While you can wear running shoes to walk, they aren’t the best choice of footwear. There are several reasons.
The first is the conflict between the running shoe design and the mechanics of walking. Unlike running, the gait cycle of walking takes longer – this means that the outsole design needs to support the process of gradual transitions.
Walking-specific athletic shoes with a full ground-contact outsole perform better when it comes to weight transfer at slower speeds.
But then, limiting your options only to sports shoes will yield slim pickings. Because there’s a lot more to walking than just being a fitness activity.
What are you going to do for your casual and dress options? Commuting downtown to work involves plenty of walking – and you also need to look good.
Sometimes, you need a lightweight walking shoe for your travels. Heading to a forested park for a light hike on the trails? There’s a different kind of walking shoe for that.
So just like running shoes, walking footwear has to meet a diverse set of selection criteria. It would be confusing to club all walking shoes under a single group, so we’ve structured this buyer’s guide based on use-cases.
From corporate-approved Ballet flats and Mary Janes to rugged waterproof shoes for light hikes, we cover them all.
Casual walking shoes:
Use these walking shoes for urban walks, travel, or even work on casual Fridays.
1) AllBirds Women’s Tree Runners
If you don’t like covering your foot with leather or synthetic, the Allbirds Tree Runner is just the walking shoe for you.
The upper is made of fibers derived from Eucalyptus trees and is lined with Merino wool for interior comfort. The foam insole and the EVA unisole delivers ample cushioning for walking.
2) Ecco Women’s Aquet lace sneaker
The premium Nappa leather upper of the Ecco Acquet Lace creates a comfortable and accommodating interior which fits true to size.
The foam insole provides under-arch support and is lined with soft leather for a plush step-in experience. The smooth ride of the cushioned and stable Polyurethane midsole makes long urban walks comfortable.
3) Women’s Keen Sienna MJ Canvas
This is Keen’s interpretation of the classic Mary Jane silhouette. The upper has the instantly recognizable Keen toe-bumper which, by the way, goes very well with the breathable Canvas upper.
The MJ silhouette makes it easy to slip on and off while an elastic strap keeps the foot locked in. The Sienna comes standard with an odor-resistant treatment and a removable insole.
4) Women’s Keen Presidio
The bulky looking Presidio is an unapologetic example of function over form. The all-leather upper with the signature Keen toe-cap is protective; the insides are made comfortable with a suede leather lining.
The contoured stock insole is very comfortable but can be replaced with an aftermarket insole. The EVA midsole makes walks easy on the feet, and the flat and grippy outsole promotes the gradual weight transfer process.
5) Merrell Bondi Stretch AC
Not only is the knit upper slipper-like, but it also has enough room which can adjust to various foot shapes. This accommodates the foot swelling which happens after a long day of walking.
Underneath is a thick, impact-absorbing EVA foam midsole which is shielded by a full-contact rubber outsole with excellent traction.
6) Reebok Princess
The ’80s aesthetics and comfort of the Reebok Princess makes for a good walking shoe, who knew?
The flat outsole, the Ortholite sockliner, and the EVA wedge midsole work together to create a cushioned base which is walking-friendly. The synthetic leather upper holds your foot in athletic-shoe comfort. On the inside, a terry lining makes wearing the shoe for long walks comfortable.
And its $50 retail price is the icing on the cake. Comes in an all-white and all-black so they can also be used for work.
7) Skechers Performance GoWalk Joy
It doesn’t get any basic than this for a walking shoe, but this Skechers Go Walk model is surprisingly functional. An all-mesh upper has a slip-on design for ease of entry and egress; the same construction is breathable and also accommodates wide feet.
There’s lots of walking comfort molded into the EVA foam midsole and insole. The 5.3 ounce (for a women’s size 7) weight makes the GoWalk Joy disappear during walks.
Best walking shoes for corporate and office wear
Different workplaces have different dress codes and standards. If you want comfortable shoes for a casual office setting, you can choose one from the previous category.
We don’t recommend high heels at all. Your feet will thank you if you buy a pair of Ballet flats, Mary Janes, and hybrid slip-on’s instead. So there you go:
1) Birkenstock Lora by Papillo
A soft, full-grain upper wraps your foot on the top. Underneath, Birkenstock’s anatomical cork and latex footbed provides support and cushioning for walking.
