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The Best Sneakers for Long-Distance Walking

author image Nicole Vulcan
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.
The Best Sneakers for Long-Distance Walking
A close-up of a man taking a long walk in nature. Photo Credit Gajus/iStock/Getty Images

Walking is a simple, low-impact exercise you can do nearly anywhere -- but even with its relative simplicity, there's always the risk of injury. To keep from getting hurt or experiencing persistent pain, it's important to get a pair of shoes that are designed for walking and which you'll use just for that purpose. They'll also need to fit well and be designed for your type of feet. The "best" sneakers for long-distance walking are going to be different for every person.

Ideal Walking Shoes

If you do any activity more than a two times a week, it's important to get a pair of shoes designed specifically for that type of activity. When you walk for fitness, you'll tend to land on your heel and then rock your foot forward to push off the toe. Your walking shoes should have a firm, cushioned heel, some cushioning in the midfoot, and a smooth tread that allows your foot to glide from front to back easily, suggests the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society. This is different than a running shoe, which tends to bend at the midfoot instead of allowing for a smooth roll.

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Your Foot Type

The right fit is essential as well. Each shoe needs to be of the right length and width -- which can be different even between your two feet. The shoes also need to match your arch type. If you have high arches, you'll need a walking shoe that provides a higher midsole to cushion that arch. If you have low arches, you'll need a shoe with a less-significant arch. If you're not sure what you have, get your feet wet and then stand on concrete, which will leave a footprint mark on the concrete. If you can see most of the midfoot, you likely have low arches. If you can't see much of it, you likely have higher arches. If part but not all of the midfoot appears, you're probably somewhere in between. When you go to buy shoes, let the retailer know what type of arch you have so you can narrow down your choices. In some cases, the retailer may recommend an orthotic insert that can alter the arch support of the shoes and make them more comfortable for you.

Indoors or Out?

Another thing to consider is what type of surface you're going to be walking on. While the AOFAS generally recommends a smooth tread for walking shoes, that might not be right for you in certain conditions. If you regularly walk outdoors for long periods in rainy, snowy or rough or wet conditions, or you mostly walk on unpaved trails, a trail walking shoe may be right for you. This type of shoe will have a more nonslip sole and a waterproof upper portion, keeping your feet drier on those long walks and helping you prevent slips and falls.

General Fit Guidelines

When you're looking for the best walking shoe for you, the best course of action really is to visit a walking or running specialty store, where the staff will measure your arch and analyze your gait to help you choose an ideal shoe. Naturally, you'll want to try on at least a few pairs of shoes and walk around in them before you pick the right pair. When you put them on, you should be able to wiggle your toes, and you should have about 1/2 inch of room at the end of your toes. Your feet are largest in the afternoon, so it's a good idea to try on shoes at that time of day. The "heel counter," or the back of the shoe, should be fairly rigid. If you walk around in the store and feel your heel slipping, you can bet those shoes will give you a heel blister when you wear them on a long walk. As a general rule, the shoes should feel "snug everywhere, but tight nowhere," suggests outdoor retailer REI.

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