If you've ever gone for a walk in your favorite street sneakers, you're probably aware that they're not exactly built for exercise.
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Just like you might need cleats for soccer or spikes for track, walking is a form of exercise that deserves a dedicated pair of shoes in your closet. And the exact pair you need depends on factors like your foot shape, arch height, joint health, body size and, last but not least, exercise style.
Treat your feet right and consider these eight best walking shoes, according to a physical therapist.
Manufacturers typically market shoes according to gender, so we have listed both women's and men's picks below. However, the main difference between most men's and women's shoes lies in the shoe width and size. In some cases, men's shoes are built to support greater weights. So people with bigger bodies may want to opt for men's versions, whereas people with smaller bodies may prefer women's versions.
1. Best Shoe for Walking on Concrete: Brooks Ghost 13
The Brooks Ghost is a fan-favorite running shoe and one of the best sneakers for walking on concrete, according to physical therapist and certified strength and conditioning coach Melissa Garcia, DPT, CSCS.
Standing or walking on concrete all day can transfer a lot of stress to your joints, which is why this high-cushion sneaker is a safe pick, according to Garcia.
The Brooks Ghost is best for medium or high arches and offers neutral support.
2. Best Breathable Walking Shoe: New Balance Fresh Foam 880v10
If your feet get really hot or sweaty during walks, try the New Balance 880. It has a breathable Hypoknit mesh upper to keep your feet cool, according to Garcia.
"It's a neutral shoe with a unique cushioning system," she says. "[It is] very versatile for training, walking or casual wear."
Check it out in a variety of widths from narrow to extra wide. Hint: The extra-wide version, which sports a roomy toe box, is of the best shoes for bunions.
3. Best Trail Walking Shoe for Women: Merrell Antora 2 GORE-TEX
If most of your walks take place on trails or involve some light hiking, Garcia recommends you try Merrell's Antora 2 GORE-TEX shoes. These best walking shoes for women offer the lightweight comfort of a sneaker, while giving your walk the traction and support of a hiking boot, thanks to its tread bottom.
These have a breathable mesh upper with a rear strap to keep your foot locked in place. Plus, the sneakers' fabric is waterproof, so you don't need to worry about any puddles that get in your way.
Buy it: Merrell.com; Price: $140
4. Best Cushioned Walking Shoe: Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37
The Nike Pegasus is a comfortable shoe that's built with React cushioning, giving you a springy feel, Garcia says. A light sneaker constructed with airy mesh, it has strategic padding to help reduce hot spots.
This focus on cushioning makes the Pegasus one of the best shoes for walkers who have obesity or high body weights. Its soft, pressure-absorbing cushion helps reduce any excess stress on your knees, ankles and lower back.
5. Best Heavy-Duty Walking Shoe: Asics Gel-Kayano 26
With more than 2,000 five-star reviews, the Asics Gel-Kayano 26 is a trustworthy shoe for long-distance walking. Built with Asics' Gel technology in the forefoot and rear, this shoe absorbs shock to your joints, staying comfortable after many miles.
"There's lots of cushion throughout the shoe for comfort," Garcia says. "It's also another option for anyone looking for more structure."
The bottom of this shoe is constructed with heavy duty rubber, which helps reduce wear, giving your walking sneakers a longer lifespan.
Consider this pick another one of the best walking shoes for heavy men and women.
6. Best Shoe for Knee Pain: Brooks Adrenaline GTS
Do your knees tend to give you trouble when you exercise? The Brooks Adrenaline GTS is one of the best walking shoes for bad knees.
"This shoe has similar cushioning to the Brooks Ghost, however it's a more structured option," Garcia says.
Translation: It's a great stability shoe, helping to stabilize the entire lower body and reduce side-to-side knee stress.
7. Best Shoe for Flat Feet: Hoka One One Clifton 7
At first glance, Hoka One One shoes aren't the conventional. But the brand's signature cushioned design is worth a try.
That's especially true if you're flat-footed, have low aches or over-pronate. (All three issues are related!)
It's also great for heel strikers, meaning that, with each step, you place your heel on the ground before transferring onto the balls of your foot, Garcia says.
"Known for the added meta-rockers, these shoes will feel like you are 'rocking' into your next step," she says. "These are also good options for those who are lacking ankle mobility."
The Clifton 7 has a soft, plush collar that helps ease pressure and friction on the Achilles tendon. It also packs plenty of stability.
8. Best Walking Shoe for Wide Feet: Altra Escalante 2.5
All Altra shoes are made with a wide toe box to give your feet a roomy feel, Garcia says. That's important if you were born with wide feet or your feet have widened over the years thanks to bunions.
But when it comes to walking, the Escalante 2.5 is the winner.
It has a soft upper that feels like a sock on your feet, giving you even more give and flexibility. And the balanced cushioning gives a stable, comfortable fit when walking with bunions, plantar fasciitis and heel pain.
6 Tips for Finding the Best Walking Sneakers for You
1. Prioritize Shoe Shape
Consider the width and shape of your feet when buying a pair of walking shoes. Shoes that are too wide or narrow can lead to calluses or blisters. Wide models are typically best for those with bunions.
When it comes to large shoe toe boxes meant to accommodate wide forefeet, Altra is your go-to.
2. Consider Arch Height
Depending on the height of your arches, you may need a shoe that provides more motion control or cushioning, Garcia says.
So do you need a walking shoe for flat feet or high arches?
Determine your arch type by doing an at-home wet test, per the American Council on Exercise (ACE). After getting out of the shower, step your wet feet on a piece of paper. Low arches, or flat feet, create a wider, full footprint, while high-arched feet create a very narrow footprint. Neutral-arched feet create a footprint that is in between, she says.
3. Find Out if You Pronate or Supinate
If your ankles collapse outward (over-supination) or inward (over-pronation), you may need to look for a more stable, cushioned shoe (more on stability shoes below).
Again, looking to the above wet test can help. People with flat feet tend to over-pronate, while those with especially high arches (less common), often over-supinate.
Another strategy? Place your phone on the ground and record a video of your feet as you walk away from the camera. Then, you can look closely at the film to figure out whether more stable shoes are right for you.
4. Try on Shoes in the Afternoon
When you go shopping for walking shoes, bring along your regular exercise socks and any insoles you wear. Your feet are larger later in the day due to water retention which occurs from being upright. Whether you stand, walk or sit during the day, shop in the afternoon or evening to ensure a proper fit, she says.
Have your feet measured by a professional fitter to confirm your foot size. There should be a half-inch between your big toe and the end of the shoe, and the width of the shoe should be snug, but not tight.
Walk around in the shoes at the store for 10 to 15 minutes before buying them. The shoes should feel comfortable right away. (No "breaking them in" necessary.)
Alternatively, if you buy online, wear your shoes around your house to guarantee fit before scuffing them up on concrete or the treadmill.
5. Look for Cushioning and Support
A shoe with ample cushioning and support absorbs the impact on the joints while keeping your knees and ankles in healthy alignment.
This is incredibly important if you have existing knee pain, foot troubles or a high body weight.
Among the best walking shoe brands, Brooks, Asics, Hoka One One, New Balance, Altra and Nike, all offer cushioned walking shoe models.
6. Pay Attention to Construction Materials
Walking shoes made with a leather or synthetic upper hold your foot firmly in place, but tend to provide minimal ventilation.
Meanwhile, mesh uppers are lighter and allow for better air flow, Garcia says. Make sure your walking shoes, if made of a particularly stretchy mesh, keep your foot from sliding around.
Also, the bottom on the shoe, called the outsole, should be made of high-density rubber and have treads for traction and durability.