The Essential Walking Shoe Features for Active Adults

by Fit After Fifty
A closeup of a person's shoe while walking towards the lake

Comfort is king when it comes to shoes. If your walking shoes make your feet hurt,  they probably don’t fit your feet correctly, and they could be doing more harm than good. To put you on the right track, we’ve compiled a few of the most important features that you should consider when buying walking shoes.

Heel Support

The heel of a shoe should hug the heel, keeping it snug, but not tight. When the heel slides around in a shoe, the friction can cause blisters. The achilles tendon can also become painfully inflamed if the stride is excessively pronated or supinated, and a well-fitting heel cup can help to reduce the misalignment, avoiding tendonitis.

Arch Support

The arch of most people falls into one of three categories: neutral arch, low arch, or high arch. The best type of arch support in a walking shoe depends on the type of foot that’s in it.

For neutral-arched feet, shoes that have firm midsoles and a straight to slightly curved sole are good. Low-arched or flat-arched feet benefit from a straight sole and a snug heel cup to restrict motion. High-arched feet need cushioned arch support to improve shock absorption, and a curved sole can help with the strain on joints.

Adequate Toe Box

If a shoe doesn’t have enough room for toes to move around, blisters can develop, and any existing foot issues such as Morton’s neuroma or bunions can be aggravated. When trying on shoes, make sure that the shoe is wide enough to allow the toes to wiggle some. Also make sure that the clearance between the longest toe and the shoe is at least one-half inch — about the width of a finger.

Weather Considerations

Although a ventilated shoe might be nice in the summer when it’s hot and feet tend to sweat, less airflow is better for colder months. When walking in wet and cold conditions, consider a walking shoe with a waterproof and windproof exterior. The increased friction of wet feet and socks can cause blisters, and cold feet are simply uncomfortable. Gore-Tex®️ and leather are good options for year-round walking comfort.

Perfect Fit

The bottom line is that the best walking shoe is the one that fits your foot. Never try to make the foot fit the shoe, because that will eventually lead to pain. Try on walking shoes late in the afternoon, when the feet have had time to swell. As you walk around, notice anything that rubs or chafes, because that will only get worse as you wear the shoes.

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