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Planning a walking holiday or thinking of taking up hiking?
Then you’ll need to invest in a quality pair of good walking shoes or boots to support your feet as you move. Walking for hours, uphill or on uneven surfaces will put more strain on your feet than your average stroll around town. So you need to know what features to look for to find the best women’s walking shoes for you.
While you may be tempted to just throw on your usual running shoes when walking, this is not recommended. Running shoes are designed differently to walking boots, so don’t offer the type of support that’s needed for this activity. Unlike runners, whose midsole comes into contact with the ground first, walkers see their heel touch the ground first before rolling down the foot with each complete step. Another difference is in the impact experienced on contact with the ground. The momentum when running means greater impact is felt through the foot, which again alters the style of shoe most suited to their activity.
From flexibility to grip, we’ve asked the experts to assess the six essential features to look for in a pair of walking shoes. This means you can be comfortable in the knowledge that you’ve picked the best pair for you.
1 Good walking shoes always have good grip
When you’re walking for long distances, possibly over uneven terrain, you’ll need a sole with solid grip that can help steady you and keep you upright.
“The outer sole is fundamental, as it is the very first touchpoint between you and the terrain,” says Hugo Chouissa, footwear merchandiser for Brooks. “It is really playing the role of providing the right level of grip and traction according to the terrains.”
Make sure you assess the bottom of any shoe you buy to see if it has the right grip for the types of walks or hikes you’re planning to do.
2 Why you need to look for longevity
Lindsay Edwards, a personal stylist at Reimagise, took up hiking a couple of years ago. She wears Karrimor walking boots when she heads out on the trail. She believes that if you get the right walking shoe they should last for years. “Typically, a pair of walking boots or shoes will last between 500-900 miles,” says Lindsay. “Although this depends on the quality of your footwear and the terrain you are walking on.”
However, it’s also good to know when you need a new pair. “If you’re noticing that your walking boots or shoes are feeling less cushioned, starting to leak or the soles are wearing thin, then it’s definitely time to replace them,” says Lindsay. “Feeling painful to wear? Then you must look to replace them immediately as prolonged use may damage your feet.”
3 Comfort and support is key to good walking shoes
Like anything you plan to wear for long stretches of time, good walking shoes must be comfortable and supportive. “There should be no hot spots or pinch points – just a snug, secure heel and ample room in the toes,” says Kenny Mackey, resident kinesiologist at Keen shoes.
Not sure if the shoes you’re trying meet these criteria? There are a few tests that can help you check for comfort and decide on the right shoe. “Stand on your tip-toes in boots to ensure your toes can move and don’t hit the front or top of the boot,” says Kenny. “Gently kick a wall or use a decline ramp to ensure your toes will have enough room when you’re hiking downhill.”
Want to check how secure your heel is in the shoe or boot? “Lock in your heel. Then, check for heel lift or slip by putting your foot at different angles and walking up stairs,” adds Kenny.
4 Why lightweight boots are best
One of the biggest factors in comfortable walking shoes is how lightweight they are. After all, you don’t need extra weight on your feet when you are hiking up a steep fell.
Lighter shoes also have the benefit of helping you manoeuvre your way around tricky terrain more quickly. Look for shoes that feel less like a foreign object and more like an extension of your foot.
Shoes with thinner soles tend to be more lightweight. However, do ensure that they still have enough support and thickness for good shock absorption.
5 Good walking shoes are always flexible
What does good flexibility in your walking shoes look like? Essentially, your foot and ankle need to be supported when you walk, to avoid any injuries. So, look for shoes with a slight arch, that spring back when you walk. This kind of design will help distribute your weight evenly. This means you experience fewer aches and pains in any one particular body area the day after hiking.
If you’re not sure if the shoes have spring, try them on and walk around to feel them out. Ultimately, you want a shoe that supports your foot as you walk, but moves easily to adapt to different surfaces.
6 Waterproof is best when it comes to walking boots
Dependent on where or when you’re walking, you may get caught in a rain shower (or storm!), or come across small streams of water. In either of these situations, the last thing you want is to get cold and wet feet. The solution is obvious: make sure you choose one of the best waterproof hiking boots.
Many waterproof walking shoes are made with material that has GORE-TEX membrane in it. This is designed to prevent water getting inside your shoes, while also making them breathable. Different brands may use similar materials. For instance, Keen’s Terradora shoes use a material called KEEN.DRY. This works in the same way, adding an extra waterproof outer layer that helps to fend off any water droplets as you walk.