Choosing the Best Shoes for Fast Walking

Woman walking fast

Erik Isakson / Blend Images / Getty Images

Don't let your shoes slow you down when you want to walk faster. Now is the time to buy shoes that will help your feet roll through your stride. You'll find that heavy, stiff shoes won't work for walking fast.

The Basics of Shoes

Start with the basics. Do you overpronate, which indicates that you need motion control shoes? Or do you have a neutral gait and can wear lightweight neutral shoes?

If you haven't had your stride analyzed before, now is the time to find the serious running shoe store in your area that will assess you as part of their service. They will watch you walk and may even video you on a treadmill.

If you like to run, they will examine your running gait as well. This will allow them to steer you into motion control shoes vs. neutral shoes.

Running Shoes vs. Walking Shoes

Don't be shocked to find out that running shoes may be better for fast walking than shoes that call themselves walking shoes. Many so-called walking shoes don't have the design and technology needed for faster walking.

They are often built to be stable, comfortable and sell at a lower price point. It is much easier to find running shoes that fit the profile needed for a walking stride.

Another type of shoe to avoid is the cross-training shoe. This type of shoe is built to be stable and less flexible for strength workouts and it won't assist your stride. You need flexible shoes for walking fast.

Flexibility Is the Key

When walking fast, your foot flexes through the step, with a roll from heel to toe. Your shoes need to be flexible enough to bend with that natural foot motion, rather than being rigid and unbending.

Your fast walking shoe should bend in the ball of the foot, and you should be able to twist it from side to side.

But too much flexibility can also be a problem. Minimalist shoes, such as the Nike Free, that offer little support may not be the right choice, especially as you age. If you can bend the shoe completely in half, it may be too minimal. But that is something you may want to experiment with for shorter walks.

Shoes With a Small Heel-Toe Drop

Classic running shoes have a higher heel to balance out the foot strike when runners land on their midfoot or forefoot. Because walkers strike with their heel, they want only a small difference in height between the heel and the ball of the foot.

The minimalist shoe trend for runners is producing more and more shoes with a low heel-toe drop or offset, more in line with the needs of walkers.

As a fast walker, you want to avoid shoes with a big heel-toe drop or offset. You can't always judge this just by looking at the shoe, as the designs may hide the truth. Ask the salesperson or consult the shoe manufacturer's product information.

No Flared Heel Needed

Flared heels provide stability, and you will see some very aggressive flared heels on trail running shoes. But walkers strike with the heel, and a chunky flared heel isn't a good landing zone for a walking step. In fact, a shoe designed for walking would have a slightly undercut heel. These will be hard to find on a running shoe, but you may find it on some walking shoes.

Cushioning Needs

When walking fast, you want a lightweight shoe, but it needs to have enough cushioning so your feet don't take a beating from the impact. The amount of cushioning you want will depend on the mileage you walk with each workout.

If you keep your walks at 3 miles or less, you will need less cushioning.

But if you are walking 6 miles or training for a half marathon or marathon, you need shoes with more cushioning and should avoid racing flats and minimalist uncushioned shoes. At that length of workout, you will need some cushioning.

How Fast Walking Shoes Fit

A properly fitted shoe leaves the room at the toe for your foot to expand as you walk, and you shouldn't feel a too-snug fit at any point of your foot. Neither should the shoe have a sloppy fit.

If your feet have too much room to move around, you can end up with blisters. Shop for shoes after you have spent 30 minutes or more on your feet so they will be in the condition as when you walk. Plan to buy walking shoes that are larger than your dress shoes, as much as a full size larger.

A Word From Verywell

Your walking shoes are your main gear item for walking. Spend time discussing what you need with the staff at a top-notch running store so you will get fit for the right shoes. Don't settle for a pair labeled for walkers that don't have the flexibility that you need for a fast walking stride.

5 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Menz HB, Dufour AB, Katz P, Hannan MT. Foot Pain and Pronated Foot Type Are Associated with Self-Reported Mobility Limitations in Older Adults: The Framingham Foot Study. Gerontology. 2016;62(3):289-95. doi:10.1159/000442089

  2. Ridge ST, Olsen MT, Bruening DA, et al. Walking in Minimalist Shoes Is Effective for Strengthening Foot Muscles. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2019;51(1):104-113. doi:10.1249/MSS.0000000000001751

  3. Warne JP, Gruber AH. Transitioning to Minimal Footwear: a Systematic Review of Methods and Future Clinical Recommendations. Sports Med Open. 2017;3(1):33. doi:10.1186/s40798-017-0096-x

  4. Kim MK, Kong BS, Yoo KT. The effect of shoe type on static and dynamic balance during treadmill walking in young healthy women. J Phys Ther Sci. 2017;29(9):1653-1657. doi:10.1589/jpts.29.1653

  5. Buldt AK, Menz HB. Incorrectly fitted footwear, foot pain and foot disorders: a systematic search and narrative review of the literature. J Foot Ankle Res. 2018;11:43. doi:10.1186/s13047-018-0284-z

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.