Most sportswear brands sell walking shoes, but boy, do they look drab and uninspiring. Walking shoes lack the breadth of colors and materials seen on 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 the 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 more slowly during walking 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 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 you don’t have a choice. 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, 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 than running.
A stiff midsole is likely to tire your foot faster than a flexible kind – unless the midsole has a rocker shape that allows quick roll-offs. For example, the Asics Glideride is an exception.
The shoe should have ample cushioning: If you’re going to spend long hours on your feet, the midsole needs to be comfortable. Now don’t confuse ‘cushioning’ with softness. A shoe can be well cushioned without being mushy; an overly soft shoe creates more work for your muscles and could result in tiredness.
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. Like running, your foot will expand after some time, so there needs to be enough room for splay. Conversely, a loose upper may cause blisters if your foot repeatedly slides inside the shoe.
The choice of socks is important for long walks. Avoid thick cotton or woolen socks than can gather under your foot and cause blisters. Invest in a pair of socks that do not move over your skin. Most running socks fit this description.
Our list of top 10 running shoes for walking is sorted alphabetically.
1) adidas UltraBoost 20
The Ultraboost series has always been a walk-worthy running shoe with lots of underfoot comfort, and the 2020 model is no different. A full-volume midsole made of the lively Boost foam makes long walks a cushioned affair.
And that’s not just the reason why the shoe makes it to the list. The Continental rubber outsole provides uninterrupted coverage from the heel to toe, a layout that works together with the slower gait cycle. The decent traction is a bonus.
Positive changes are introduced on the upper too. The midfoot panels are made of a soft, rubbery synthetic. Unlike the stiffer panels of the previous models, the pliable midfoot of the UltraBoost 20 locks in the foot without applying (unwanted) side pressure.
2) Asics Gel-Cumulus 22
The Asics Cumulus 22 is an improvement over the 21. That’s saying something, because even the 21 was an excellent all-round performer.
There are changes on the 22 that turn it into a better walking shoe. The midsole is softer for enhanced comfort. The single-piece knit upper is plush as it is smooth; its true-to-size fit takes the pressure off during longer walks.
The new Cumulus also gets a filled-up midfoot area that looks suspiciously similar to the Brooks Ghost. That said, the full-contact design makes the transitions smoother.
The ‘Guidance Line’ groove returns under the forefoot. While we don’t have a high opinion of the groove during runs, the articulated outsole helps the loading process during walking.
3) Asics Gel-Nimbus 22
It also helps that the upper fit is accommodating enough for most foot types, and there are multiple widths available.
And by the way, admit it – the Nimbus 22 is also a pretty cool looking shoe.
4) Asics GlideRide
The set of features that make the Asics Glideride a fun running shoe also turns it into an enjoyable walker.
The Nylon plate embedded within the midsole creates a forward-rolling motion during runs. The high toe spring helps walkers roll their forefoot over quickly without having to labor through soft layers of foam.
By the way, cushioning is present on the Glideride. It’s just not a cushy soft kind, that’s all.
The upper design is pretty straightforward. The interiors are smooth-fitting, breathable, and have ample forefoot and toe-box space.
5) Brooks Glycerin 18
The Glycerin 18 is very similar to the 17, so its performance as a walking shoe is equally good.
Unlike the adidas UltraBoost, Asics Cumulus, or the New Balance 1080, the Glycerin 18 has a medium-soft ride bordering on firm. Sure, it is cushioned but in a supportive kind of way.
This balance of cushioning results in a stable yet comfortable platform for walking. The outsole has decent traction and is generously grooved for smoother transitions.
The padded heel and tongue create a plush feel; the upper fits true-to-size.
6) Mizuno Wave Sky Waveknit 3
if this were 2018, a Mizuno wouldn’t have made the cut due to the ubiquitous Wave plate. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just that walking requires a different set of ride characteristics.
The Wave Sky 3 is an uncommon Mizuno because it foregoes the stiff TPE plate. In its place is a new PU foam insert over a soft, dual-density midsole. A soft, removable insole produces a cushioned layer just under the foot.
The outsole also provides coverage through the midfoot. These updates, along with a plush upper, make the Waveknit 3 a comfortable shoe for walking.
7) New Balance FuelCell Propel
Sometimes, soft running shoes also make for comfortable walking shoes. The soft FuelCell foam delays foot fatigue without being mushy. The forefoot is also very flexible due to the articulated outsole and the soft midsole – this helps the foot transition naturally.
There’s a lot of room inside the smooth-fitting upper for the foot to splay. The Propel doesn’t cost a lot either.
8) New Balance 1080V10
If your idea of a walking shoe involves superior midsole plushness, your search should end with the New Balance 1080V10.
The 1080 has come a long way since it was reincarnated in a Fresh Foam avatar. In 2020, the ride is soft as well as deeply cushioned, and sometimes that’s all that one needs in a walking shoe.
The outsole geometry and material also helps enhance the overall cushioning. The blown rubber forefoot is both soft and grooved for gentle transitions during the walking gait cycle. It grips well too.
The knit upper has a snug fit with a near-seamless interior. Some runners are wary of the Achilles lip heel design, but that’s of little concern when the 1080 is used for walking.
9) Reebok Floatride Run 2
We like this Floatride version better than the last one, because Reebok has bettered the ride and fit quality. The comfortable stretchy knit upper accommodates a variety of foot shapes and improves the fit by adding an extra lacing row.
The Floatride midsole uses a Pebax foam that has an incredible amount of cushioning for its low weight – thus making long walks very comfortable. The full-contact outsole is walking-friendly as there’s grippy rubber available throughout the shoe’s length.
10) Saucony Triumph 17
Okay. You don’t want a walking shoe as soft as the New Balance 1080. And for some reason, you think the adidas UltraBoost 20 to be dated.
If that’s you, give the Saucony Triumph 17 a try. Its midsole foam is made of a similar material as adidas Boost, except that it isn’t as soft. And since this is expanded Polyurethane we’re talking about, you don’t get the mushy feel of EVA foam-based shoes.
Durability is solid here. The crystal rubber outsole lasts a long time while providing the traction and transition support the shoe needs. The upper fits a bit snug in the front. But other than that, the smooth and plush interiors make walks comfortable.