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 the feet are momentarily up 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 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 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, a wide midfoot gap is undesirable. The midfoot should be bridged with rubber and provide continuity of 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 21 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.
Our list of top 10 running shoes for walking is sorted alphabetically.
1) adidas UltraBoost 21
While the Ultraboost series has always been a walk-worthy running shoe with lots of underfoot comfort, the 2021 design is a complete overhaul.
Some things stay the same though; a full-volume midsole made of the responsive Boost foam makes long walks a cushioned affair. Only this time, the midsole is much wider, and thus, a higher volume version of the 2020 model.
The outsole is still Continental-branded, but the geometry is nothing like the previous UltraBoost. 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.
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.
2) adidas Solarglide
The UltraBoost 21’s softness may not appeal to everyone. In that case, the adidas SolarGlide is a comfortable middle ground – one that melds the responsive Boost foam with a firmer and supportive EVA frame.
The SolarGlide’s exposed Boost heel area makes the ride plush at the rear. The midsole turns firmer from the midfoot to the heel, thus keeping the Boost’s softness in check.
The outsole design is also walking-friendly. The durable Continental rubber outsole is laid out in a full-contact geometry for smooth transitions.
A large plastic Torsion shank adds rigidity to the midfoot and also extends into the forefoot and heel. If it isn’t already obvious, this design works very well for the gradual roll-over process.
The upper is typical adidas – there’s plushness and snugness blended in equal measures for comfort and support. The 3-stripes logo is reflective for enhanced visibility during low-light conditions.
3) Asics Gel-Cumulus 23
The Asics Cumulus had already evolved to a well-rounded shoe by 22, and the 23 is a step further in the right direction. With a brand new midsole and upper design, the Cumulus 23 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 22.
For 2021, the Cumulus 23 uses an inverted version of the 22’s midsole. Confused? Don’t be. On the last year’s Cumulus, the second density foam (and firmer) piece was located below the Gel pad.
This year, it’s the opposite. The midsole layer that’s just above the outsole is now single density, thus resulting in smoother transitions from the heel to toe. The firmer piece has been moved above the Gel pad for better 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.
4) Asics Gel-Nimbus 23
The Nimbus 23 could be the best Nimbus version yet. It’s a great trainer for daily runs that also doubles as a comfortable walking shoe.
Just like the Cumulus 23, a single density layer of foam under the Gel pad 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 cushioning feels just right, as it’s neither too soft nor too firm. 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.
This version’s upper is smooth, well-fitting, and true-to-size – traits that are desirable in a comfortable walking shoe. The 23 also has an inner gusset to hold the tongue in place.
5) 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 the 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.
6) Brooks Glycerin 19
The Glycerin 19 is very similar to the 18, so its performance as a walking shoe is equally dependable.
Unlike the adidas UltraBoost or Nike 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.
Also see: The Brooks Ghost 13 and Asics Nimbus Lite 2.
7) Mizuno Wave Sky Waveknit 4
The word ‘Wave’ is mentioned twice in the shoe’s name, 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 4 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 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.
8) 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.
9) New Balance Fresh Foam 1080V11
If your idea of a walk involves superior midsole plushness, then the New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 V11 is a great pick.
The 1080 has come a long way since it was reincarnated in a Fresh Foam avatar. The 1080 V11’s ride is soft as well as deeply cushioned, and that’s all one needs in a walking shoe.
It’s not mushy though, and it’s nowhere as soft as the Nike Invincible Run or adidas UltraBoost 21.
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. It grips well too.
The knit upper has a just-right fit with a near-seamless interior and a broad toe-box. The fir runs snug, but the stretchy and soft mesh upper keeps any discomfort at bay.
Some runners are wary of the flared heel collar, but that’s of little concern when the 1080 is used for walking.
10) Saucony Triumph 18
Okay. You don’t want a shoe as soft as the New Balance 1080 or the adidas Ultraboost 20. So what now?
If that’s you, give the Saucony Triumph 18 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. This cushioning is also impervious to the cold, so it won’t firm up during the winter months.
The outsole traction is excellent. The full-contact geometry provides the traction and transition required during walking. The smooth and plush interiors of the upper make walking enjoyable. The 18’s upper isn’t as narrow-fitting as the 17, and that brings positive tidings for the interior comfort.