are walking shoes and running shoes the same

Are walking and running shoes the same?

August 3, 2018Ellen
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Fitting walking in to my daily routine is a must. I hate the thought of heading out to the gym after a day at work.  That’s why knowing which shoes would be best for walking is important.

Walking and running shoes are similar but from my experience they are not the same.  Walkers can use running shoes for walking but runners should not use walking shoes for running.  There are some slight differences when it comes to cushioning, heel height and flexibility.

It has taken me an age to find the right walking shoes.  So below listed some of the things I have used to help me  choose the right pair of walking shoes based.  It is from my own experience of walking in the wrong shoes.  My feet have suffered over the last while and they are not a pretty sight.  I won’t show you the pictures but the wrong walking shoes can give you hammer toes (which I have) blisters (which I used to get on a regular basis), callous (I’ve still get a lot of hard skin) and sore feet (I would get this from having shoes that are too tight).  I know from my own experience how awful your feet feel with the wrong shoes.  I also had to come to the conclusion that I am a size 7 (UK) and not a size 6 as previously thought.  I don’t know why it has taken me till my 40’s to realise that!  Maybe I just thought that a larger size would make me feel like I had boats for feet!  In any case, when I now walk in the right shoes they feel so much better and my feet are probably thanking me for it!

Are walking shoes and running shoes the same? Walking and running shoes are similar but they are not the same.  Walkers can use running shoes for walking but runners should not use walking shoes for running.  There are some slight differences when it comes to cushioning, heel height and flexibility.

Whether you are walking or running, my experience has been that my shoes need to be flexible.  When you try on a pair you can press down with your toes and see where the shoe bends the most. With running shoes they may well flex at either the arch or mid way down as the shoes are designed for either runners who have different running styles.
Walking shoes are slightly different as they should flex towards the front of the shoe as us walkers push off with our toes.  If the shoe you are trying on doesn’t bend well then it’s not going to be good for walking.  Remember you need a shoe that is flexible.
choosing the right walking shoes
These are my Adidas Stan Smith shoes.  As you can see they aren’t very flexible.
These I would wear at the weekend when I’m going to the shops but not on a long walk.
There isn’t that much flex in them.


Walking shoes and running shoes have different levels of cushioning.  Runners need more cushioning as they strike the ground harder.  Runners also need their heel and forefoot to be cushioned too.
Us walkers don’t need as much cushioning but of course you can use running shoes for walking as it often comes down to fit.
the right walking shoes
These are my walking shoes. They are Nike Free which have a wider toe box
and a flexible sole.


Heel Height

There is so much choice in terms of trainers out there.  Heel height does matter for runners are they strike the ground with different parts of the foot.  Whereas us walkers strike with our heel. Built up heels are helpful for runners but they are really not needed for us walkers.  I decided on the Nike Free as they were close to barefoot shoes which have very little in the way of a sole.


What to look out for in walking shoes

I wanted a pair of walking shoes that were light.  That was my reasoning for the Nike Free ones.  For me, light has been great.  No clumping about!  Cushioning has also been helpful but you don’t need as much as runners.  The cushioning will help if you intend to walk for longer distances.  It has helped me with my longer weekend walks.

Don’t be put off looking at shoes that specifically say they are running shoes.  The Nike Air say they are running shoes. Just remember you don’t need a lot of heel height in your shoes.  It is recommend for walkers to look for a heel drop which is less than eight mm.  Some running shoes have a heel which is flared which helps runners strike the ground differently.  For that reason I didn’t want to have a flared heel.

Know the shoe lingo!

There are a few technical terms that might be helpful to know before you start looking for the perfect shoes for walking.  There is so much terminology depending on what sports you are talking about but walking/running is very similar.  Knowing these terms will help you choose shoes that are a good fit for you.

Heel-strike:  quite simply this term means the point at which your heel makes contact with the ground.  Considering heel strike is important when choosing the right shoe as this is the point at which your foot makes the hardest impact with the ground.  If your shoes offer good stability, cushioning and the heel isn’t built up then this will be a great option for you.

EVA stands for Ethylene vinyl acetate. It is an extremely elastic material that is formed to make a material similar to rubber but is very tough.  In terms of footwear it is a soft, light and flexible foam which is found in the soles of footwear. This is excellent to have in walking shoes as it allows the foot bed of your shoes to spring back to after you have been walking in them.

Toebox is the part of a shoe where your toes sit. The toebox is important because if it is too narrow then your toes will start to overlap and cause you pain.  The toebox should be roomy and look similar to the shape of your toes when they are flat on the ground.  Never mind those pointy shoes – they are no good for you!

Medial support is all about your arch support.  Some shoes will emphasize medial support by having different insoles or foot bridges to support your foot in different places.

Overpronation happens when weight is transferred from the heel to the forefoot when walking or running and the foot naturally rolls inwards. Some of this is the natural movement of the foot but if it is too much then this is called overpronation.  It is not an injury but it could lead to one if you don’t get the correct support.


Tips to consider when purchasing walking shoes

As each person is an individual then each shoe is different to each person. While the above tips will help steer you in the right direction to choosing the right shoe, there is nothing quite like trying them on.  I have had to send many a pair of shoes back but that’s ok, it’s best to send them back and try on several more so you get the right fit for you.  There is nothing quite like getting a pair of shoes that feel so good and still feel good after a long walk.  Overall you want to choose a pair of shoes that will be comfortable, that will prevent injury and help you walk for many miles to come.

When trying on shoes remember:

  • Wear the socks that you plan to use when walking.
  • Check out the heel to make sure it is snug and doesn’t slip down when you walk.
  • If the shoes do feel tight, go up a half size.  Honestly they just won’t stretch over time!
  • Did you know that our feet often swell up as the day goes on?  Try your shoes on in the afternoon to make sure the fit is comfortable.
  • To avoid bunions make sure the toebox allows plenty of room for your toes to spread out.
  • Make sure you opt for the correct arch type if you need additional cushioning.
  • Seek shoes that are flexible enough for the length of walking you indeed to do.
  • If you have overpronation, look for medial support.


Above all it is so important that your shoes feel comfortable. If you have ill-fitting shoes then this may deter you from walking.  I know as I’ve been there!  In fact I remember about six months ago walking home in a pair of ill fitting shoes.  Nearing home I felt like walking in my bare feet they were so sore!

Remember too that your shoes only last a certain period of time even if they are the most comfortable.  If you walk a lot then the shoes will degrade and you will need to replace them.  It can be hard replacing a pair that are so comfortable but you don’t want to lose support and cushioning when your shoes are no longer good enough for walking.  On average a good pair of shoes will last you around 300 to 500 miles.

I hope the above tips will help you make an informed decision as to which walking shoes are right for you.  When your feet are comfortable you can walk miles.  When they hurt I can barely walk out the door!

Happy shoe shopping 🙂


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