Most sportswear brands sell walking shoes, but boy, do they look drab and uninspiring. 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 Asics Glideride 2 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 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 also has an inner gusset to hold the tongue in place.
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) Nike ZoomX Invincible Run
At the time of writing this review, the Nike ZoomX Invincible Run is the cushiest and bounciest shoe that money can buy. Our review makes it very clear that there’s nothing else that 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.
4) Brooks Glycerin 19
The Glycerin 19 is very similar to the 18, so its performance as a walking shoe is equally dependable.
Unlike the Nike ZoomX Invincible, the Glycerin 19 has a medium-soft ride that’s tinged with firmness. Sure, it is cushioned but in a supportive way.
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 does run a bit narrow due to the full sleeve (it’s not a partial gusset), so purchasing the optional wide will result in a roomier fit.
5) 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.
6) 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.
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.
7) 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.
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.
8) Asics GlideRide 2
The set of features that make the Asics Glideride 2 a fun running shoe also turns it into an enjoyable walker.
The Nylon plate embedded within the midsole creates a forward-rolling motion during walking. The high toe spring helps walkers roll their forefoot over quickly without having to labor through soft layers of foam.
In many ways, the GlideRide 2 is an improvement over the GlideRide 1. The midsole has raised sidewalls for better support during runs or walks, and the outsole feels smoother due to more exposed foam areas between the rubber lugs.
The midsole retains a high level of cushioning that makes walks of any distance extremely comfortable. And just like the V1, the GlideRide carries over the 5 mm heel-to-toe offset.
The interiors are smooth-fitting, breathable, and possess ample forefoot and toe-box space. You can read our in-depth analysis of the Glideride 2 here.
9) Mizuno Wave Sky Waveknit 5
The word ‘Wave’ is mentioned in the shoe’s name twice, and yet this Mizuno doesn’t even have a Wave plate. Yes, you heard that right. This Mizuno model lacks the snappy – and rigid – plastic Wave plate sandwiched between the foam layers.
Ironically enough, that’s the reason why the Wave Sky 5 gets a spot on this guide. The all-foam midsole, when combined with a generously grooved outsole, makes a near-perfect foundation for walking. The multiple layers of foam make every step plush, whereas the full-contact layout of the outsole is great for slow transitions.
The last year’s Wave Sky 4 swapped its Wave plate for an all-foam core, and the Wave 5 is based on a similar form factor. While it features a brand new midsole and outsole, it delivers a high level of cushioning comfort – just like the Wave 4.
The upper is soft and secure. The padding at the rear prevents heel slippage, and the single-piece knit upper makes the insides seamless and smooth.