Karen Hiser

Article Summary:

How to find a good walking shoe for your fitness program.

Finding Good Walking Shoes

Walking requires a single but extremely important piece of equipment: good shoes. Wearing shoes that don't fit or don't properly support your feet can result in almost immediate injury, resulting not only in discomfort and pain, but also discouraging you from achieving your goals. The definition of a good shoe is one that fits you, not necessarily one that's expensive.

Starting with the Proper Fit
Skip the trendy stores in the mall and seek out a running shoe store staffed by professionally trained shoe fitters. Plan on spending 30 minutes or more in your shoe fitting and selection expedition, allowing the fitter to properly assess your stance, foot strike, gait, and wear pattern, and giving you ample time to try on as many pairs as possible.

Take an old pair of sneakers with you, so that the fitter can assess your wear pattern. The fitter should also look at you standing in bare feet to determine whether you have low, medium, or high arches. Finally, the fitter should also watch you walk and run in bare feet. All of these assessments help determine your specific shoe needs. If your shoe fitter isn't looking at these things, find another store.

Everyone's feet should pronate naturally, rolling from the outside heel to the inside toe. Those of us with flat arches (whose shoes show wear on the inner section of the toe box) over-pronate, meaning that our feet roll too much. We need strong, stabilizing shoes that help prevent over-pronation. Walkers with high arches (whose shoes show wear on the outer section of the heel) supinate; their feet don't roll enough. Supinators need very flexible shoes, to encourage their feet to pronate further.

Another way to determine if you have high or low arches is with the "wet foot" test. Put a couple of newspaper pages or other paper on the floor. Wet the bottom of your bare foot, and step onto the paper. If the wet area on the paper is just around the outer edge of your foot, you have high arches; your arches never touched the paper. If you get a big, wet blob like I do, you have flat arches.

Other tips for a proper shoe fit:

  • Expect to wear a shoe that's at least a full size larger than your street shoes. Look for plenty of room in the toe box area. Your toes should never, ever touch the end of the shoe.

  • Do your fitting at the end of the day, when your feet are swollen and tired.

  • When shopping, wear the same type of socks that you'll wear when you exercise in the shoes.

  • Try on many pairs. Ask if you can walk around the block in each pair before making a decision.

  • Just because your friend says a particular model is fabulous doesn't mean it will work for you.

  • Generally speaking, running shoes can also be worn as walking shoes. So, if you can't find a walking shoe, try on some running shoes.

  • Look for a store with a liberal return policy. Many will let you wear the shoes inside for a few days, to make sure they fit well.

  • If you've exhausted all of the shoe possibilities and are still having trouble finding a good fit, ask your fitter about different lacing techniques such as bunny ears to prevent heel slippage, or lacing for wide feet.

  • Don't expect to go out for a five-mile walk in your new shoes. Ease into it, to make sure they fit correctly.

    Finally, remember that this decision is about function not fashion. Buy the pair that fits the best, not the one that's the most trendy.

    Karen Hiser is the owner and Chief Fitness Officer of Healthy Travel Network. Healthy Travel Network is the premier resource for business travelers who want to stay fit on the road. Our monthly newsletter and Travel Fit Tips cover a wide range of fitness and health related travel information, such as how to get the best hotel room workout and how to eat healthy while you dine out.

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