Buying a pair of walking shoes can seem as difficult as trying to run an all-uphill marathon. The number of styles available and prices ranging from under $50 to $200 (or more) can be intimidating. They all claim to be a foot’s best friend, but is there really a difference between one pair and the next? Yes, there are definitely differences, and those differences can mean a great deal depending on your feet and the type of walking you plan to do.
One of the biggest factors to consider is the level of arch support you need. If you have low arches (flat feet) or exceptionally high arches, you need a pair of shoes that offers extra arch support. This typically comes in the form of an additional rise in the arch area of the shoe’s insole. Flat feet need extra support to keep the feet in a more proper position. Low arches without support can make feet and legs tire more easily and can lead to significant foot pain and shin splints. Higher arches also need support, as empty space between a high arch and the insole of the shoe can lead to the same issues as non-supported flat feet, so more and more people are looking for the best running shoes for high arches. If your feet have a normal arch, extra arch support isn’t necessary, but you still want a little bit of that rise in the insole to help keep your feet in a more natural position. If you aren’t able to find a pair of shoes with good built-in support, orthotic inserts are definitely a good alternative, and they’re widely available and not terribly expensive (unless you go the custom route). Adding these inserts to shoes that do have extra arch support isn’t a great idea because forcing the arch too far upward loses the natural foot position you’re looking for.
The next thing to consider is whether or not your feet tend to pronate or supinate too much. Pronation is when the feet lean inward. This can put extra pressure on the entire lower leg, especially the inner ankle and the arch. Supination is when the feet tend to lean more outward. This problem is less common than pronation and is more likely to be controlled without too much special consideration. If you know you’re a pronator, look for shoes that offer motion control. This usually comes in the form of added stability above the insole on the inner side of the shoe. As with proper arch support, good motion control for those who need it helps keep the foot in a natural position, leading to less fatigue and strain.
Once you’ve narrowed your search to shoes that keep your feet in the proper position, think about your primary walking surfaces. Some soles will deal with uneven terrain better than flatter surfaces. Those designed for the outdoors will generally offer better shock absorption and handle small debris better than those designed primarily for indoor wear. Superior shock absorption is something to consider if you have a “heavy step.” If you tend to strike the ground harder with each step than others do, having a pair of shoes to absorb some of that shock can keep your feet from taking a pounding.
Now that you’ve refined the search down to styles that will keep your feet feeling great, consider how easy or hard it will be to keep your new shoes looking great. Leather (or leather-looking) exteriors can be easier to wipe clean, but can scratch or scuff easier. Cloth exteriors will resist scratching and scuffing, but can be harder to keep clean, even if they’re machine washable. You also want to look for a pair of shoes that has a breathable interior. This will help the insides of your shoes dry out when your feet sweat, which can help the insides last longer without falling apart or getting smelly.
When it comes to finding the right size, the first key is to try on the shoes while you’re wearing whatever socks you’ll wear with the shoes. Also, make sure you walk around in them and that they feel pretty good from the outset; good walking shoes shouldn’t need to be broken in.
Suffering from flat feet? You’ll need shoe inserts for flat feet. If your job requires you to stand for long periods of time, however, it is a must to shop for good shoes for standing all day. Keep in mind that nothing beats wearing comfortable shoes. Nowadays there are lots of fashionable AND comfy shoes designed for different shapes and types of feet.