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Daily walks have so many long-term benefits, including boosted immune function, ease of joint pain and a tamer sweet tooth (who knew!).
And if you’re hoping to make walking a regular part of your routine, you should have the right support for your feet. That’s why Shop TODAY spoke to experts about what to look for in the perfect walking shoes — here’s what they say.
Plus, we rounded up award-winning picks from the 2023 Start TODAY x Shop TODAY Wellness Awards and shopper-loved options to help you find the right pair.
How to pick the best walking shoe
When you’re walking, the critical muscles and tendons around the ankle require the most support. The peroneal tendons (on the outside of the ankle) help stabilize the ankle and prevent the foot from “rolling in” on uneven surfaces, says Illinois Bone & Joint Institute surgeon Dr. Anand Vora.
“Women especially want to be sure to accommodate the forefoot (the toe area) and to stabilize the hindfoot and ankle with secure lacing,” Vora notes.
While walking and running shoes might appear to be virtually the same, they’re different. “The actual walking shoe itself is slightly lighter and more flexible than the running shoe, which tends to have more weight and rigidity,” says Dr. Kevin Kinney, an Atlanta-based chiropractor.
Another major difference between walking and running shoes? “The sole of the shoe,” Kinney points out. While runners tend to strike the ground with their toes, walkers typically strike on the heel and might require additional arch support. For this reason, walkers should look for shoes with more cushion in the back and a drop to the toe box of the shoe.
So, how do you choose a walking shoe with enough support in all the right places? In general, the choice boils down to fit and comfort. “You do not want to choose a shoe that is too constricting or doesn’t allow your foot to breathe,” Kinney says. Mesh and canvas shoes seem to be the most popular choices for comfort, breathability and weight.
Below, we’re sharing 13 customer-loved pairs that you can shop now.
Start TODAY x Shop TODAY Wellness Awards 2023: Best Walking Shoes
Award: Best Overall
These bestselling New Balance trainers promise to provide all-day comfort and stability. They are designed with a dual-density collar that uses both a soft foam against the foot for cushioning and a more dense foam for support, the brand says.
“It’s rare for me to find a sneaker that I don’t have to break in, but these kicks delivered comfortable, supportive strides almost immediately,” senior SEO editor Jess Bender says. “While I can rave about their arch support for ages, the wider toe box and deep heel cup minimizes any discomfort I might feel after hours on my feet.”
Award: Best Budget
For people who need a shoe with enough support to get through a long walk but look sleek enough to wear with dress slacks, this is it. While a more breathable, flexible shoe works better for everyday workouts, these are perfect if you walk a lot while commuting to and from work and want to look stylish on the go!
“I love the style and shape of the overall sneaker,” commerce coordinator Alexa Arent says, adding that they may need to be broken in a bit for a looser fit. “They were easy to dress up/down and were comfortable throughout the day.”
Award: Best for Commuting
Shoppers have raved about how comfortable and lightweight these shoes from Skechers are.
Commerce designer Olivia Ott wore them for errand runs, to work and around the house and was pleased with how they felt on her feet.
“The support on the soles feels strong and comfortable, and the material on top is nice and breathable,” she says.
Award: Best Splurge
Designed for running and training, you’d expect a cushioned feel from these sneakers — and that’s exactly what TODAY reviewers got.
“These shoes were extremely comfortable, designed to let your toes wiggle even if you tie them tightly,” says Ashley Parrish, senior vice president of commerce at NBC News. “The cushy insoles help with impact and I liked the sleek design.”
Brooks Addiction Walker 2
Award: Best Support
On a trek along the West Side Highway from Chelsea all the way to Seaport, photo editor Vivian Le says these shoes felt “super well built and sturdy.”
According to the brand, they’re designed with soft cushioning, a slip-resistant outsole and max support for road running.
Award: Best for Work
Need shoes that you can wear to work and then for a walk on your lunch break? These stylish flats earned praise from reviewers who appreciated that they are easy to clean and commuter-friendly.
“They are the perfect office shoe, in my opinion and comfortable enough for my walking-heavy commute, too,” senior partnerships editor Francesca Cocchi Zabloudil said. “They also wash well which is great especially for the lighter colors that can get dirty somewhat easily.”
Best walking shoes for women, according to shoppers
Don’t let the name fool you — these shoes are perfect for walking at any pace. These highly-rated slip-on sneakers have over 55,000 verified five-star ratings on Amazon. One Shop TODAY writer put them to the test and said that they were so comfortable that she sometimes forgets to take them off. She also added that she “can slip on these shoes and comfortably cover seven miles of ground — including several stretches of cobblestones.”
Asics Gel-Contend Walker
“Comfortable,” “supportive” and lightweight, these shoes are loved by reviewers who have to stand on their feet all day for work or are constantly on-the-go. While the brand recognizes that these shoes have a “regular” amount of cushion, they note that feet are still supported in major areas, such as the heel.
Ryka Women’s Sky Walking Shoe
Looking for a colorful walking shoe? Check out this lightweight pair from Ryka. With rubber traction, a breathable mesh upper, memory foam and an EVA outsole, these shoes should get through any long walking workout with ease.
The Adidas Cloudfoam line is the perfect way to balance comfort and style. They’re sleek enough to blend in with any wardrobe, whether you’re pairing them with jeans to run errands or with activewear for a workout. As someone who’s owned two pairs of these myself, I can attest to how easy it is for them to become an everyday favorite.
New Balance Women’s Fuel Core Nergize Walking Shoes
If you’re looking for a pair of lightweight walking shoes, these are the ones for you! The New Balance Fuel Core Nergize sneakers are said to give you plenty of freedom and flexibility due to the mesh front of the shoe. Reviewers also rave about these shoes for their comfort and breathability.
Experts at Vionic created Vio-Motion Support so each shoe provides the perfect amount of stability, arch support and cushioning, the brand says. That means you should be able to wear them all day long without any aches or pains. The brand’s popular Walkers are sturdy yet fashionable, made with water-resistant leather and a moisture-wicking lining.
Brooks Addiction Walker 2
Available in an array of widths including medium, narrow, wide and extra wide, these shoes are slip-resistant, making them ideal for those who are on their feet all day at work. These are “very comfortable and supportive walking shoes that keep my feet dry in the rain,” according to one reviewer.
On Running Cloud Shoe
Designed with runners in mind, you’ll find comfort in these shoes during your daily walks. They’re made with breathable antimicrobial mesh to help keep your feet from suffocating and other technologies for soft cushioning, a secure grip and ease of slipping them on and off.
Hoka One One Clifton 8
According to the brand, these Hoka shoes work best for everyday running or walking, thanks to the extra cushion in the soles. These sneakers also have a heel crash pad, aka additional cushion surrounding the heel to provide a “smooth landing.” This feature further emphasizes Kinney’s point that walkers need a shoe that will provide some cushion in the back half of the shoe compared to the front.
Not only are these Allbirds shoes said feature additional padding around the heel, but but the foam in these slip-ons is made from sustainable materials that help to offset carbon footprint, the brand says. “I walk 15-20 miles a week and they’re so comfortable and bouncy,” wrote one reviewer.
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