking shoes more comfortable.
Types of women’s walking shoes
Once you know your foot type, and which features you should be looking for, it’s time to decide what type of women’s walking shoes would best suit your feet, and the purpose you intend them for.
Motion control walking shoes
These shoes are designed to keep the foot rigid and firm. They are designed for those with flat feet or very low arches, whose feet tend to be overly flexible. Stabilizing the feet will take a lot of strain off the feet and legs, and make walking much easier and more comfortable. Motion control shoes actively shape the foot into a healthier alignment. These are not good shoes for high arched feet, which are already too firm – rigid motion control walking shoes may be uncomfortable or even painful. They may also not work well if you require corrective insoles, as the two will not necessarily correlate.
Cushioned walking shoes
These shoes are best suited to normal or high-arched feet, which tend to require extra shock absorption. Shoes which protect the ball of your foot in particular will help you to avoid injury. Cushioned shoes also stop your feet from being artificially forced into a position which may not be ideal for you. These shoes also tend to be more lightweight and flexible than motion control shoes, so some walkers may find them more comfortable.
Trail walking shoes
These shoes are designed for a little more than everyday walking, and in fact may not be suitable for everyday walking. They tend to have very rugged soles to protect against rough walking surfaces, and should provide more stability than shoes designed for road walking. Look for shoes that give good traction on slippery or unstable surfaces, and offer a high level of ankle support. You may also want to try waterproof trail walking shoes. Essentially, trail walking shoes offer some of the best features of hiking boots, but in a more lightweight style. You don’t want them to be too heavy or too stiff, but they should still offer plenty of support. You should also look for a pair that protect your toes, to avoid any unnecessary bumps. They are generally best for those with normal or medium arches, so those of you with very flat or very high arches may require some sort of corrective insoles to get the best use out of your shoes.
For those who are hiking across rough terrain and carrying heavy loads, the most comfortable walking shoes will probably be hiking boots. They are heavier than trail walking shoes, although it is possible to find fairly lightweight models. Unlike all of the walking shoes mentioned above, hiking boots rise above the ankle to offer the best support possible. They tend to be stiffer than hiking shoes which, combined with the extra weight, can make them a little uncomfortable for some people. They are therefore not great for everyday walking, but for serious hiking they are essential. As well as support features, they tend to have tougher soles to prevent against bruising and other damage, and many are waterproof to allow for hiking in all weather. If you will be walking on rough terrain, or need to cross areas with shallow water, unstable ground, or even snow, then hiking boots are your best bet.
Top Brands for Walking Shoes
To make finding the perfect shoe a little easier, here are some of the best brands for women’s walking shoes. Have a look through their stock to see what would best suit your individual needs and foot type. Remember that most of these brands get in new models fairly regularly, so if you can’t find the perfect shoe today, check back in a little while!
This Japanese brand tends to do pretty well in reviews of walking shoes, with the cushioning features of Asics shoes seeming to be especially popular. If you require well-padded shoes, then this brand is definitely worth checking out. They do, however, make shoes designed for each different foot type, so if you require motion control shoes then Asics has a number of examples of these as well. Some of their models have been criticized for lack of durability, so perhaps do some research on individual models of walking shoes before you decide to buy.
New Balance are a brand well worth investigating for their walking shoes, because they offer a wide range of shoe types to suit every budget – prices can range from about $25 to $150. They offer different models of walking shoes, suitable for each type of foot. Their walking shoes have been especially praised as perfect for those with narrow feet.
While this brand is best known for its running shoes, it also makes excellent walking shoes. Their motion control shoes are especially worth trying, as they are medically improved for correction of flat feet and low arches. Their other shoe types are not medically improved, but they are still of a very high quality, and may suit your feet very well. Brooks also offer extra wide fittings, which may help you to choose an even more comfortable pair of shoes.
Saucony shoes tend to be especially praised for their comfort – if you find that walking gives you sore feet, give this brand a try! Their prices are mid-range, and they offer a variety of shoe styles to fit different types of feet. Again, this is a brand which is best known for its running shoes, but also produces high quality walking shoes.
Which walking shoes should you choose?
Ultimately, which walking shoes are best for you is a very personal decision. You need to consider your foot shape, and what sort of support you need. You should also think about how much walking you will be doing, what sort of terrain it will be on, and in what weather conditions. Your own weight and the weight of what you will be carrying should also factor into the decision. Finally, you will have to decide how much you can budget for shoes, and select a brand accordingly. Choosing walking shoes is a lengthy process, but if you do it carefully and pick the right pair, then you’ll be able to walk in comfort for a very long time!