LET’S TALK ABOUT WALKING SHOES
Years ago, the only athletic shoes we wore were “gym shoes” bought for gym class, usually Keds (remember those?). Since the 60’s athletic shoes have evolved to include specialized shoes for specific sports (basketball, football, golf, tennis, running, etc.) Running and walking shoes became popular for anyone who wanted to spend time running, jogging, or walking.
While shoe technology has unquestionably made athletic shoes better over the years, not all innovations may be the best for certain populations, depending on usage.
Since most of our clients are regular walkers, I will limit my remarks to walking shoes.
What is the best shoe for you? – that depends on several factors.
- Your gait – speed, balance, coordination,
- Your anatomy – foot, knee, hip or back issues
In general, walking shoes should be lightweight, flexible enough to allow the foot to move easily from heel to toe, and have just enough cushioning to soften impact.
Gait: if you have balance or coordination issues, your walking shoe should not be overly cushioned, as you will not be able to feel the ground with each step. If you are a slow walker, it is important that you can feel the ground to avoid tripping. Also, so-called “memory soles” tend to mold incorrect walking patterns.
If you walk very briskly 4+ miles per hour, a moderate running shoe might be better than a walking shoe.
Anatomy: If you have foot issues (e.g. pronation, supination, bunions, hammer toes), look for specific shoes that address the issue. For example, some shoes have built-in foot bridges for pronation, wider foot beds might accommodate bunions, a more curved shape might be better for high arches, while a straighter shape might be better for fallen arches.
If you have knee or hip issues, look for less cushioned shoes.
Almost all the major shoe manufacturers have a variety of styles that will feel right for you. Take your time when buying shoes. Try on shoes before buying them. Walk around in the store for at least 30 minutes. If the shoes do not feel comfortable, do not buy them. Shoes should not have to be “broken in”, they should fit correctly in the store.
There are trends that come and go. Do not always believe the hype about new kinds of shoes, especially overly cushioned ones. Your body will tell you if the shoe is right for you.