(This guide has been updated with current models for July 2019.)
Whenever most people think of walking, a mental image of someone strolling in the neighborhood or taking a brisk walk in the park pops up.
But people walk a lot more than they realize.
Are you a student? Then you’re probably doing a lot of walking around the campus between classes. Going to a pedestrian-friendly city where the sights and sounds can be better absorbed by walking rather than driving? You’ll be surprised by how many miles of walking you can do in a single day of sightseeing.
Do you walk from your home to the subway station on your way to work and back? That could be a couple of miles every day.
And don’t forget the family trip to the amusement park during the school vacation, where you could be walking for 8+ hours without even realizing it.
And then there are professions which involve a lot of walking. Solereview receives a lot of questions from readers who work as mail couriers or warehouse workers asking which shoe they should buy. If you happen to work in a large warehouse or a factory, you can walk several miles daily without even noticing it.
Or one could be a runner recovering from an injury, and walking happens to be a low-impact replacement exercise.
It’s pretty obvious that your pair of brown brogues or flip-flops are inadequately equipped for walking. Well, you can walk in them, but those aren’t the best choice of footwear once the mileage exceeds a certain threshold.
Most sportswear brands sell walking shoes, but boy, do they look drab and uninspiring. Walking shoes lack the breadth of colors and materials found in running shoes.
Can running shoes be worn for walking? Sure. But first, it is important to understand the fundamental difference between walking and running, and how it affects the choice of footwear.
Shortly after the push-off phase of running, both of your feet are momentarily in the air. Contrast this with walking, where both feet can be in contact with the ground at the same time. One foot is flat on the ground, while the tip of the other foot is still in contact with the road. Hence, the transitions happen much in a much slower fashion than running, as the weight loading progresses gradually from the heel to toe.
If you’ve been reading solereview’s shoe guides lately, you know the drill. We first describe the selection criteria, followed by the list of recommended shoes. Here goes:
The shoe should have a beveled (angled) heel: Unlike running where people either forefoot strike or heel strike, walking involves 100% heel striking – and you don’t have a choice. So the running shoe in question needs to have an angled heel for smoother heel landings.
The outsole should have as much ground contact as possible: Since the weight loading happens in a very gradual way along the length of the shoe, you don’t want a wide midfoot gap. The midfoot should be bridged with rubber and provide continuity of outsole coverage.
The forefoot should be flexible: One thing you notice about walking is that your foot flexes more gradually and completely than running.
A stiff midsole is likely to tire your foot faster than a flexible one, unless the midsole has a rocker shape which allows quick roll-offs. Two shoes on the list – the New Balance 1080V9 and the Skechers GoRun Ride 7 – exhibit the said behavior.
The shoe should have ample cushioning: If you’re going to spend long hours on your feet, the midsole needs to have plenty of padding. Now don’t confuse ‘cushioned’ with softness. A shoe can be well-padded without being mushy; an overly soft shoe creates more work for your muscles, resulting in tiredness.
The upper should fit well and be well ventilated: This one’s critical. A shoe which is either too tight or too loose is not suitable for walking. Like running, your foot will expand after some time, so there needs to be enough room for splay. Conversely, a loose upper might cause blisters if your foot repeatedly slides over the insole.
The choice of socks is important for long walks. Avoid thick cotton or woolen socks which can gather under your foot and cause blisters. Invest in a pair of socks which do not move over your skin. Most running socks fit this description.
Without further ado, let’s jump right into our list of top eight running shoes for walking:
1) adidas UltraBoost 19
The UltraBoost 19 is, in every way, an improvement over the original UltraBoost. The new upper is lighter with more forefoot room. One of our pet peeves with the UltraBoost OG was its rigid plastic midfoot and heel casing.
Plastic is used judiciously on the UB 19. The heel clip is now just a skeletal frame which partially extends over the Boost midsole for support. The midfoot uses plastic panels except that they are thin and do not hinder movement.
The full-length Boost midsole with a protective Continental outsole is the UB 19’s pièce de résistance. The voluminous midsole has ample cushioning comfort for walking all day, and the Y-shaped Torsion shank adds a bit of snap to what is a soft ride.
2) Asics Gel-Cumulus 21
If given a choice between the Asics Nimbus 21 and the Cumulus 21, we’d pick the latter as a walking shoe for its lower price and softer ride. Because of its design, the Cumulus 21 proves to be a great choice for walks. The recently redesigned Asics outsole has a full-contact layout for a smoother transition.
The dual-density Flytefoam midsole works in concert with the blown rubber outsole to deliver a cushioned ride. The true-to-size upper fit and plush materials secure the foot for all-day comfort.
3) Brooks Glycerin 17
The Glycerin 17 is all that the Ghost is, and then some. The midsole’s cushioned and smooth ride makes the Glycerin suitable for walking speeds. The generously articulated outsole and a soft forefoot help create a smooth weight loading experience.
The upper materials are plush and the ventilation levels are decent. All these ingredients constitute a plush walking shoe. In our running shoe reviews, we recommended the Ghost over the Glycerin. But when you’re walking, we suggest the opposite – the Glycerin 17 is our pick of the two.
4) New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 V9
The 1080V9’s Ortholite insole and Fresh Foam midsole come together to create a cushioned platform suitable for all-day walking. A blown-rubber sheet covers the outsole to offer a smooth transition experience during walks.
The sleeved upper is comfortable with enough space to splay your toes. Should you need less or more room, the 1080 is offered in 4 widths.
5) Nike Free RN 5.0
What has the flexible feel of a sandal but has the protection of closed footwear? It’s the Nike Free RN 5.0. Ok, this new Free is nowhere close to the original Free. In the sense that the midsole doesn’t feel as minimal, and the interiors aren’t as comfortable as the original Free’s when worn barefoot.
Still, the Nike Free RN 5.0 is flexible, comfortable and great for walking around when worn with a pair of socks. Watch out for the sticky insole though – it tends to move around when taking the shoes off.
6) Nike Air Zoom Vomero 5
Back in the day, the Vomero 5 was the last word in plush running shoe cushioning. The 2008 nostalgia is recreated in its full mesh and foam glory, and it’s also a great pick as a walking shoe.
The combination of soft Cushlon foam, Zoom Air bags, and the blown rubber outsole produces a comfortable ride for walking. The upper is an authentic remake of the 2008 model, which means the spongy spacer mesh, the rubber saddle, and the plush collar lining wrap the foot in comfort.
7) Reebok Floatride ULTK (Ultraknit)
The Reebok Floatride Ultraknit’s very soft and lightweight midsole provides plenty of cushioning for all-day walking comfort. The single-piece rubber outsole helps with the continuous loading movement associated with walking.
The Ultraknit upper has a very relaxed fit. Unlike many other knit shoes, the mesh isn’t stretchy. The accommodating upper comes in handy during long walks when your foot tends to swell and needs that extra space.
8) Adidas Solar Glide
The UltraBoost runs a mite snug and comes with a price premium. If you’re willing to the forego the knit construction and style appeal of the latter, the adidas Solar Glide is the second-best thing.
A full-length Boost foam midsole makes the Glide supremely comfortable for long walks, and there’s plenty of room inside. The full ground contact outsole is durable and complements the gradual transition associated with walking.
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