Account for the shape of your feet
Feet come in many shapes and sizes. To avoid pain and injury, consider the shape and size of your feet when buying a pair of walking shoes. Shoes that are too narrow or too wide can lead to painful blisters and calluses.
Another important consideration is the arch of your foot. Your arches are made up of bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons. As you walk, these springy, flexible arches help distribute your body weight evenly across your feet.
There are three arch-types that apply to most feet:
- Neutral-arched feet – Your feet aren't overly arched, nor are they overly flat. Look for shoes with firm midsoles and moderate rear-foot stability.
- Low-arched or flat feet – Low arches or flat feet may cause muscle stress and joint problems in your feet and knees because your feet don't support your body as well. Look for a walking shoe with motion control to help stabilize your feet.
- High-arched feet – High arches can result in excessive strain on joints and muscles, as your feet may not absorb shock as well. Look for cushioning to compensate for your lack of natural shock absorption.
Not sure about your foot type? Dip your foot in water and step on a piece of cardboard. Examine your footprint. If you can see most of your foot, you probably have low arches. If you see very little of your foot, you likely have high arches. You also can look at your old shoes for clues to the shape of your foot. Bring your old walking shoes with you when you shop for a new pair—most shoe professionals can make suggestions by looking at the wear on your old shoes.
Get the best fit
A good idea to keep in mind when shoe shopping is "look for comfort and fit—not fancy design." The latest technology won't matter if the shoe pinches, pokes, or hurts your foot. Here are some tips for selecting walking shoes:
- Wear the same socks to the store that you'll wear when walking, or take the socks with you. Shop for shoes later in the day, after you've been walking for a while—that's when your feet are their largest.
- Buy shoes at an athletic shoe store with professional fitters or at a store where you have a lot of options. Ask the salesperson to measure both of your feet, or measure them yourself—get the help of a friend or family member if needed.
- Measure your feet each time you buy shoes as your foot size can change gradually over time. To get the most accurate reading, stand up while your foot is being measured. If one foot is larger than the other, try on a pair of shoes that fits your larger foot. Try on both shoes and check the fit. Wiggle your toes. If you don't have at least a half-inch between your longest toe and the end of the shoe—approximately the width of your finger—try a larger size.
- Be sure the shoe is wide enough. The side-to-side fit of the shoe should be snug, not tight. If you're a woman with wide feet, consider men's or boys' shoes, which are cut a bit larger through the heel and the ball of the foot.
- Walk in the shoes before buying them. They should feel comfortable right away. Make sure your heel fits snugly in each shoe and doesn't slip as you walk.
Replace worn-out shoes to prevent injury
All walking shoes eventually show signs of wear. Even if they still feel comfortable, they might not be providing enough support or shock absorption. Pay attention to the condition of your shoes. If the outsole is worn through, it's time for a new pair.
Make an informed decision
Shoes that fit improperly are the source of many problems. Now that you know what features to look for, you can shop with confidence. Wear walking shoes that are comfortable and fit properly and enjoy worry-free walks.