do i need special shoes for walking
do i need special shoes for walking

Walking is a seemingly simple activity that most of us engage in on a daily basis. But have you ever wondered if you need special shoes to make the most out of your walking adventures? In this article, we’ll explore the question that may have crossed your mind countless times: do I really need special shoes for walking? We’ll take a closer look at the benefits of wearing the right shoes, the potential risks of inappropriate footwear, and explore some practical tips to help you choose the perfect pair for your walking journeys. So, let’s lace up and start walking towards finding the answer to this age-old question.

Benefits of Wearing Proper Walking Shoes

Better Comfort and Support

When it comes to walking, comfort is key. Our feet go through a lot of stress and impact with every step, so it’s important to provide them with proper cushioning and support. Wearing proper walking shoes ensures that our feet stay comfortable throughout our walking sessions, helping to prevent discomfort and pain.

Proper walking shoes also provide important support to the arches of our feet, which helps in maintaining proper alignment and reducing the risk of foot problems such as plantar fasciitis. The right amount of cushioning in the shoes absorbs shock and reduces pressure on our joints, making our walking experience much more comfortable and enjoyable.

Reduced Risk of Injuries

Another significant benefit of wearing proper walking shoes is the reduced risk of injuries. Walking can put stress on our feet and lower limbs, and if we don’t have the right shoes, it can lead to various problems such as sprained ankles, shin splints, and even fractures.

Proper walking shoes provide stability and minimize the risk of rolling our ankles or twisting our feet. They also have a firm heel counter that keeps our heels secure and prevents any accidental movements that could lead to injuries. Investing in a pair of good walking shoes can go a long way in preventing these unfortunate accidents and keeping us on our feet without any setbacks.

Improved Performance

Wearing proper walking shoes can significantly improve our performance. Whether we are walking for leisure, exercise, or participating in a walking event, having the right footwear can make a world of difference.

Walking shoes are designed specifically to provide the necessary support and stability during the walking motion. They have a flexible but supportive midsole that promotes a natural roll-through, making our stride more efficient and reducing fatigue. The lightweight construction of walking shoes also helps in maintaining an optimal walking pace without feeling weighed down.

Proper walking shoes can enhance our walking experience by providing the right combination of comfort, support, and performance, allowing us to walk longer distances and achieve our fitness goals.

Promotes Proper Walking Technique

Wearing proper walking shoes can also promote proper walking technique. The design features of walking shoes, such as a well-cushioned heel and a flexible toe box, encourage a more natural and efficient walking gait.

Walking shoes that are specifically tailored to our foot type and pronation help in maintaining proper alignment and distributing our body weight evenly. This not only reduces the risk of foot and lower limb injuries but also improves our overall posture and balance.

The cushioning and shock absorption properties of proper walking shoes also allow us to land our feet softly and roll through the step, reducing strain on our joints. By promoting a proper walking technique, walking shoes contribute to a more enjoyable and pain-free walking experience.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Walking Shoes

Foot Type and Pronation

Our foot type and pronation play a crucial role in determining the type of walking shoes that will provide us with the best fit and support. There are three primary foot types: neutral, supination (underpronation), and overpronation.

For individuals with neutral feet, walking shoes with a moderate level of stability and cushioning are generally recommended. These shoes provide a good balance of support and flexibility.

Those with supination or underpronation need walking shoes with excellent shock absorption and flexibility. These shoes help in compensating for the lack of inward foot roll during the walking motion.

Individuals with overpronation require walking shoes with stability features such as a firm midsole and arch support. These shoes help in controlling excessive foot rolling and provide the necessary support and alignment.

Understanding our foot type and pronation can guide us in selecting walking shoes that cater to our specific needs, ensuring maximum comfort and support.

Arch Support

The arch of our foot plays a vital role in providing stability and absorbing shock during walking. It is essential to consider the level of arch support provided by walking shoes.

For individuals with high arches (supination), shoes with a cushioned midsole and arch support are recommended. These features help in distributing the pressure evenly throughout the foot and provide the extra support needed for the high arches.

For individuals with low arches (flat feet) or overpronation, walking shoes with firm arch support are ideal. This helps in maintaining proper alignment and reducing the risk of overpronation-related injuries.

Choosing walking shoes that offer the right level of arch support ensures proper foot alignment and enhances overall comfort.


Cushioning is an important factor to consider when choosing walking shoes. The amount and type of cushioning can greatly affect the level of comfort and shock absorption provided by the shoes.

