Are Running Shoes Good For Walking?

woman's hands tying shoelaces on running shoes

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Are running shoes good for walking? Shouldn't you wear walking shoes rather than running shoes for walking? The answer is that some, but not all, running shoes work well for fitness walking. Learn how to tell which shoes are best for brisk walking.

Running Shoes vs. Walking Shoes

It's true that runners have different needs compared to fitness walkers, and so there are running shoes that won't work well for walking. But when shopping in the walking shoe aisle, you'll find many walking shoes that are even worse for fitness walking than most running shoes.

Many walking shoe models are designed for comfort wear or workplace use rather than for walking briskly for fitness. Comfort shoes are highly cushioned to relieve stress from standing, and they may be inflexible and heavy. 

When walking for fitness, you do not need as much heavy cushioning as is found in comfort shoes or cushioned running shoes. Walking has far less ​impact with each step than running, so you don't have as great of a need for cushioning.

Technology in Running Shoes

Running shoes are usually a better bet than buying a shoe labeled as a walking shoe. Even when comparing fitness walking shoes with running shoes, the running shoe models incorporate more of the latest developments for cushioning, motion control, and support.

Often, when you buy a shoe labeled as a walking shoe, you aren't getting the latest materials and construction techniques. For example, there are many new materials that provide shock absorption with lighter weight. You may find that built into running shoes but not in walking shoes from the same company.

How to Decide Which Shoe Is Best For You

Use these principles to determine whether a running shoe or walking shoe is right for your workouts:

  • Fit: Visit the most serious running shoe store in your area to have foot analysis and gait analysis. They will determine whether you need motion control shoes, stability shoes, or can wear neutral lightweight trainers. The staff there will be able to recommend the best type of shoe for your walking needs.
  • Flexibility: You should be able to bend and flex the shoe in the forefoot. But if they are so flexible that you can bend them in half with ease, as is the case with minimalist or barefoot shoes, they may not provide enough structure and support for longer walks.
  • Low heel: Some running shoes have a built-up heel to support runners who land on the ball of the foot. There is a trend towards less of a heel-to-toe drop for runners as well as walkers, and shoes will often list this drop in millimeters (mm). Look for shoes with a drop of 10 mm or less.
  • No flare: A true fitness walking shoe has a heel that is undercut, or angles in from the heel to the ground. Walkers land on the heel and do not need a built-up or flared heel. Many running shoes, and especially trail running shoes, have a flared heel for stability for runners who land on the arch or ball of their foot. Look for little or no flare.

By learning how to select good walking shoes you can compare both running shoes and walking shoes to find the model that fits your foot the best.

Top Picks for Walking Shoes

You will see many running shoes selected as good models for fitness walking, using the principles outlined.

  • Cushioned shoes: If you walk long distances or on hard surfaces and experience a lot of leg fatigue, you may need shoes with more cushioning. Some models use lighter materials and so the shoes may not be heavy.
  • Motion-control shoes: This category is for those who overpronate. At a running shoe store, they will check your gait and look at the soles of your current shoes to determine whether you should use motion control shoes.
  • Performance training shoes: Neutral shoes are the best choice if you don't overpronate and you don't have special needs for extra cushioning.
  • Stability shoes: You may be directed towards these shoes if you have mild overpronation and if you are heavier, as they often will hold up better.
1 Source
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  1. Chi K-J, Schmitt D. Mechanical energy and effective foot mass during impact loading of walking and running. J Biomech. 2005;38(7):1387-1395. doi:10.1016/j.jbiomech.2004.06.020.

By Wendy Bumgardner
Wendy Bumgardner is a freelance writer covering walking and other health and fitness topics and has competed in more than 1,000 walking events.