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Finding the Right Walking Shoes

Do I really need walking-specific shoes?

Even if you walk as little as three times a week for 30 minutes at a time, a good pair of walking shoes is a great investment. Your feet will feel more comfortable, and you'll lower your risk of injury, too.

When choosing a walking shoe, find one that bends around the ball of the foot, not the arch. The heel should be rounded so each step can roll forward. Finally, the upper -- the part of the shoe that holds the foot -- should be flexible and forgiving.

What's the difference between a walking shoe and a running shoe?

Walking shoes don't have as much cushioning as running shoes. The thinner sole allows the foot to roll naturally from heel to toe. The bottom soles are also more flexible for that same natural motion.

What's the best walking shoe?

When it comes to shoes, there's no such thing as one-size-fits-all. If you have high arches, for instance, a super-thin and flexible shoe wouldn't be a good choice. Instead, you should get a shoe with little extra support and cushioning. Go to a store with a wide selection and a knowledgeable sales staff and keep trying on shoes until you have a comfortable fit. Wear the socks you would normally wear for walking, and try to save your shopping for later in the day when your feet are at their largest.

How can I be sure the shoe fits?

Your shoe should feel comfortable right away, with no breaking in period. There should be at least a quarter inch of space between the end of your toes and the end of the shoe -- enough to give your toes some wiggle room. Your heel shouldn't slip around, and the ball of the foot should fit easily and snugly in the widest part of the shoe.

How can I tell when its time for a new pair?

A good walking shoe should last 300 to 500 miles. For most walkers, that translates to three to six months. The treads may still look fine after that, but the cushion in the sole will be worn out.

References

Consumer Reports.org. Running shoes: How to choose. 2008.

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Athletic Shoes. 2001.

Marshfield Clinic. Choosing athletic shoes. 2010.

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