Photo-Illustration: The Strategist
Daily walking is a common activity for most people, whether they abide by the "hot girl" trend or not. However, frequent walking without proper shoes can strain our bodies. If you have ever gone for a distance walk in ill-suited shoes, then you know the discomfort and pain it can cause.
As a frequent walker myself, I can attest to this. Over the years, I have trod countless miles exploring my city and taking in new sights on foot. However, I have also experienced the agony of having neglected my footwear. My toes have been squished, my body ached from soles to lower back, and my feet have perspired uncomfortably.
Good walking shoes, on the other hand, can keep you comfortably mobile all day long, preventing aching feet and blisters. Experts such as podiatrists, physical therapists, and seasoned hikers can provide valuable advice in identifying the best walking shoes to purchase.
If you desire shoes that can support you for more than just a few blocks, it's crucial to look for a sole that offers enough support and the right shape, especially for the midfoot and arch, says Karena Wu, a physical therapist, and owner of ActiveCare Physical Therapy in New York City and India. According to her, "A rigid sole offers more stability, while a thicker midsole has more cushioning and a rocker sole will enable ease in the gait cycle (moving from heel to toe-off)." Cushioning around the heel may provide additional support depending on the individual, notes Lara Heimann, a physical therapist, and CEO and founder of LYT Yoga.
The climate you're in and your comfort level are essential deciding factors in choosing materials and breathability. Candace Criscione, founder of MomInItaly.com and TheTuscanMom.com, who spent ten years as a hiking, cycling, and cultural guide, suggests, "For instance, if you're traveling to Thailand in the summer and have sweaty feet, you'll want to avoid leather and choose perforated suede or netting."
Each individual's feet differ from one another, making it crucial to discover the perfect fit for your specific width. Nonetheless, irrespective of whether your foot is broad or narrow, the forepart of your shoe should be large enough to accommodate your forefoot comfortably without any pressure or rubbing, as suggested by Wu. Heimann recommends that the correct forepart's width would enable varying degrees of strain on the big-toe joint. In addition to comfort, a tight toe box may lead to or worsen conditions such as bunions and plantar fasciitis.
If you want to ensure that you are getting the correct width, Nelya Lobkova, a podiatrist certified by the board of directors, recommends a fast tracing test. Take a pencil and step onto a sheet of paper on the floor to sketch the outline of your foot. After that, using a red pen, trace the outline of the shoe you're thinking about over your foot's drawing. The red pen should always surround the pencil, Lobkova claims, or else your foot is more extensive than the shoe.
New Balance provides the most flexibility for meeting various walking shoe criteria, according to Heimann, who claims they generally boast accommodating toe boxes, varying forms of pronation control and arch support, lightweight and long-lasting designs with exceptional cushioning, and are often preferred by podiatrists. Both Criscione and Lobkova singled out 990v5, with Criscione noting that it had an ideal balance between support and cushioning. "You can actually walk all day in these, and your feet will still be comfortable at the end of the day," she explains. Lobkova notes the vast cushioning in the midsole and the Ortholite insert, which she says provides a firmer arch support than other insole shoes.
The shoe is described by Materials: Breathable Mesh | Width: Moderate Toe Box and Several Widths | Support: Moderate.
If you have wider feet, the Skechers Women's GOwalk Joy might just become your new favorite shoe. Not only does it come in four different widths, including narrow and extra-wide, but the toe box is also roomy enough to provide a comfortable fit. Its mostly mesh upper allows for proper ventilation and breathability, regardless of how many steps you take. What's more, this shoe is impressively durable thanks to its quality construction, featuring a mesh-and-suede upper and polyurethane midsole. As for its appearance, it is stylish enough to wear in any setting according to Criscione.
But don't let its low $40 price tag fool you. These slip-ons from Skechers are more than just affordable. They boast an Ortholite insole and a cushioned midsole that provides excellent arch support and unyielding comfort. Kevin Mercier, an experienced travel blogger who has traversed the globe, is planning to buy his second pair of GOwalk Maxes. He considers them to be "not cheaply made, but still affordable." Furthermore, Mercier raves about their comfort, lightweight feel, and extra-padded heel that makes walking a breeze. The GOwalk Joy style for women is equally comfortable with the same cushioning and insole.
In terms of technical details, the Skechers Women's GOwalk Joy offers moderate support and features a breathable mesh and cooling insole. If you're on a budget but refuse to compromise on comfort, this shoe is the one to get!
These shoes are perfect for staying comfortable and cool during hot summer days, as the breathable mesh and insole provide a lightweight and versatile design that can even be used as slippers. Their slip-on feature makes them particularly convenient for quickly getting out the door, although some might find them a bit too casual for indoor wear.
If you're looking for a reliable shoe for slightly challenging terrain, hiker and travel blogger Leslie Gilmour recommends the Salomon X Raise 2 Gore-Tex. These trail-runner-inspired shoes offer exceptional cushioning for all-around comfort and protection against blisters and hot spots. And if you're worried about durability and safety, the Salomons come with unique TPU reinforcements around the toe area that absorb impact and keep your feet safe from sharp rocks and other obstacles you may encounter on the trail. Gilmour also praises the Salomon for the support and stability it provides, as well as for its reliable traction on rocky and muddy surfaces. The Gore-Tex membrane ensures that your feet stay dry even if you get caught in the rain or step in a puddle.
