In this product guide:
- 1. Factors to consider
- 2. Walking shoe with a soft ride: Asics Nimbus 24
- 3. Walking shoe with a soft ride: New Balance 1080 V12
- 4. Walking shoe with a soft ride: Asics Nimbus Lite 3
- 5. Walking shoe with a soft ride: Asics Cumulus 24
- 6. Walking shoe with the softest ride: Nike ZoomX Invincible Run V2
- 7. Walking shoe with a supportive ride: Hoka Bondi 7
- 8. Walking shoe with a supportive ride: Brooks Glycerin 20
- 9. Walking shoe with a supportive ride: adidas Ultraboost 22
Most sportswear brands sell walking shoes, but boy, do they look un-fun. Walking shoes lack the sheer breadth of colors and materials that running shoes have.
Can running shoes be worn for walking? Sure. But first, it is important to understand the fundamental difference between walking and running, and how that affects the choice of footwear.
Shortly after the push-off phase of running, both of the feet are momentarily up in the air. Contrast this with walking, where both the feet can be simultaneously in contact with the ground. One foot is flat on the ground while the tip of the other foot is still in contact with the road.
Hence, the transitions occur more slowly during walking as the weight loading progresses gradually from the heel to toe.
If you’re familiar with Solereview’s shoe guides, you know the drill. We first lay out 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 this isn’t optional. So an angled heel helps with 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, a wide midfoot gap is undesirable. The midfoot should be bridged with rubber to provide continuous outsole coverage.
The forefoot should be flexible: Another aspect of walking is that the foot flexes more gradually than running. Hence, a stiff midsole is likely to tire the foot faster than a flexible kind – unless the midsole has a rocker shape that allows quick roll-offs.
For example, the Brooks Glycerin 20 and adidas UltraBoost 22 are exceptions. The Nike ZoomX Invincible also gets a hall pass due to its strengths in other areas.
The shoe should have ample cushioning: If you’re going to spend long hours on your feet, the midsole needs to be comfortable.
Now, ‘cushioning’ isn’t to be conflated with softness. A shoe can be cushioned without being mushy; an overly soft shoe creates more work for your muscles and could result in tiredness.
The Nike Invincible Run Flyknit V2 features on this guide because it is very soft without being mushy – the inherent responsiveness is the antidote to the ultra-soft ride.
The upper should fit and breathe well: This one’s a non-negotiable. A shoe that is either too tight or too loose is not suitable for walking. Just like running, the foot swells during long-distance walking, so there needs to be enough room for the toes to splay. Conversely, a loose upper may cause blisters if the foot slides inside the shoe.
The choice of socks is important for long walks. Avoid thick and loose-fitting socks that can gather under the foot and cause blisters. Invest in a pair of moisture-wicking socks that fit well. Most running socks match this description.
1) Asics Gel-Nimbus 24
The Nimbus 23 and 24 are two of the best Nimbus versions yet. It’s a great trainer for leisurely daily runs, as well as a comfortable walking shoe.
Just like the Cumulus 24, a single-density layer of Flytefoam just above the outsole results in a smooth transition from the heel to toe. There’s a firmer piece of foam just under the heel to help with the stability.
The Nimbus 24 now has Flytefoam Blast (made popular by the Novablast), so the midsole trades some old-fashioned softness for cushioning responsiveness. If you want to know more, our detailed review is here.
The soft cushioning makes long walks easy on the feet; a cushy insole and lasting provide that first layer of step-in comfort. The generous application of outsole rubber delivers dependable traction, and the outsole grooves provide enough flexibility for gentle turnovers.
The Nimbus 24’s upper is smooth, well-fitting, and true-to-size – traits that are desirable in a comfortable walking shoe. The upper now has an elastic tongue with a gusset for a secure midfoot fit.
2) New Balance Fresh Foam 1080V12
If your idea of a walk involves superior midsole plushness, then the New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 V12 is a great pick.
The 1080 has come a long way since it was reincarnated in a Fresh Foam avatar. The 1080 V12’s ride is soft as well as deeply cushioned, and that’s all one needs in a walking shoe.
Our comprehensive review has everything that you need to know about the 1080V12.
It’s not mushy though, and it’s nowhere as soft as the Nike Invincible Run or Hoka Bondi 7.
The outsole geometry and material also help enhance the overall cushioning. The blown rubber forefoot is both soft and grooved for gentle transitions during the walking gait cycle.
The traction isn’t bad either, so the wide forefoot and heel create a planted feel over roads and sidewalks.
The knit upper has a just-right fit with a near-seamless interior and a broad toe-box. The fit runs snug, but the stretchy and soft mesh upper makes the interiors comfortable and accommodating.
3) Asics Nimbus Lite 3
Its simple midsole design is the reasons why the Nimbus Lite 3 is more enjoyable to walk in than the standard Asics Nimbus and Cumulus.
