You might be itching to get outside these days—but not before picking up a great pair of walking shoes. If you’ve ever tried out a flashy new pair of shoes just to wind up with aching, nagging foot pain, you already know that supportive, comfortable shoes are key for your feet (and your mood, for that matter). Whether you’re strolling, hiking, running errands, or trying a new walking workout, high-quality walking shoes that fit and feel comfy and supportive are truly unmatched.
What to look for in a high-quality walking shoe?
As SELF has previously reported, there are many mental and physical benefits of walking, and the right walking shoes are key to maximizing those benefits. One thing to look for? Shoes that provide proper shock absorption, which studies have shown can reduce overall knee pain during prolonged standing and walking, Jossie Abraham, DPM, a podiatric surgeon at Hartford HealthCare Orthopedic Institute at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Connecticut, tells SELF. “The proper sneakers can help patients with foot, ankle, or knee pain walk with more comfort for a longer period of time.” To help with shock absorption, she says, find sneakers that have midsole and outsole support, which may decrease strain to the foot, ankle and knee.
The shape of the walking shoe matters too. People with wide feet, for example, may want to choose walking sneakers with a wider and deeper toe box—or a wider construction altogether. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, regardless of the width of your feet, you never want your toes to feel cramped (or like they can’t wiggle) when you’re wearing shoes. To help with that, Dr. Abraham says to look for a mesh toe box, which allows the toes more space and breathability as compared to more rigid materials like leather.
Besides plenty of toe room, Dr. Abraham suggests scooping up a pair of sneakers that have ample cushioning. SELF’s sneaker buying guide recommends taking a shoe’s level of arch support into consideration too, whether you have flat feet or high arches. Ultimately, you don’t want to feel like your foot is fighting against the structure of the shoe—rather, you want a pair of shoes that’ll map and mimic the shape of your foot.
The best walking shoes
If, after reading this, you realize it’s high time to find a new set of sneaks, ones that you’ll be excited to lace up and go for walks in, we’ve selected some ideal pairs to consider below. The best walking shoes come from experts, SELF-award-winning reviews, and top-rated shoe brands like Reebok, Nike, Ryka, Hoka, Brooks, and more. We’ve included picks for folks with plantar fasciitis, cloudlike pairs for spending long hours on your feet, and even sandals and approach shoes for hiking and camping.