If the title of this guide sounds familiar, that’s because we already wrote one about running shoes – but that list excluded walking-specific shoes. This one focuses on shoes that are designed for walking; it’s more of a purist’s guide if you will.
In our guide about running shoes (for walking,) we discussed how running and walking differed in their mechanics. We then used that explanation to choose daily trainers that were suitable for walking.
Since this is a walking shoe guide, we’ll do no such thing here. Instead, we’ll begin by diving into the essential design features of a good walking shoe.
A full ground-contact outsole
The gait cycle of walking begins under the heel and ends at the forefoot. At some point, the entire length of the outsole will come in contact with the ground. So the outsole geometry should be designed to guide the foot through the motion path.
A good walking shoe has a flat outsole surface with no deep lugs or large midfoot gaps. Also preferred is a segmented heel landing zone – a design where a small area of the outsole edge is separated by a groove. While the absence of this design isn’t a deal-breaker, an articulated heel allows smoother transitions due to its flexing motion.
The walking conditions aren’t always ideal; sometimes you’ll encounter dampness or dusty surfaces that require the outsole material to have a superior grip. If the outsole has non-slip rubber, nothing like it. If it is foam, then check whether the texture is traction-friendly. Naturally, we’ve excluded shoes that do not meet the minimum grip criteria.
Unlike running shoes, walking shoes have a fuller loading cycle where the outsole is in contact with the ground for a longer duration. People also tend to use their walking shoes for the entirety of the day.
Considering the use-case, walking shoes need to be durable – and this requirement applies not only for the outsole, but for the midsole and upper as well.
A cushioned and supportive midsole
Much of a walking shoe’s comfort depends on the midsole. The choice of the foam material, geometry, and density will determine how fresh your feet will feel at the end of your walk. However, an overly soft midsole is best avoided due to two reasons. It will slow the transition process and also make the ride unstable.
Most athletic footwear brands do a decent job of balancing cushioning and stability. All the models listed below have a relatively firmer ride when compared to softer running shoes.
On the other hand, casual and dress shoe brands tend to prioritize form over function. So it’s best that you stick to performance footwear brands for your walking shoe needs.
A comfortable upper that protects and accommodates your feet
A walking shoe upper needs to be many things – being protective and accommodating is a must-have quality. That is why most walking shoe uppers use leather in one form or the other. Leather breathes better than synthetic while acting as a barrier against dust, debris, and the occasional puddle splash.
Feet tend to swell after walking for an hour or longer. Thus, the upper needs to have enough space to allow that to happen.
It’s no surprise that New Balance comes out on top here. They started as a company selling orthotic inserts, and no other brand offers a wide variety of upper fit and silhouettes as New Balance does.
Back in the day, Nike used to make excellent walking shoes; remember the 1996 Air Inclement Walker with ‘low pressure’ Nike Air or walking shoes with the ‘Airliner’ insoles? A lot has changed since then – adidas and Nike have trimmed their assortments.
Brooks have their long-continuing staple in the form of the Addiction Walker. Asics and Saucony are represented by the Contend Walker and Omni Walker respectively. For walking in warmer weather, we’ve recommended a shoe from Geox – they have a collection of comfortable shoes designed around the breathability concept.
We had a taste of what Johnston and Murphy had to offer when we went shopping for a casual shoe, so there’s a J&M on this guide as well.
So here you go; our list of top 10 walking shoes for men:
1) Asics Gel-Contend 5 Walker
The walking version of the Gel-Contend offers the same value for money as the running version does. Asics uses an Amplifoam midsole along with an Ortholite insole for walking comfort, and this is one shoe where the Guidance line on the outsole proves useful.
It’s incredible how material-rich the upper is for its sub-$100 retail price. There’s barely any mesh here; the leather and synthetic upper secures the foot in place during long walks while repelling moisture.
2) Brooks Addiction Walker
Function over form is the Addiction Walker’s motto. This oversized, stability-walking silhouette is anything but sleek. Or lightweight.
