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 occur 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 ‘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 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 and loose-fitting socks than can gather under your 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 11 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) adidas Solarglide 3
The UltraBoost 20’s softness may not appeal to everyone. When that happens, the adidas SolarGlide 3 is a comfortable middle ground – one that melds the responsive Boost foam with a firmer and supportive EVA frame.
The SolarGlide 3’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 upper is typical adidas – there’s plushness and snugness blended in equal measures for comfort and support.
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.
3) 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.
The design updates to the 22 make it 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.
4) 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.
5) 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.
6) Brooks Glycerin 18
The Glycerin 18 is very similar to the 17, so its performance as a walking shoe is equally dependable.
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 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.
Also see: The Brooks Ghost 13.
7) Mizuno Wave Sky Waveknit 4
The word ‘Wave’ is mentioned twice in the shoe’s name, and yet this Mizuno does 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.
And 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 Air Zoom Vomero 5 SE
The Vomero 5 was reintroduced a couple of years ago, and it now appears to be a regular fixture in Nike’s assortment. And what exactly is a ‘vintage’ 2007 model doing here in 2020?
Though the Vomero 5 deserves a spot based solely on its merits, we believe that Drake wearing a black/gold Vomero 5 has something to do with the shoe’s resurgence.
Even without the Drake connection, the Vomero 5 is a worthy buy as a walking comfortable shoe. The combination of the dual-density EVA and Zoom Air bags provide a very cushy experience under the foot, the kind that makes long walks a breeze.
The upper is plush as well as supportive. The soft spacer mesh, foam padding, and smooth lining make the true-to-size fit very enjoyable to wear. At the same time, the plastic heel clip and synthetic overlays keep the foot securely held.
9) 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 just-right fit with a near-seamless interior and a broad toe-box. Some runners are wary of the flared heel collar, but that’s of little concern when the 1080 is used for walking.
10) Nike React Infinity Run
The React Infinity Run uses the namesake foam for its midsole. React isn’t overly soft like ZoomX, so it allows the foot to transition slowly without any mushy-ness. There’s plenty of rubber covering the outsole, and that helps the quality of grip and transitions during walks.
And mind you; the midsole is not all foam. There’s a firmer Urethane clip on top that brings some stability to the heel area.
The knit upper is a slip-on kind and is very convenient when the laces are tied at a ‘default’ setting. This way, it’s easy to slip on the shoe with just a shoehorn.
11) 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.