Walking is an easy, fun, and accessible aerobic activity. It gets the heart pumping, the limbs moving, and can even reduce food cravings and prevent sick days1—seriously, what can’t walking do?
Whether you’re a regular power walker or just enjoy a scenic stroll through the park, it’s important to wear shoes that support your feet and prevent injury. It’s equally just as important to know when to replace walking shoes. The typical recommendation is to replace your pair after walking about 400 miles (usually between six and twelve months for performance walkers).2
So, with that in mind, what is a good shoe for walking? And what should you be looking for when you’re upgrading your current footwear?
We have the answers you’re looking for, as well as some shoe recommendations, below so that you can fully experience the benefits of walking.
#1 The Importance of Comfort in Walking Shoes
When looking for a good walking shoe, the first thing you’ll want to be sure of is how comfortable they are.
While walking, your feet (and therefore your shoes) absorb 1.5 times your body weight.3 That’s a lot of pressure being put on such a small surface. Because of this, your walking shoes should be well cushioned to prevent your feet from taking the brunt of your weight.
With orthotic footwear, it’s recommended that you wear them for only a few hours a day for the first few days to get used to the new level of support they provide. And if you find yourself needing to break in a pair of walking shoes for weeks before they’re actually wearable, odds are, these aren’t the shoes for you. Not only are they not properly aligned with your needs, but this can deter you from walking and the shoes won’t get much wear anyway.
#2 Arch Support and Its Role in Walking Comfort
Not everyone has the same degree of arch to their feet. Arches range from being almost non-existent to quite high. You can determine your arch type by looking at your footprint, which you can make by wetting your foot and standing on a surface like paper or concrete.
Part of finding the right amount of support your arches need is by understanding the pronation of your foot, or the way it rolls as you walk. People with low and high arches are prone to overpronation and underpronation, respectively4:
- Overpronation – When your feet roll too far inward while walking
- Underpronation – When your feet roll too far outward while walking
Your walking shoe should support you no matter what type of arch you have. For low arches, look for a shoe with good stability and traction, and for high arches, look for a substantial midsole that will absorb shock.5
#3 Enhancing Your Walk with Flexibility and Lightness
Your foot naturally flexes and bends as you walk. Your heel meets the ground, and then your foot rolls forward before pushing off from the ball of your foot and your toes. It only makes sense that your walking shoe should flex and bend as much as your foot does.
To test the flexibility of a shoe, attempt to bend it in half, toe cap to heel. If the sole doesn’t budge, put it back. If the shoe shows a nice bend where the ball of the foot goes, it’ll offer you the flexibility you need as your feet propel you forward.
Another indicator of flexibility in an athletic shoe is the presence of flex grooves on the outsole.6 These grooves allow the material to bend with more ease as your foot rolls across the ground.
Lightness goes hand in hand with flexibility. A thinner, lighter shoe will allow your feet to move and flex with more ease than if they were weighed down by thick, heavy materials.
#4 Adequate Toe Space for a Natural Stride
In order to walk comfortably for long periods of time, your toes need space to breathe. That’s one reason why you don’t see performance walkers wearing high heels (admittedly, one reason among many). In heels, your toes are squished together in a small, pointed toe box, restricting movement and decreasing stability.
It’s also important to account for your feet swelling while wearing your shoes. Your feet can swell because of increased blood flow as you walk, and they can also swell over the course of the day.7 To account for this, your footwear should leave you a little extra room.
To see whether your toes have enough space in the toe box, use your finger to measure the distance between the front of the shoe and your big toe. If your finger doesn’t fit between them, look for something new.8
#5 Benefits of Breathable Materials in Walking Shoes
Your shoes need to breathe just as you do. While leather and plastic materials may look enticing, they aren’t always the best when it comes to breathability. Leather is waterproof, but it can weigh your feet down when you’re on the move. Thinner materials allow for the transfer of air in and out of the shoe, keeping your feet cool and comfortable.
Good materials to look for include:
- Breathable mesh and knit fabrics
- Synthetic materials like polyester
When shopping for a good walking shoe, look for uppers that are partially or completely made of mesh and fabric, for example, the Vionic Walk Strider.