For those who want maximum support and moderate breathability in a narrow design, the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 39 running shoes are an excellent choice. These shoes offer a snug, comfortable fit, which is perfect for runners who want to feel like they're wearing a second skin. The maximum support ensures that your feet stay stable and protected, while the moderate breathability ensures that your feet stay cool and dry. These shoes are available in both men's and women's styles.
As someone with unusually narrow feet, finding a comfortable and reliable brand of shoes has been a lifelong challenge. However, I have found that Nike, in particular, has consistently offered the perfect fit across a range of styles and models. One of my favorites is the Air Zoom Pegasus 39, which I discovered after the discontinuation of the trail-oriented Air Zoom Pegasus 36 that I previously owned. While primarily marketed as a running shoe, I can attest that it is just as effective for walking, especially for those seeking exceptional cushioning that provides a noticeable bounce with each step. Although it may not be as airy as some other models, such as the ultra-lightweight Skechers, the Air Zoom Pegasus 39 has never caused me to overheat, proving itself as a versatile and dependable shoe for all seasons.
Moving on to the Altra Lone Peak, this shoe has made a name for itself as the roomiest option in Altra's "Original Footshape Fit" category. Even with their narrowest styles, the toe box is thoughtfully spacious, which is a significant advantage for those seeking comfortable and customizable footwear. Strategist writer Jeremy Rellosa, who has been wearing Altras for three years and previously praised the Lone Peak's many qualities, appreciates this feature in particular. He notes that it is one of the reasons Altra is a popular brand among hikers, as it allows their toes to splay out with ease. No matter what kind of terrain you plan to traverse, the Lone Peak is suitable. Although the cushioning is moderate, the "zero drop" design that positions the heel and toe at the same level for a natural gait means that the Lone Peaks do not offer built-in arch support.
If you're looking for a comfortable and supportive shoe that can help prevent common walking injuries, look no further than the HOKA Women's Bondi 8. This shoe is known for its maximum support and cushioning midsole, which can help offset heel pain and prevent conditions like plantar fasciitis. Plus, the breathable mesh material and multiple width options make it easy to find a comfortable fit.
But the Bondi 8 isn't just great for preventing injuries – it can also help alleviate them. One Zappos reviewer raves that her bunion loves these shoes, while another customer with Morton's neuroma (a condition that can cause significant foot pain) says that the Bondi 8 allowed her to start walking pain-free again. With their roomy fit and durable construction, these shoes are perfect for anyone looking for comfort and support, no matter where their adventures take them. And at just $165, they're a great value for anyone looking to invest in their foot health.
Looking for a versatile and comfortable walking sandal? Look no further than Teva! These sandals offer a unique combination of materials that provide breathability, cushioning, and arch support, as well as durable and adjustable straps. The Sanborn line in particular has received high praise for its reliable quality and comfortable fit.
Personally, I found the Teva Sanborn Universals to be the perfect choice for my long international trip, during which I could only bring a carry-on. These sandals took me through airports, city streets, hiking trails, and beaches with ease and comfort. With the cushioned footbed, my feet never got sore from long days of walking, and the padded heel strap prevented blisters. The adjustable top straps also accommodated my narrow feet.
If you're looking for the same level of comfort but prefer the classic Teva Universal strap style, the Hurricane XL2s offer a similar fit and comfort level to the Sanborn Universals. Regardless of which style you choose, Teva's sandals are a perfect option for the avid traveler or outdoor adventurer looking for comfortable and durable footwear that can go the distance.
For those who venture beyond clear skies and firm ground, a trustworthy pair of all-weather walking shoes is essential. Enter the Gelert waterproof boots, tested by Strategist writer Rachael Griffiths while trekking the vast expanse of Glastonbury, covering some 900 acres, and they didn't disappoint. “Absurdly comfortable,” Griffiths raves, citing the springy cushioning across the ball and heel for mitigating any foot exhaustion up to the 25,000-step mark. Despite being fully waterproof, they are also equipped with breathable mesh panels, giving your feet some much-needed breathing room, while the padding around the ankles adds an extra level of comfort. Even if you're not festival-bound, Griffiths adds that she loves wearing these boots on regular after-work walks, though they do collect a few minor creases and dust along the way. One last tip from Griffiths: go for a half size larger if you plan to wear thick socks.
Available at Nordstrom for $140, the On-Running Cloud 5 running shoe is a more expensive option, but the Swiss-made shoe’s innovative technology is worth the price tag. Featuring their distinctive cloud cushioning component, which consist of 16 individual cloud pods configured to provide a soft landing and an explosive takeoff, the On-Running Cloud 5 shoe delivers supreme cushioning without sacrificing speed. Other highlights include a breathable, antimicrobial mesh upper to keep your feet feeling fresh, and a durable outsole made of reinforced rubber for long-lasting grip capabilities. Whether you’re a serious runner or just looking for a shoe to get you through the day, the Cloud 5 has got you covered.
