Walking is a great form of exercise. It’s low impact compared to running and comes with many health benefits. We should all probably walk more.
But in order to start walking consistently, you need a good pair of shoes. Too often folks come into our running stores and start out by apologetically saying, “I’m not a runner. I just walk.” That’s fine! As we’ve established, walking is great. From a health perspective, it would be hard to argue running is any better; it’s just different.
Running shoes typically work quite well for walking since many of the features we’re looking for are similar. Here are some of the main factors we’re looking for in a good walking shoe.
With every step you take – and every breath you take, move you make, bond you break – on a walk, you land with 1-2x your body weight. In order to protect your feet and legs from that repeated impact, your walking shoe needs to have good cushioning. This will help your legs absorb shock and help you through your gait cycle.
The type of cushioning you want in a walking shoe ultimately comes down to personal preference and your style of walking. If you’re looking to turn up the pace and do some fast walking, you might want a firmer-feeling shoe with a little more bounce. For more leisurely walking, on the other hand, you might prefer a shoe that feels softer
Like any shoe, the best walking shoe is the one that feels most natural on your foot. You shouldn’t feel unstable or wobbly when walking in it and it should feel like it fits and supports your foot well. If you have flat feet or overpronate, you might want a shoe with built-in stability features. As with running shoes, however, the best way to determine what type of walking shoe is best for you is to have your gait analyzed at your local running store or by a medical professional.
You’re going to be spending many active hours in your walking shoes, so you want an upper made of material that is both durable and breathable. A mesh upper usually does a good job combining these two features.
Depending on where you live and the time of year, you may want to consider a waterproof upper. You’ll be sacrificing breathability – waterproof is in many ways a two-way – or, better, no-way – street, so while water can’t get in, it’s also not going to get out if you sweat. If you’re in a rainy climate or are going to be walking on wet surfaces, the trade off may be worth it. Nevertheless, it’s something to keep in mind.
Best overall: Hoka Clifton 9
For best overall, we want a walking shoe that can do it all – fast paces, slow paces; long walks, short walks – and last a long time. For its combination of high cushion, light weight and rocker platform to help you through your stride, the Clifton 9 takes the cake as the best walking shoe available right now. While the overall softness of this shoe makes it better for walking at slow to moderate paces, its lightness and touch of responsiveness make it usable for brisker walks as well. The rocker platform adds a little bit of poppiness to this otherwise soft and luxurious shoe. The mesh upper is breathable and durable. Rubber placed along high-impact areas of the outsole ensure that this walking shoe will hold up over many miles. The Hoka Clifton 9 also comes with a Seal of Acceptance from the American Podiatric Medical Association, meaning it has been verified to promote foot health.
Best for hiking and trails: Altra Lone Peak 7
If most of your walking is on trails or you go on a lot of day hikes, you want a shoe with a little more tread and traction. Like all Altra shoes, the Lone Peak 7 has a roomy toe box that accommodates wide feet well and balanced cushioning to position your foot more naturally. Altra’s midsole foam offers a soft landing while providing enough responsiveness that you don’t feel you’re getting lost in the shoe.
One key feature of the Lone Peak 7 is its optionality. In addition to the standard low-cut option, it is also available in a mid-rise style that comes up above the ankle for extra protection and support on more rugged terrain. You can also order both styles in an all-weather, water-resistant upper for rainier climates or trails that may feature multiple stream crossings. Whatever kind of hiking or trail walking you’re doing, there’s a version of the Lone Peak 7 that will suit your needs.
Best shoe for walking and standing all day: Hoka Bondi 8
We already highlighted the Hoka Clifton 9 as the best overall walking shoe, but if you’re going for long walks or standing on your feet all day for work, its more cushioned cousin – the Hoka Bondi 8 – may be more suited for your needs. For the amount of cushioning the Bondi packs in, it’s super lightweight, so you won’t get tired just from wearing this shoe all day. The upper and rubber outsole are super durable, so you can feel confident wearing it for long hours day after day.
A wide base adds plenty of stability so you feel supported even with so much cushioning standing between your foot and the ground. The Hoka Bondi 8 also fits on the wider side, making it a great option for folks with bunions or wider feet.
Best walking shoe for people with flat feet: Brooks Glycerin GTS 20
For walkers with flat feet, we’re looking for a shoe that is build on a straight enough last that it doesn’t feel like it’s digging into their arches while also offering enough support for overpronation. The Brooks Glycerin GTS 20 checks both boxes with a relatively flat platform and guide rails that provide a more customized stability system no matter your level of overpronation.
This shoe hugs the midfoot well while providing plenty of room in the toe box. A full rubber outsole provides great traction in wet conditions and the breathable upper keeps your foot cool and dry.
Best shoe for speed walking: Adidas Ultraboost Light
Adidas’ responsive and durable Boost foam makes the Ultraboost Light an obvious pick for fitness and faster walking. With a fully knit upper, this highly cushioned walking shoe feels light on the foot. The Boost foam and a rocker platform contribute to fast and snappy transitions so you can get some good turnover for a brisker walking pace. The Boost foam is one of the more responsive foams on the market, so you’ll get plenty of energy return from this shoe.
A Continental Rubber outsole is super durable and provides great traction for all surfaces and conditions. The Ultraboost Light is a bit pricier than many of the other options on this list, but the durability of the midsole and outsole make it well worth the investment in our opinion. While it doesn’t contain any specific stability features for overpronation, the firmer Boost foam paired with a plastic heel counter and midfoot wrap provide a stable ride for light-to-moderate overpronators and neutral walkers alike.
Best walking shoe for people with wide feet: New Balance 1080 v12
With a wider fit and a knit upper, the New Balance 1080 v12 accommodates wider feet even in the standard width. As an added bonus, this walking shoe is also available in wide widths for even wider feet. The knit material is soft and stretch enough to accommodate most foot shapes while also offering plenty of support in all the right places.
The New Balance 1080 v12 comes with New Balance’s Fresh Foam X cushioning, which offers a soft and pillowy ride that never feels like it bottoms out. A rocker geometry helps with smooth transitions so you can still feel like you can get good turnover even in this relatively soft shoe.
Best shoe for dog walking: Hoka Transport
A good dog walking shoe is one you can quickly put on when your good boy needs to go outside. The Hoka Transport comes with quick toggle laces for an easy slip on so you can forget about tying your shoes every time you need to go out with the dog. With the Transport, you’re slipping your foot into a soft cushioned shoe with plenty of support for even the longest walks.
The Transport’s Vibram outsole provides durability and traction in all conditions, and the shoe also comes with 360 degrees of reflectivity for late night and early morning walks. The Hoka Transport is also made with a scuff-resistant Cordura upper, so your shoes will still look fresh wherever your dog leads you.