Its 14-ounce weight is all about protective comfort. The full-grain leather upper makes for a nice and premium-feeling foot covering. Below the upper is a medially-posted midsole with a copious amount of foam for cushioning. The walking-specific outsole has a flat and supportive profile with a slip-resistance certification.
3) Geox Aerantis
Geox is one of those brands that have managed the casual-athletic balance consistently well. If you walk on a dry and debris-free surface, the Geox Aerantis is a sensible choice.
The midsole is perforated to let the air pass through freely; it also has enough foam volume for ride comfort. The suede upper is a clever material choice as it delivers breathable support. Don’t get it wet though – water is the enemy of suede.
4) Johnston and Murphy XC4 Cleary Moc toe U-throat
The J&M XC4 Cleary may seem expensive for a walking shoe, but there’s a lot that you get for the money. The vented, tumbled leather is protective on the outside and waterproof on the inside – thanks to a bootie construction that stops the water from entering. The lining is made of sheepskin for over-the-foot comfort.
The memory foam footbed and the EVA midsole packs lots of ride comfort for walks.
5) New Balance leather 928V3
The 928 is a solid, albeit stiff, walking shoe choice from New Balance, and quite literally so. This is a 15.4-ounce shoe we’re talking about. A thick, full-contact, non-marking outsole is connected to a plastic stabilizer so there’re satisfactory levels of traction and support.
This shoe also featured in our orthotic-friendly shoe guide due to its dense Polyurethane insole. With the latter, you get the step-in cushioning comfort over a very firm midsole.
The upper is based on a standard New Balance walking template, the kind that combines milled-leather with a soft lining.
6) New Balance 1200
Not everyone likes the somewhat dated New Balance walking shoe design, so how about something preppy? In that case, the 1200 is your answer.
This model is based on a boat shoe design, yet retains features that deliver sports-shoe grade comfort. The Abzorb midsole gives you the comfort you need, and the non-marking outsole is good news for the grip and transition quality.
Also see: The New Balance 1100.
7) New Balance 1700
This is a very traditional walking shoe based on an Oxford silhouette that does not compromise on comfort. The milled leather exterior works together with the soft lining materials to create a comfortable interior environment.
Underneath, the Abzorb foam midsole and the full-coverage rubber outsole possess the levels of cushioning and traction that are required of a walking shoe.
8) New Balance 877
If you don’t want to spend a lot of money on a New Balance walking shoe, then the 877 is a good buy.
The suede and mesh upper is protective, pliable, and breathable without adding excess weight. The collar and tongue lining are foam-padded and made of a soft textile for interior comfort.
The cushioning comes from the full-length Polyurethane Abzorb midsole that is both resilient and stable. A purpose-built walking outsole grips well and is optimized for the slow, rolling motion.
9) Reebok Walk Ultra 7 DMX Max
We suspect that Reebok’s recent branding change is one of the reasons for the Walk Ultra 7’s speedy introduction. Reebok recently traded the triangular ‘Delta’ logo for the classy Reebok vector trademark, and that’s exactly what the Walk Ultra 7 has on its sides.
The leather upper looks much cleaner now – and the brown Nubuck variant looks particularly enticing.
You get a lot of walking shoe for the Ultra’s $85 retail price. The leather upper is durable as well as fit-conforming. The padded interior with its thick exterior is straight out of a 90’s look-book.
The ride comfort is delivered by the ‘moving air’ cushioning tech inside the chambered midsole. Adding to the ride comfort are the memory foam insole and the EVA midsole. The rubber outsole lasts long and has sufficient traction.
10) Saucony Omni Walker
You look at the affordable price of an all-leather walking shoe such as the Saucony Omni Walker, and wonder if you’re getting gouged by the other brands.
At an MSRP of less than a hundred dollars, the Saucony Omni Walker offers an upper made of full-grain garment leather for protective comfort. The heel is fitted with a ‘Grid’ cassette insert to make rearfoot landings and transitions comfortable. A non-marking outsole guides you smoothly through the motion path.