The flat profile of the rubber outsole is excellent for traction and weight transfer.
2) Clarks Danelly Adira
The Clarks Danelly Adira fuses a traditional silhouette with design elements from athletic footwear. A thick, removable Ortholite insole provides most of the cushioning. The thermoplastic rubber outsole provides traction while supporting the walking motion.
The leather upper and the faux Espadrilles trim adds understated style to the Adira, while the generously perforated upper keeps the insides ventilated.
3) Naturalizer Brittany
The minimally constructed Naturalizer Brittany isn’t the one to do long walks in. But if you’re stepping out of the office for errands or the lunch-break, this flat will get the job done.
A supple, premium leather upper conforms to your feet, and the insole is foam-padded and leather-lined for under-the-foot comfort. The flat and ribbed outsole grips sidewalks and smooth office flooring with equal confidence.
4) Rockport Cobb Hill Petra
The Rockport Petra is a fresh spin on the classic Mary Jane silhouette. A perforated and embossed motif adds design depth to the vamp. What looks like a snap-on strap closure is actually a hook-and-loop one; the faux pewter trim is merely a decoration.
A perforated suede arch-support cups the foot from below. The leather-lined footbed and the outsole have an EVA foam base to make urban walks comfortable.
5) Vionic Caroll
Can’t say we come across many low-profile flats which provide you the luxury of fitting it with your custom insole. Though the Vionic Caroll’s stock footbed is comfortable, you can replace it with your own.
The rest of the shoe is simple yet put together well. A premium leather upper forms a secure and comfortable foot covering – it’s also helped by the elastic collar which helps the upper fit gently over the foot without loose folds.
A durable thermoplastic rubber has the grip and stability you need for short downtown walks.
Stable and cushioned walking shoes:
These are familiar faces in the athletic walking shoe world. With these shoes, you get maximum stability along with plenty of cushioning for longer walks. These are also great choices in case you plan to use aftermarket insoles of a thick and structured kind.
1) Brooks Addiction Walker Womens
This is our top stability walking shoe pick in the athletic category. The wide midsole and slip-resistant outsole provide a copious amount of cushioning and support for daily walks across varied terrain.
The Addiction is versatile and durable enough to be used as your daily walking shoe; or wear them for the occasional outing and travel which requires covering a lot of distance on foot. You can also replace the stock insole with an orthotic of your choice.
The comfortable interiors have plenty of space and sell in four widths for a custom fit.
2) New Balance 928V3 Womens
The 928 has a slimmer profile than the Addiction Walker while offering the stability and cushioning levels required of a versatile fitness walking shoe. The flat and supportive outsole promotes walk-friendly transitions and is padded enough for long-distance walks.
New Balance offers five widths along with a removable insole which can be substituted with your own.
Walking shoes for light trail and hiking:
Mud, splashes, or light rain shouldn’t hold you back from a light hike. Features like a rugged outsole and waterproof uppers make all-season trail hikes and walking in damp urban environments easy.
1) Columbia Dakota Drifter Waterproof Womens
The Columbia Dakota Drifter offers tremendous value for its retail price. The comfortable suede and mesh upper is protective and waterproof. The outsole uses Columbia’s sticky Omni-grip rubber compound for great traction over wet and dry surfaces.
A molded insole and EVA midsole make the ride padded underfoot for long walks while absorbing the bumps from unpaved trails. And it’s not expensive either.
2) Keen Voyageur Womens
The Voyageur isn’t waterproof like the other two shoes. But its mesh and leather upper is water-resistant to a certain extent. In lieu, you get a soft upper interior which is treated for odor control.
The dual-density footbed (which can be replaced) and the midsole keeps the walks cushioned on hikes. The 4 mm outsole lugs are molded flat and have a spread-out geometry which maximizes contact for grip and weight transfer.
3) Merrell Moab 2 Waterproof Wide Width Womens
Here’s another waterproof shoe for hikes and city walking under moderately wet conditions. The flat lugs on the Vibram outsole offer reassuring traction levels without creating pressure hot spots underneath; a mesh and suede upper prevents water from entering. The Merrell Moab isn’t hardcore waterproof, so be mindful.
The roomy upper fits true-to-size and provides plenty of softness via its foam-backed terry lining on the tongue and heel.
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