Walking shoes with adequate cushioning in the heel and forefoot regions offer excellent shock absorption, reducing the impact on our joints and muscles. This is especially important if we walk on hard surfaces such as concrete or pavement.

It’s essential to find a balance between cushioning and responsiveness. Too much cushioning can make the shoes feel too soft and unstable, while too little cushioning may not provide enough protection against impact.

Trying out different walking shoes and finding the right level of cushioning that feels comfortable and supportive is key to a successful walking experience.

Breathability and Moisture-wicking

When walking, our feet can become sweaty and prone to moisture build-up. This can lead to discomfort, blisters, and even fungal infections. Therefore, it’s important to consider the breathability and moisture-wicking capabilities of walking shoes.

Walking shoes with breathable uppers made from materials such as mesh allow air to circulate around our feet, keeping them cool and dry. Moisture-wicking properties further help to prevent sweat build-up and maintain a comfortable environment for our feet.

By choosing walking shoes that prioritize breathability and moisture-wicking, we can ensure that our feet stay fresh and dry, even during longer walking sessions.


The flexibility of walking shoes is crucial for a natural walking motion. Shoes that are too stiff can hinder our foot’s ability to roll through the step, leading to an inefficient gait and potential discomfort.

Prioritizing walking shoes with a flexible sole and midsole allows for a more comfortable and fluid step. It promotes a natural roll-through, reducing strain on our feet and lower limbs.

Having the right amount of flexibility in our walking shoes ensures that our walking motion is smooth and efficient, enhancing overall comfort and performance.

Outsole and Traction

The outsole of walking shoes is responsible for providing traction and stability. It plays a crucial role when walking on various terrains, such as sidewalks, trails, or uneven surfaces.

Walking shoes with a durable rubber outsole and a tread pattern designed for different surfaces offer excellent grip and traction, reducing the risk of slipping and helping us maintain stability.

Considering the outsole and traction capabilities of walking shoes is important, especially if we plan on walking on diverse terrains.

Types of Walking Shoes

Walking Shoes

Walking shoes are specifically designed for walking purposes. They provide the optimal combination of comfort, support, and flexibility that cater to the specific motion involved in walking. Walking shoes typically have a lower profile, lighter weight, and a more flexible sole compared to other types of athletic shoes.

These shoes are suitable for individuals who primarily engage in walking activities, whether it’s for exercise or leisure. Walking shoes are designed to offer excellent cushioning, stability, and shock absorption to enhance the walking experience and reduce the risk of injuries.

Running Shoes

Although running shoes are primarily designed for running, they can also be used for walking due to their similar design features. Running shoes provide cushioning, stability, and support to handle the impact of running, which can translate well to walking.

Running shoe soles are usually thicker and more cushioned to absorb the higher impact forces associated with running. This can provide additional comfort and shock absorption while walking, especially for those who prefer a more cushioned feel.

However, it’s important to note that not all running shoes are suitable for walking. Some running shoes may have a more aggressive heel-to-toe drop or excessive stability features that may not be suitable for walking. It’s best to choose running shoes specifically marketed for walking or consult with a professional to find the right pair.

Trail Shoes

Trail shoes, also known as hiking shoes or boots, are designed for walking on rugged terrains and uneven surfaces. These shoes offer excellent traction, stability, and durability to handle the challenges of off-road walking.

Trail shoes usually have a more rugged outsole, a reinforced toe cap, and additional ankle support compared to traditional walking shoes. They are constructed with sturdy materials that protect the foot from rocks, roots, and other obstacles found in outdoor trails.

These shoes are ideal for individuals who enjoy walking or hiking on various terrains, such as mountains, forests, or rocky trails. The rugged design and specialized features of trail shoes provide the necessary protection and stability for a safe and comfortable walking experience in challenging environments.

Cross-training Shoes

Cross-training shoes are versatile athletic shoes designed for various exercises and activities, including walking. These shoes provide a good balance of cushioning, support, and flexibility, making them suitable for different types of movements.

Cross-training shoes are designed with a stable base, supportive midsole, and durable outsole. They offer multidirectional support and shock absorption, allowing for a range of movements including walking, aerobics, weightlifting, and other gym exercises.

For individuals who engage in a combination of activities or prefer a shoe that can be used for both walking and other exercises, cross-training shoes can be a suitable option.

Walking Shoes vs. Other Types of Footwear

Walking Shoes vs. Casual Shoes

While casual shoes are comfortable for everyday wear, they are not specifically designed to provide the necessary support and cushioning for extensive walking.

