If the title of this guide sounds familiar, that’s because we already wrote one – but that list was comprised mostly of running shoes. This one focuses on walking shoes which are meant for doing just that. It’s more of a purist’s guide if you will.
Since the other guide was about running shoes, we discussed how running and walking differed in their mechanics. We then used that explanation to choose daily trainers which were also 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 will have 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 landings due to its flexing motion.
The walking conditions aren’t always ideal; sometimes you’ll encounter dampness or dusty surfaces which require the outsole material to have superior grip. If the outsole has non-slip rubber, nothing like it. If it is foam, make sure that the texture is designed for traction. Naturally, we’ve excluded shoes which 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 at 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 better that you stick to performance footwear brands for your walking shoe needs.
A comfortable upper which protects and accommodates your feet
A walking shoe upper needs to be many things – being protective and accommodating is a must-have. 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 more. 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 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 which 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.
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 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 which 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 and lets the air pass through freely and has enough foam volume for ride comfort. The suede upper is a clever material choice as it delivers breathable support.
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 which you get for its price. The vented, tumbled leather is protective on the outside and waterproof on the inside – thanks to a bootie construction which 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 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.
The upper is based on a standard New Balance walking template, the kind which 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 but retains features which 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 but without compromising on comfort. The milled leather exterior works together with 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 happens to be good value.
The suede and mesh upper is protective, pliable, and breathable without adding too much weight. The collar and tongue lining are foam-padded and made of a soft textile for interior comfort.
Cushioning comes from the full-length Polyurethane Abzorb midsole which is resilient and stable. A purpose-built walking outsole grips well and is optimized for the slow, rolling motion.
9) Reebok Walk Ultra 6 DMX Max
Given the price-value equation of the Walk Ultra 6, it’s no wonder that this shoe sells so well.
Admittedly, Reebok walking shoes take some time getting used to because of its ‘moving air’ DMX cushioning. But once you get used to it, you’ll find this shoe to be one of the best for its price.
There’s plenty of walking comfort provided by the memory foam footbed and the EVA midsole. The upper uses a mix of leather and fabric which is protective and supportive.
10) Saucony Omni Walker
Sometimes you look at the low prices of these all-leather walking shoes and wonder if you’re getting gouged with the running shoe prices.
For 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.
|Do you own any of these shoes? Improve this guide by sharing your insights – submit a review here.|