Even the most avid outdoor walkers can't deny that using a treadmill has its perks. With treadmill walking, you can adjust your incline and seamlessly track calories burned, distance and speed — all while avoiding unforgiving weather or harsh temperatures.
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While these machines are designed to help absorb shock, you still want to wear a comfortable pair of sneakers to keep your joints healthy and in good alignment. But with countless brands and designs, finding the best treadmill walking shoes is no walk in the park (pun intended).
Luckily, you can skip the exhaustive research and try one of these six best shoes for treadmill walking, according to a physical therapist and trainer.
How We Chose
We chatted with Washington-based physical therapist Melissa Garcia, DPT, CSCS, to better understand what to look for in a treadmill walking shoe and how to find your ideal pair. We chose our top picks based on her recommendations and criteria, including:
- Arch support
We make deliberate choices about the language we use in regards to sex and gender, but most manufacturers 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 is their width and size. In some cases, men's shoes are wider and built to support greater weights. So people with wider feet or bigger bodies may want to opt for men's versions, whereas people with narrow feet or smaller bodies may prefer women's versions.
1. Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38 FlyEase
- Non-bulky foam cushion system
- Lightweight, rocker design
- Breathable fabric and foam tongue
- Nontraditional lacing system
For treadmill walking, the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus is a great overall choice, according to Garcia.
"The Pegasus offers lots of responsive cushioning throughout the heel," she says. "For walking on a treadmill, they offer the user a good return on energy as they rock through each step." In other words, the rocker design helps make your treadmill workouts feel a little easier.
Garcia also loves these sneakers for their lightweight feel and breathable mesh fabric. They're even built with a foam tongue, which eliminates unwanted pressure or friction on the top of your foot.
Unlike most treadmill walking shoes, this pair is built with a zipper and no-tie lace system. Although Nike's technology keeps your shoe snug against your feet, some walkers may not love the uncommon design.
2. Brooks Ghost 14
- Responsive foam cushion
- Soft feel with each strike
- Medium to high arch support
- Responsive, stable feel
Whether you're walking, jogging or running, the Brooks Ghost is a versatile shoe you can wear from the treadmill to the grocery store.
The Ghost is made with Brooks' DNA LOFT technology, which makes the shoe feel plush when your foot first strikes the ground, according to Garcia. This cushion system is a responsive foam, providing softness without compromising durability and stability.
"These are my personal favorites. With medium to high arch support, they are stable and comfortable shoes," Garcia says. "Looking at the shoe, I notice more cushioning through the heel due to the higher heel toe drop. These are good shoes for someone who may strike hard through their heels."
3. Hoka Clifton 8
- High cushion level
- Rocker design makes steps feel easier
- Open-weave mesh for breathability
- Lightweight design
- Ideal for middle-height arches
After taking just one look at a Hoka shoe, you can probably guess that it's one of the most cushioned shoes on the market. And with their rocker-style design, the Clifton makes each step feel stronger and more comfortable, Garcia says.
"On a treadmill, especially since you are only walking in one direction without obstacles, these are very comfortable," she says. "One downside is that the arch support is less than some other shoes, so if you tend to have overly flat or overly high arches, this may not be as comfortable in the long term."
Despite their appearance, the materials used to make these shoes are incredibly light. So they won't feel bulky during your walk. The open mesh fabric also lets your feet breathe.
4. Asics Gel-Kayano 28
- Stable and supportive cushion
- Flexible movement
- Snug heel fit
- Structured design
For anyone who prefers a more structured, stable shoe, Garcia recommends the Asics Gel-Kayano. The Kayano is a great choice if your feet tend to roll in while you walk or if you like more ankle support while walking.
While it's a little more stiff than some other best walking shoes, the Kayano is still comfortable and well-cushioned. This version is built with flexible forefoot grooves that give you a smooth and natural transition from heel to toe as you take each step.
"It also features an external heel counter, giving your heel more support and a better fit," Garcia says.
5. Saucony Kinvara 13
- Flexible cushion bottom
- Responsive strike
- Lower cushion level
The last thing you want on a long walk is heavy feet. Garcia loves the Kinvara's featherweight design.
"These shoes are super lightweight, making them very comfortable for fast, more brisk walkers," she says.
But you don't need to be a speedster to enjoy the flexible design of Saucony's shoes. Although they're less cushioned than some other best shoes for treadmill walking, these are perfect for anyone who wants to really feel the treadmill belt under their feet.
6. New Balance 880
- Soft feel
- Durable rubber
- Heel control
- Full, breathable mesh design
New Balance has been a walking shoe fan favorite for ages. And this pair is perfect if you prefer to walk indoors.
"This shoe is super soft, but in a good way," Garcia says. "The upper material in the shoe is breathable, making it a great competitor for treadmill walking shoes."
The outsole of the shoe is made with a blown rubber, which increases durability. Plus, the back of the shoe keeps your heel in place while still feeling roomy.
The Difference Between Walking and Running Shoes
The biomechanics of your feet are different when you're walking versus when you're running, so having a separate pair of walking shoes is beneficial, according to Houston Methodist Hospital. Using running shoes to walk — especially long distances — may force you to change your footstrike, leading to foot and leg pain over time.
How to Find the Best Shoes for Treadmill Walking
As you search for your best sneakers for walking on a treadmill, there are a few tips to keep in mind.
1. Always Try Them On
Online returns are easier than ever, so definitely try a few pairs out before you fully commit to one, Garcia says.
"With all of these shoes, the differing technologies feel different when worn," she says. To find your best sneakers for walking, she encourages you try several different brands.
2. Prioritize Comfort
Another perk of treadmill walking workouts? They take out the guesswork involved with outdoor strolls. When you go for a hike or walk in the park, you come across different terrains and obstacles, like hills or uneven pavement.
Without that concern, you can prioritize feel a little over function, Garcia says. "Find a shoe that doesn't cause blisters or pain for short and longer distances."
3. Look for Durability
When you're walking long distances, you want a pair of shoes that can rise to the occasion. Look for a breathable upper for comfort, but also search for a high-quality mesh fabric that won't fray or shift around as you walk.
Garcia also loves a pair that feels durable and stable in the heel, especially if you're going to be using these strictly for walking. For most people, the first point of contact with the treadmill belt is the heel, so you want to feel secure.
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