Resolving to walk more this year? A pair of shoes can make or break your stride. Besides being comfortable, you’ll also walk further and with less fatigue when you’re wearing footwear that fits. Follow these shopping guidelines to set yourself up for a great walking workout:
Trust your feet to a pro
Plan on spending 30 to 45 minutes at an athletic shoe specialty shop, and expect to try on several different pairs. A footwear professional will watch you walk and determine if you overpronate (have feet that roll in too much), supinate (have feet that don’t roll in enough) or have a neutral gait (feet roll in the appropriate amount). “You need someone with experience and who has a trained eye to match your feet to the proper shoes,” says Brian Sampson of Track and Trail, a division of Sunshine and Ski, in Regina. Take your athletic socks and orthotics (if you wear them) with you to get the best fit.
Aim for comfort
You know you’re on to a good thing when your feet feel very comfortable and don’t slide around inside the shoes, explains Ashley Zeuch, assistant manager at The Running Room in Edmonton. Zeuch’s store carries a wide range of sizes and widths from 2AA to D; even wider shoes can be special ordered if necessary. Since feet swell with exercise, there should be at least a thumb’s-width of space at the end of your toes to avoid bruised toenails, advises Zeuch. In fact, long distance walkers often jump up a half- or full-size to be sure their toes have enough wiggle room. If you have hard-to-fit feet, for example narrow heels or high arches, ask about special lacing techniques.
Go for quality
Budget a minimum of $100 for walking shoes. If this sounds steep, think of them as an investment in your health. Walking shoes lose their shock-absorbing and support qualities after about 800 to 1,000 kilometres, so track your mileage to know when it’s time to replace them.
Consider a running shoe
If you’re overweight, plan to do a walk/run program or have severe pronation issues, your salesperson may suggest moving to running shoes, which are more supportive, says Sampson. Their extra-grippy treads also make them better for walking on gravel, rough trails and wet grass.
Check out the extras
Baby boomers who walk long distances (like half-marathons and marathons) and who don’t wear prescription orthotics should pony up for over-the-counter cushioned insoles from companies like Superfeet and Spenco, says Annette McClelland, a certified athletic therapist and pedorthist. The fat pads on the soles of the feet lose some of their shock-absorbing abilities as we age, and insoles can bolster a shoe’s cushioning qualities. Other add-ons to consider are moisture-wicking socks, to keep feet dry and blister-free, and no-slip laces that make tripping over a wayward lace a thing of the past.
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