Support, Materials, and Width
Cloud Sneakers by On
Support: Medium | Materials: Breathable Mesh | Width: Standard
Say goodbye to the hassle of laces with On's innovative "speed lacing system" in their supportive Cloud sneakers. Strategist managing editor Kelsie Schrader swears by the comfort of the Clouds and has worn her gifted pair for three years, racking up an impressive 1,000 miles on them. The shoes provide ample cushioning and a nice bounce without sacrificing any support, thanks to their simultaneously rigid and plush design. Plus, the shape is slightly curved for optimal heel-to-toe alignment.
Despite their sturdiness, the Clouds remain breathable with their recycled antimicrobial mesh upper, making them perfect for warmer weather walks and runs. Schrader even notes that the shoes can withstand the wear and tear of running. While the foam sole may flatten near the heel with extended use, Schrader plans to stick with the Clouds when it's time for a replacement.
Support: Moderate | Materials: Mild Breathability | Width: Standard
Looking for a comfy and versatile boot? Look no further than Blundstone's offerings, which have appeared in multiple Strategist roundups. Strategist senior editor Jen Trolio swears by her Classic 550 Chelseas, which required no break-in period and allowed her to walk for miles with ease. While they may not be as cushioned as sneakers, they remain comfortable with their convenient pull tab for easy on-and-off wear.
As for Schrader's experience, she claims that the high-top variant of the Blundstone boots has been nothing short of impressive, given its superior comfort and durability even after a year and a half of extensive usage. In fact, she wore them for a long weekend, where she was walking no less than 15 miles each day, and still felt at ease. The brand's claim of having "double-shock-absorption soles" and fatigue-reducing technology turned out to be true as well. However, since they are made of leather, they aren't particularly breathable, but Schrader still prefers to wear them as her primary footwear during the fall, winter, and spring seasons. She initially had second thoughts about investing $200 in a pair of shoes, but she wouldn't hesitate to do it again if necessary.
The Adidas Ultraboost 22 shoes, on the other hand, have done an excellent job of preventing painful blisters caused by rubbing, according to Trolio. Thanks to the well-designed heel tab that gently curves away from the back of your foot, they are easy to put on and provide ample protection. Not to mention, the tab also contributes to the softness and smoothness of the shoes, reducing the friction between your foot and the material. Although they are marketed as running shoes, Trolio swears by their suitability for long-distance walking. The upper material is both breathable and flexible, yet it still manages to feel secure while in use.
As for additional details, the Feiyue 1920 Fe Lo is a trendy and affordable option (available for only $30). With a maximum support rating, breathable knit materials, and medium width, this pair of sneakers is designed to prevent blisters caused by rubbing. The ivory color further adds to its aesthetic appeal, making it a perfect choice for those who want both comfort and style.
Experience moderate support and mild breathability with these unassuming sneakers. Though they may not have a flashy design, the Feiyue Fe Los have won the hearts of those who have put them to the test. One user, Rellosa, recalls being impressed with the cushioning and comfort, even while racing across unforgiving NYC pavement to improv class. The low-top design provides some ventilation, but be wary if you tend to sweat through your shoes.
For those seeking maximum support with moderate breathability, the Li-Ning Women's Furious Riders Sneakers offer a chunky and stylish option. Erin Schwartz of the Strategist notes the comfortable, cushy feel of the thick insole and breathable mesh-and-leather upper, which has held up well even after a year and a half of frequent use and outdoor activities. These sneakers are not just comfortable and balanced, but versatile enough to pair with trendy work or after-work outfits. Plus, they are not a mass-worn sneaker, making them a standout option. Grab a pair for as low as .
Looking for comfortable and versatile walking shoes? Look no further than Allbirds Women's Tree Pipers and Men's Tree Pipers for $105 each. Made from lightweight eucalyptus fibers and featuring a slightly contoured sugarcane insole, these shoes provide mild support and are breathable enough to wear year-round. Need more arch support? Try Allbirds Tree Runners or Tree Dashers instead.
For a more budget-friendly option at $28, check out VenusCelia Comfort Walking Flat Loafers. These slip-on shoes feature moderate support, moderate breathability, and a wide toe-box, making them perfect for city strolling or light-packing vacations. With nearly 2,000 positive reviews on Amazon, they're a crowd-pleaser for comfort.
If you're willing to splurge, Wolf & Shepherd Monaco Loafers offer moderate support and water-repellent suede material for $195. With memory foam throughout the footbed, these cushion every step while providing a standard width fit. Plus, you can fold the heel down and wear them as mules for added breathability.
Experts like travel writer Keri Baugh, physical therapist Lara Heimann, and board-certified podiatrist Nelya Lobkova weighed in on the best walking shoes for this article by The Strategist, a curated e-commerce recommendation platform. They also offer advice on the best women's jeans, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, and other lifestyle products. Note that all editorial products are independently selected and The Strategist earns a commission on affiliate links.