Walking shoes, on the other hand, are designed with the specific needs of walkers in mind. They offer enhanced comfort, support, and stability to ensure a comfortable walking experience.

Casual shoes may lack the shock absorption and arch support needed for prolonged walking, which can lead to discomfort, fatigue, and an increased risk of foot problems. Therefore, it’s advisable to choose walking shoes when engaging in lengthy walks or walking for exercise.

Walking Shoes vs. Sports Shoes

Sports shoes, such as basketball or tennis shoes, are designed for specific sports activities and may not be suitable for walking purposes.

Walking shoes provide the necessary cushioning, flexibility, and support tailored to the walking motion. They are designed with the biomechanics of walking in mind, ensuring optimal comfort and reducing the risk of injuries.

Sports shoes often have specialized features such as ankle support, footwear technology specific to the sport, and different movement patterns designed for that activity. While they may offer support for specific sports movements, they may not provide the same level of comfort or support when used for walking.

For individuals primarily engaged in walking, it’s best to choose walking shoes that are designed specifically for the biomechanics and needs of walking.

Walking Shoes vs. Sandals

Sandals are a popular choice for warm weather and leisurely walks. While sandals can provide breathability and freedom for the feet, they generally lack the necessary support and cushioning for extended walking or intense exercise.

Walking shoes offer better protection, stability, and support, especially for longer distances or more active walking. Sandals typically have thinner and less supportive soles, which can lead to foot fatigue and discomfort during prolonged walking.

While sandals can be suitable for short walks on even surfaces, such as strolling along the beach or running quick errands, they may not provide the necessary support and protection for more demanding walking activities.

Special Considerations for Walking Shoes

Orthopedic Concerns

Individuals with specific orthopedic concerns, such as flat feet, high arches, or foot conditions like plantar fasciitis or bunions, may require additional features in their walking shoes.

Orthopedic walking shoes are specially designed to address specific foot problems or conditions. These shoes provide extra support, stability, and cushioning in the areas that require it most.

For individuals with orthopedic concerns, it’s advisable to consult with a podiatrist or orthopedic specialist to determine the specific requirements for walking shoes. They can recommend orthopedic shoes or provide guidance on choosing the right features to accommodate any special needs.

Medical Conditions

Individuals with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes or arthritis, may require specific considerations when choosing walking shoes.

For those with diabetes, it’s essential to choose walking shoes with a seamless interior and extra cushioning to minimize the risk of pressure points and ulcers. The shoes should also have a roomy toe box to accommodate any potential foot deformities or swelling.

Arthritis can affect the joints and require shoes with appropriate cushioning and support. Shoes with a flexible sole and shock absorption properties can help reduce the impact on arthritic joints, providing pain relief and comfort while walking.

Consulting with a healthcare professional or podiatrist who specializes in foot care for individuals with medical conditions can provide valuable guidance on selecting the most suitable walking shoes.

Walking on Different Terrains

Consider the terrain where the majority of your walking activities take place. Different terrains may require specific features in the walking shoes to provide optimal comfort and performance.

If you primarily walk on smooth surfaces such as sidewalks or indoor tracks, walking shoes with good cushioning and shock absorption may be sufficient. However, if you walk on uneven or rough surfaces such as trails or gravel paths, you may need walking shoes with more stability, traction, and rugged construction.

Walking on hills or inclines may require shoes with more ankle support to prevent sprains and provide stability. It’s important to match the features of the walking shoes to the terrain to ensure a safe and enjoyable walking experience.

How to Choose the Right Walking Shoes

Get a Professional Fitting

Getting a professional fitting is a crucial step in choosing the right walking shoes. Visit a reputable shoe store that specializes in athletic footwear and have a professional measure your foot size and width.

A professional fitting allows you to determine the correct shoe size and ensures that you’re getting the right fit for your feet. It also provides an opportunity to try on different styles and brands recommended by the expert, increasing the chances of finding the perfect walking shoes.

Consider Your Walking Needs

Before choosing walking shoes, consider your walking needs and preferences. Determine the purpose of your walking, whether it’s for leisurely walks, exercise, or participating in walking events.

If you plan on walking long distances or engaging in regular walking for exercise, it’s important to choose shoes that provide excellent cushioning, support, and durability. If you’re mainly walking on different terrains, shoes with appropriate outsoles and traction are essential.

By considering your walking needs, you can narrow down the options and find walking shoes that are optimized for your specific requirements.

Try Different Brands and Models

Different brands and models of walking shoes can vary in terms of fit, cushioning, support, and overall comfort. It’s important to try on various brands and models to find the one that suits your feet the best.