While those two are great for walking (that’s why they feature on this guide), the Nimbus Lite 3’s midsole doesn’t have a dual-density construction. It also lacks a visible rearfoot Gel window, as well as any kind of molded stabilizer.
As a result, all that’s left is an extremely comfortable Flytefoam midsole with a rounded heel and full-contact outsole. Unlike running, walking involves a slow loading process, and that’s where the single-density midsole shines.
Also, the soft cushioning doesn’t feel mushy at all. The Flytefoam feels lively, and the wide flare of the midsole makes the Nimbus Lite 3 supportive. As both the V2 and V3 share an identical midsole, our review of the Nimbus Lite V2 is relevant here.
The upper is excellent too. There’s more space inside the Nimbus Lite 3 this time because the tongue no longer uses an EVA foam padding. In its place is a thinner and lighter tongue that frees up room – and that’s a good thing to have in a walking-friendly shoe.
4) Asics Gel-Cumulus 24
The Asics Cumulus had already evolved to a well-rounded shoe by 22 and 23, and the 24 is a step further in the right direction. The Cumulus 24 retains the walking-friendly cushioning while making slight improvements on the fly. Our detailed review has everything that you need to know about this comfortable shoe.
The comfortable upper gets a new mesh with a texture that’s similar to the Nimbus. On the surface, it looks better than before. On the inside, there’s the smooth and soft interior that’s recognizable from the Cumulus 23.
The midsole layer that’s just above the outsole is made of single-density Flytefoam, thus resulting in smoother transitions from the heel to toe. The firmer wedge above the Gel pad benefits the ride stability.
The outsole rubber lugs are distributed evenly and separated by flex grooves. As a result, the traction and transition quality is excellent for walking.
5) Nike ZoomX Invincible Run V2
At the time of writing this review, the Nike ZoomX Invincible Run V2 is the cushiest and bounciest shoe that money can buy. Our review makes it very clear that nothing else even comes close.
The said levels of bouncy cushioning make walking enjoyable, as the transitions take place over the deep reservoir of ZoomX foam. The wide flare and plastic heel clip add support to what is an exceptionally soft and springy midsole.
The upper has a broad toe-box and is fully sleeved on the inside; this makes the fit smooth and true to size. The padded and plush heel collar cups the foot in softness.
6) Hoka Bondi 7
Even though the Bondi 7 is on its way out (as it is being replaced with the Bondi 8), we hope that Hoka continues to sell the 7.
We say this because the Hoka Bondi 7 is a better shoe than the 8 – our in-depth review explains why.
What we love about the Bondi 7 is its wide and supportive midsole that’s also deeply cushioned. The EVA foam midsole is neither too soft nor too firm, and the outsole has a full-contact design. These features make it an excellent walking shoe.
The true-to-size upper has a plush and secure fit. The synthetic guard on the toe-box is helpful on wet sidewalks, as it prevents the mesh from absorbing moisture. That’s another feature that the Bondi 8 lacks.
7) Brooks Glycerin 20
Though Glycerin 20 differs greatly from the Glycerin 19, its performance as a walking shoe is equally dependable.
Unlike the Nike ZoomX Invincible, the Glycerin 20 has a medium-soft ride that’s tinged with firmness. Sure, it is cushioned but in a supportive way. Our detailed review dives deep into the Glycerin 20’s on-road behavior.
And yes, the redesigned midsole has a fancy Nitrogen-infused ‘DNA Loft V3’ midsole, but that doesn’t alter its walking-friendly character.
This balance of cushioning results in a stable yet comfortable platform for walking. The outsole has decent traction and is generously grooved for connected transitions.
The padded heel and tongue create a plush feel; the upper fits true-to-size. It has more space than the Glycerin 19 due to the removal of the full sleeve, and the ventilation is better.
Just know that the Glycerin 20 also sells in a ‘GTS’ and ‘Stealthfit’ version. Of all three, we prefer the standard Glycerin 20 because of the better upper fit.
8) adidas UltraBoost 22
The Ultraboost has always been a walk-worthy running shoe with lots of underfoot comfort, and the Ultraboost 22 is no different. Our in-depth review of the shoe is here.
There are many things that make the Ultraboost 22 suitable for walking. A full-volume midsole made of the responsive Boost foam provides dependable comfort for long walks. The Boost midsole is much wider than what it used to be, thus creating a stable base for walking.
The translucent outsole is made of durable Continental rubber, but the geometry is nothing like the older UltraBoosts that existed before the V21.
The forefoot core uses a softer rubber whereas the rest of the outsole is hard rubber. A plastic Torsion shank adds stiffness under the midfoot and forefoot; this helps with the forward rolling movement.
Also worth pointing out is the absence of gaps on the outsole. The full-contract layout of the Ultraboost 22’s outsole is excellent for walking.
On the upper, the plastic midfoot cage returns. It’s not an inconvenience during walks, and the stiff panels keep the foot supported. The knit upper is soft and fits true to size. The toe-box is shallow – something that has been a part of the Ultraboost since its inception.