#6 Reliable Traction and Slip Resistance
You encounter many different types of terrain while walking, from pavement, to gravel, to uneven ground. A good walking shoe will keep you from slipping or losing balance while you’re on the go.
Reliable traction and slip resistance is dependent on the quality of the sole of the shoe. The shoe outsole is the part of the shoe that makes contact with the ground. It should have grooves or treads that grip the ground and keep you on your feet while walking.
A unique option that offers both traction and style is the Vionic Nimble Sneaker. It’s been tested under real-world conditions by Heeluxe, a footwear industry gold standard, for comfort and performance.
#7 Moisture Control for Fresh Feet
An unfortunate news flash: your feet will get sweaty. This is a completely natural bodily function, but it can lead to discomfort if not accounted for. Shoes that don’t properly control moisture will leave your feet feeling damp and clammy, and will leave you more vulnerable to developing blisters.
Wondering what is a good walking shoe that will keep your feet dry? Check out our 23Walk Classic Sneaker.
The Walker is designed with a moisture-wicking, breathable mesh liner that is made of 100% polyester. And if you’re worried about odor, the podiatrist-developed orthotic insole is removable and features an antibacterial top cloth that will keep your feet feeling fresh for longer.
#8 Ankle and Heel Support for Balance
The ankle and heel do a lot of work while you walk.
A common walking injury involves the Achilles tendon, which is a band of tissue that connects your calf muscles to your heel.5 That’s why it’s so important to support and protect this area to prevent foot pain or stiffness.
Good walking footwear will have supportive heel collars and Achilles tendon protectors that keep your heel and ankle in place and prevent wobbling. Our Walk Strider Sneaker features anti-roll and lateral rigidity constructs to protect your ankles and heels from whatever obstacles you might encounter on your long walk.
#9 Durable Outsoles for Longevity
Most walking shoes have soles that are comprised of three layers:
- Insole – Cushions the foot and supports the arch
- Midsole – Supplies ample cushioning and helps absorb shock
- Outsole – Protects the foot and provides traction and stability
Since the outsoles of your shoes take the most damage while you walk, they should be made of durable materials that can take a bit of a beating. If you want your walking shoes to make it through the year, they need durable outsoles.
Outsoles made of sturdy, durable rubber will be able to handle different types of terrain while maintaining flexibility and stability.
#10 The Intersection of Style and Functionality in Walking Footwear
When it comes to style and functionality, you shouldn’t have to sacrifice one for the other. At Vionic, we understand how important it is for footwear to both feel good and look good.
We know what is a good walking shoe for women. After all, we design them with you in mind.
Your walking shoes should be as stylish as you are. Express your unique personality through your footwear with Vionic. Our 23Walk Classic Sneaker come in several different colors to match your personal sense of style.
Vionic Has the Perfect Walking Shoe for You
Now that you know more about what shoes are best for walking, you’re ready to start looking for your perfect pair.
Vionic footwear combines ample cushioning, arch support, flexibility, and stability for a walking experience you won’t get from any other athletic shoe. With a wide selection of styles and colorways, your feet will be fashionable and feeling great from the moment you put on your performance and recovery shoes to the moment you take them off.
Browse our selection of active footwear and read more about the unmatched look and feel (and support Vionic offers. Step into style and comfort with the right shoe for you.
- “5 Surprising Benefits of Walking.” Harvard Health. 7 December, 2023. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/5-surprising-benefits-of-walking
- Corliss, Julie. “Tips For Choosing Walking Shoes.” Harvard Health. 1 May, 2022. https://www.health.harvard.edu/exercise-and-fitness/tips-for-choosing-walking-shoes
- “How to Find the Best Walking Shoes.” Cleveland Clinic. 2 August, 2019. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-to-find-the-best-walking-shoes/
- McCallum, Katie. “How to Pick the Best Walking Shoe for You.” Houston Methodist. 29 July, 2021. https://www.houstonmethodist.org/blog/articles/2021/jul/how-to-pick-the-best-walking-shoe-for-you/
- “Achilles Tendon Injuries.” John Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/achilles-tendon-injuries