Don’t be afraid to explore different options and try on multiple pairs of shoes. Walk around the store, paying attention to how the shoes feel on your feet. Take note of any discomfort or pressure points.

Trying different brands and models allows you to find the perfect fit and style that offers maximum comfort and support for your feet.

Test the Shoes for Comfort and Fit

When trying on walking shoes, it’s essential to pay attention to the comfort and fit. The shoes should feel comfortable from the moment you put them on.

Check for any tight spots or areas of pressure that could lead to discomfort or blisters. Make sure the shoes provide enough room for your toes to move comfortably. Flex your feet and walk around in the shoes to ensure that they allow for a natural range of motion.

The heel should be secure and not slip while walking. The shoes should provide ample cushioning and support without feeling too tight or too loose.

Ultimately, the most important factor when choosing walking shoes is comfort. Select the pair that feels the most comfortable and supportive on your feet, as this will greatly enhance your walking experience.

Maintaining and Replacing Walking Shoes

Proper Cleaning and Drying

Proper cleaning and drying of walking shoes is essential to maintain their longevity and performance. Here are some steps to keep in mind:

  1. Remove any dirt or debris from the shoes with a soft brush or cloth.
  2. Use a mild detergent or shoe cleaner and warm water to clean the shoes thoroughly.
  3. Rinse the shoes with clean water and remove any excess soap.
  4. Allow the shoes to air dry in a well-ventilated area. Avoid exposing them to direct sunlight or heat sources as this can damage the materials.

Regular cleaning helps to remove sweat, dirt, and odor, keeping the shoes fresh and hygienic for future walks.

Regular Inspection for Wear and Tear

Regularly inspecting walking shoes for wear and tear is important to ensure their continued functionality and support. Here are some areas to examine:

  1. Check the outsole for signs of excessive wear, such as smooth or worn down treads. This can affect the shoes’ grip and traction.
  2. Inspect the midsole for any visible compression or loss of cushioning. A flattened midsole may not provide adequate shock absorption.
  3. Examine the upper for any tears, holes, or loose stitching. Damaged uppers can compromise the shoes’ durability and support.

By regularly inspecting walking shoes, you can identify any potential issues and determine when it’s time for a replacement.

Knowing When to Replace

Walking shoes have a limited lifespan, and knowing when to replace them is important for maintaining optimal comfort and support.

As a general guideline, walking shoes should be replaced every 300 to 500 miles, depending on factors such as walking intensity, walking technique, and the individual’s body weight.

If the shoes show significant signs of wear and tear, such as excessive outsole wear, a compressed midsole, or a deteriorating upper, it’s time to consider replacing them.

Additionally, if you start experiencing foot pain, discomfort, or other signs of reduced support even after cleaning and proper maintenance, it could be an indication that the shoes have reached the end of their lifespan.

Replacing walking shoes in a timely manner ensures that you continue to enjoy the benefits of proper support and comfort during your walks.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing Walking Shoes

Buying Shoes That Don’t Fit Properly

One of the most common mistakes when choosing walking shoes is buying shoes that don’t fit properly. Ill-fitting shoes can lead to discomfort, pain, and an increased risk of foot problems.

It’s important to get properly measured and seek the advice of a professional to determine the right size and width for your feet. Avoid the temptation of purchasing shoes that are too small, assuming they will stretch over time. Shoes that are too tight can cause blisters, corns, and other foot issues.

On the other hand, buying shoes that are too large can lead to instability, lack of support, and an increased risk of tripping or falling.

Choosing walking shoes that fit properly ensures optimal comfort and support, allowing you to fully enjoy your walking experience.

Ignoring Your Specific Foot Type

Ignoring your specific foot type can have detrimental effects on the comfort and support provided by your walking shoes.

Understanding your foot type, whether you have neutral arches, high arches, or flat feet, is crucial in selecting the right walking shoes. Each foot type has different requirements in terms of cushioning, arch support, and stability.

Ignoring your specific foot type can lead to discomfort, lack of support, and an increased risk of foot problems. It’s important to prioritize walking shoes that cater to the specific needs of your feet for a comfortable and pain-free walking experience.

Prioritizing Style over Function

While style is a personal preference, it’s important not to prioritize style over function when it comes to choosing walking shoes. Walking shoes should first and foremost provide the necessary support, cushioning, and stability for your feet.

Avoid solely focusing on aesthetics or choosing shoes solely based on their trendy design. Instead, prioritize the features that offer the best comfort and support for your specific walking needs.

