Choosing the perfect shoe can be difficult. You go into a sporting goods store and you’re approached with a intimidating a variety of options displaying features you didn’t even know existed. Though, leaving with the wrong shoe can really affect your workouts—so where do you begin? (Build muscle and burn fat with one of our certified Helthee trainers)
You can now find sneakers geared directly for what your primary activity is, whether that’s Cross Fit, running, yoga, or lifting weights there’s a shoe or footwear for it. To the everyday walker, those specifically designed shoes might just look trendy and fun to try, but every detail that goes into designing that pair of shoes is made with the intent to help improve workout performances. Meaning if a shoe has a feature that enhances running performance, chances are it doesn’t do the same for someone walking.
Runners usually want something different from what walkers want. Walking sneakers, for example, typically are more cushioned overall, but especially in the heel. Podiatrist Emily Splichal, M.D, says, "Although there is less impact when walking than running, your foot is on the ground longer, so the cushion helps to offset that impact over time."
When you walk, your feet follow more of a "rocking chair-like" motion, says Paulina Kelly, global product marketing manager for walking at New Balance. "Your weight rolls from the heel, through the ball of your foot, and continues to the toe." What that means is walkers benefit from shoes that are flexible through the ball of the foot to allow for that rolling motion, support through the arch where the force of the foot hitting the ground is strongest, and general cushion. Walking in a running shoe, which most of the time has less cushion, could result to impact injuries like plantar fasciitis, stress fractures, and Achilles tendinitis, adds Splichal.
Certainly, walking and running have similarities, so some running shoes could work fine for walking, as long as there’s the right amount of support and the right fit. Now, shoes made for completely different workouts, like CrossFit or weight lifting, which has a firm, flat bottom for added stability more than likely should be avoided.
Most importantly, you have to be comfortable in the shoe or chances are you won’t keep walking. Splichal adds, "Picking the proper shoes can prevent discomfort and injury and will encourage you to maintain an active lifestyle." In conclusion, when you’re searching for that perfect walking or running shoe, start with the cushion and check for firm arch support, particularly if you suffer from flat feet.