Standing or walking for lengthy periods can be rough on your feet, but when you're doing it on concrete from sunrise to sunset and beyond, your feet need some extra help from your footwear. That's why it's worth it to pick the right shoe.
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The shoe that fits the best is the shoe that you have the least awareness of when you're walking or running.
Mitch Decker, manager at Run On!, a store in Dallas, Texas, dedicated to fitness and running
While walking and running have essentially the same motions, more shoe manufacturers are recognizing that each activity needs a shoe that fits your foot as well as the activity, and as a result, the selection of walking shoes has increased in recent years.
Many people might automatically jump into their usual running shoes, even when they're about to spend a full day walking on unforgiving concrete. While there are similarities in walking and running motions, there are enough differences to make some shoes better for walking -- including more cushioning and structure.
Running shoes usually need maximum shock absorption as well as more heel control, because the heel hits the ground with the greatest force.
Walking shoes, on the other hand, need more evenly distributed cushioning. Shock absorption is not only at the heel, but also at the midsole. The American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society's website notes that walking shoes generally have more rounded soles to help distribute your body weight as it travels from the heel to the midsole and then pushes off the toe. The toe area of a walking shoe also is usually more rounded.
Mitch Decker, manager of Run On!, a store in Dallas, Texas, dedicated to fitness and running, says he always considers a variety of factors equally, whether he's fitting a walker or runner. He notes that it's important to look at level of experience, miles the person walks or runs and especially how his foot hits the ground when he's walking or running.
"The shoe that fits the best is the shoe that you have the least awareness of when you're walking or running," says Decker, who has more than 40 years experience as a runner and coach.
While walkers can often use running shoes, the reverse is usually not true. Anthony Wall, director of professional education for the American Council on Exercise, says that athletic shoes generally don't provide as much support as walking shoes.
"When you're walking or standing, your weight should be distributed more evenly," Wall says. Walkers can find comfortable running shoes that provide the right cushioning for them, while runners are unlikely to ever use a walking shoe; their structure would be too uncomfortable. The goal, he notes, is to find a shoe that supports your natural gait.
Asics Gel-Tech Walker NEO 2
The right shoe for walking on concrete all day? Depends on who you ask and when. But the ultimate judge should be you and your feet. For added cushioning, try the Asics Gel-Tech Walker NEO 2, which comes with a bunion window that means better fit and comfort. It has asymmetrical lacing, a gel cushioning system in the heel and forefoot, shock absorbing foam at the midsole and a guidance system to help your stride. $100.
Another good choice is the Asics GT-2000, which is great for casual or serious walkers, whether you walk for fitness or speed. It also has the GEL cushioning that. provides comfort and impact guidance. According to "Walk About Magazine," the GT-2000 has an appealing fit, a smooth ride and ranks high for overall performance. $120.
Saucony Men’s Echelon LE2
You also might try the Saucony Men’s Echelon LE2, which features midsole ProGrid cushioning that offers comfort and support. It has an 8 millimeter heel-to-toe offset that provides a stable, balanced platform. $120.
New Balance 928
And the New Balance 928 provides control and maximum stability for those who wear their shoes all day long. It has Walking Strike Path technologies and midfoot cushioning, and is designed for those who need motion control. $135.
Mizuno Wave Rider 16
Finally, while it's not strictly a walking shoe, the Mizuno Wave Rider 16 gained international attention when Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis wore them during her 11-hour filibuster in June 2013. The shoe is lightweight, has a sculpted fit and provides excellent cushioning for the entire foot. It can accommodate casual wear or high mileage. $115.
A Matter of Preference
Sloan Ware, sales associate at Phidipiddes, a running store in Atlanta, says that it's crucial to determine whether a runner pronates, the foot rolls inward when it hits the ground; or underpronates, rolling outward. Most people pronate.
Walkers also have these traits, but the motion is made with considerably less force, which means there is less need for additional support at the midsole area. So, for these users, personal preference can come into play: "It comes down to comfort," says Ware. "Do they like a squishy shoe or a more structured feel?"
"Walk About Magazine" notes that activity is a big consideration, for how much cushioning, durability and stability you need in a walking shoe. If you'll be walking outside, weather protection also should be part of your shoe.
If you're walking for speed, look for a shoe that is lighter in weight, lower to the ground and less structured to give your foot more flexibility.