Remember, the benefits of wearing proper walking shoes outweigh the desire for a fashionable look. Choose function over style to ensure an enjoyable and injury-free walking experience.

Not Testing the Shoes before Purchasing

One of the biggest mistakes is not testing the shoes before purchasing. Trying on the shoes and taking them for a short walk around the store is essential to gauge their comfort and fit.

Walking in the shoes helps you assess how they feel on your feet, whether they provide the necessary support and cushioning, and if there are any areas of discomfort or pressure points.

By testing the shoes before purchasing, you can make a more informed decision and choose the pair that feels the most comfortable and supportive for your feet.

Tips for Walking Comfortably with Any Shoes

Proper Warm-up and Stretching

Before embarking on your walking session, it’s important to warm up your muscles and stretch properly. Warming up increases blood flow to the muscles and prepares them for the physical activity ahead.

Engage in light cardio exercises such as brisk walking or marching in place to elevate your heart rate. Follow this with dynamic stretches that target the major muscle groups used during walking, such as the calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, and hip flexors.

Proper warm-up and stretching can help prevent muscle strains, improve flexibility, and enhance your overall walking performance.

Gradual Increase in Walking Distance

When starting a walking routine or increasing your walking distance, it’s important to do so gradually. Sudden increases in walking intensity or duration can lead to overuse injuries and soreness.

Start with shorter distances or durations and gradually increase them as your fitness level improves. This allows your body to adapt to the increased demands of walking and reduces the risk of injuries or fatigue.

Listening to your body and honoring its limitations is key to maintaining a comfortable and sustainable walking routine.

Using Inserts or Orthotics if Needed

If you have specific foot conditions or require additional support, using inserts or orthotics in your walking shoes can provide extra comfort and stability.

Orthotic inserts can help correct specific foot issues, such as flat feet or overpronation, by providing customized support and realigning the foot. They can also offer additional cushioning and shock absorption.

If you have a medical condition that requires specific orthotic devices, consult with a healthcare professional or podiatrist to determine the most appropriate options for your needs.

Maintaining Good Posture and Proper Walking Technique

Maintaining good posture and proper walking technique is important for walking comfortably and efficiently.

Keep your head up, shoulders relaxed, and spine aligned as you walk. Engage your core muscles and swing your arms naturally. Avoid leaning forward or slouching, as this can strain your muscles and cause discomfort.

Focus on landing on your heel and rolling through your step to absorb the impact and help with the propulsion. Striding too long or taking short choppy steps can lead to muscle fatigue or discomfort.

By maintaining good posture and practicing proper walking technique, you can optimize your comfort and reduce the risk of injuries during your walks.


Choosing the right walking shoes is essential for a comfortable and enjoyable walking experience. Proper walking shoes provide comfort, support, and stability, reducing the risk of injuries and enhancing performance.

Factors such as foot type, arch support, cushioning, breathability, flexibility, and outsole traction should all be considered when selecting walking shoes. Orthopedic concerns, medical conditions, and the specific terrains you walk on also play a role in determining the right shoe features for your needs.

Maintaining and replacing walking shoes regularly, avoiding common mistakes, and following tips for walking comfortably with any shoes can further enhance your walking experience.

Prioritizing the benefits and considerations outlined in this article will guide you in choosing the perfect pair of walking shoes that support your feet, enhance your performance, and keep you walking comfortably for miles to come.

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Dr. Patrick Smith
I'm Dr. Patrick Smith, a board-certified podiatrist with over 20 years of experience. I received my Doctor of Podiatric Medicine degree from the California School of Podiatric Medicine in 2001. I then completed a residency in podiatric medicine and surgery at the University of California, San Francisco. I am a specialist in the diagnosis and treatment of foot and ankle conditions. I treat a wide range of conditions, including: I am also a certified pedorthist. This means that I am qualified to design and fit custom orthotics. Orthotics are devices that are used to correct foot problems and improve alignment. I am committed to providing my patients with the highest quality of care. I am compassionate and understanding, and I take the time to listen to my patients' concerns. I am also up-to-date on the latest advances in podiatric medicine, and I use the most effective treatments available. I believe that everyone deserves to have healthy feet. That's why I am passionate about providing my patients with the care they need to live pain-free and active lives. If you are looking for a podiatrist who can provide you with the best possible care, I encourage you to contact my office. I would be happy to help you find relief from your foot pain and improve your overall health. Thank you for reading my bio. I look forward to meeting you and helping you achieve your foot health goals.