What Are Walking Shoes?
If you’re an avid runner, or perhaps someone looking to get back into shape, walking is an excellent outlet as it lets you get in some exercise, perhaps on your off days, without the impact or intensity of a more demanding exercise.
Walking is a less stressful yet productive use of time, and a healthy way to stay active without overdoing yourself. Finding the right pair of shoes for walking can be a little more demanding though, as you need to determine the perfect pair for you.
These types of shoes share a lot of the same qualities compared to regular running shoes, though perhaps with a few bells and whistles not included as they aren’t particularly necessary in a less demanding activity. Here we’ll give you some tips on what to look for in a walking shoe, as well as our top 10 best walking shoes to get in 2021.
Things to Look for in Walking Shoes
The material used in a shoe is of vital importance when you consider which shoe to buy. Because you’ll likely be walking for long periods of time, you want a shoe that is made from materials that are highly breathable – as to allow for ample cool air to make its way into your shoe, and also expel hot built-up air. On top of this, you also may want a firm and durable construction depending on where you will be walking, or how long you want the shoe to last.
Probably what comes to your mind first is comfort, and that feeling comes directly from the insole. When you consider a walking shoe, you want to have a sole that is not only super plushy but has some firmness to it. The reasoning behind this is the fact that if you intend to take long walks in a plush, soft sole, it will eventually compress and not be comfortable anymore, but actually becomes a detriment, which is why you need some firmness to it.
Since you’ll be walking often and for a long time, your heel will be put under a lot of stress from your body weight fluctuating on and off of it. Because of this, you may want a shoe that has a heel-area that is adequately supported and keeps your heel stable and secure. This is so you don’t accidentally twist or bruise your ankle during movement.
Arch support is crucial to look out for in case you are either someone who has a foot condition (such as flat feet or high-arches), or someone who simply prefers more support in the midfoot area. Because it will be under a lot of stress, just like your heel, you need to have a shoe whose internals have a good cushioning and support system for the arch of your foot. If you neglect this aspect, you might find by the end of your walk that you have a very sore underfoot.
1. Saucony Grid Omni Walker
First up we have the Grid-Omni Walker by Saucony – a well-respected brand in the footwear market. You’ll find that the Grid-Omni’s are a great budget-friendly option, featuring a synthetic leather upper and insoles that feature a midfoot bridge designed to improve arch support and provide added stability to your overall stride.
Saucony also implemented SRC crash pads into the heel area of the Grid Omni Walker to help keep impact stress in check, which you’ll appreciate especially on longer walks. Also included is a compression-molded EVA midsole with a high durometer, that helps keep your natural gait in a healthy state so you do not develop any abnormal walking patterns or issues.
Finally, the outsole is a Walk-Trac patented design that helps with smooth transitions and toe-off, with a visible rearfoot grid system to help with cushioning and stability. The outsole unit is dotted with proprietary XT-900 rubber compound which maintains a high degree of traction and is also non-marking so it doesn’t leave scuffs or scrapes on polished floors.
The only real issue with this shoe is that they are very boxy-looking and bulky. If you are someone who doesn’t like bulky shoes and is more partial to sleeker designs, these aren’t ideal. If you also prefer to feel a lightweight shoe on your feet during a walk rather than a supportive and firmly planted one, these are also not ideal.
Also, the upper is not as breathable and can get hot if you’re walking outside on a hot day. Apart from this, if you don’t mind the boxy-look or the bulkier feel, the Grid-Omni Walkers are one of the best walking shoes for both men and women.
+ Cost-effective option that is good for a variety of occasions
+ Designed and engineered with comfort and stability in mind
+ Great for longer walks
+ Outsole features walk-trac design and rearfoot grid system
– Boxy aesthetic may not be to your liking
– Upper is not very breathable
2. ASICS Gel-Tech Walker Neo 4
Next up, we have the Gel-Tech Walker Neo 4, designed and manufactured by ASICS. The Neo 4 is a great lightweight walking shoe with a breathable mesh pattern throughout the upper, a padded collar, and also a removable insole to provide you with the most customizable and comfortable shoe you could ask for. The upper has been created with a Biomorphic Fit design – a synthetic overlay on top of the breathable mesh that helps make sure your feet are amply cushioned yet firmly in place when laced-up.
There is also a DuoMax support system implemented inside the shoe with a heel-fit memory foam sole that molds to your foot’s unique shape, giving you superior heel support throughout your walk. With a removable insole, if you want to put your foot’s health first, you can make this shoe your own by including your third-party custom orthotic. This is a great feature if you have certain foot conditions or simply prefer walking with a certain insole in place.
The built-in insoles, if you choose to use them, feature gel-cushioning located at the ball of the foot and other high-impact areas, to give you a bit of comfort and relief where your foot experiences the most stress – certainly a good touch if you’re a long-distance walker.
The ASICS Gel-Tech Walker Neo 4 isn’t perfect though, as the toe-box area is a bit narrower than other models, and if you are a person who prefers a wider toe-box to improve toe-splaying, this might feel a bit more constrictive. Also, the Neo 4’s are likely to break down faster over time if they are heavily used, and likely need to be replaced after 6 months if that’s the case. This isn’t ideal if you’re looking for a shoe that can take a beating for years to come.
+ Breathable and durable Biomorphic upper
+ Duomax support and gel padding help impact control
+ Removable insoles allow for third-party orthotics
+ Great ergonomic design overall
– Toe-box may be a bit narrow
– Not as long-lasting under heavy use
3. Nike Air Monarch IV Cross Trainer
Next up are the Air Monarch IV walkers by Nike. While these shoes’ design harkens back to a previous era with a bulkier look, the engineering behind them is very much of the current age. The Monarch IV features a leather and synthetic fabric mixed upper for great durability, firmness, and support.
Internally there is a Phylon foam midsole, and as with many Nike Air shoes, the Air unit cushioning system makes it a very soft and smooth ride. The outsoles of the Air Monarch IV are made of a solid-rubber, providing you with a durable and grippy ride, adequate for any walking trails or routes on your agenda.
They look bulky, yet they are actually fairly lightweight and comfortable, which is a definite plus. Overall, if you are looking for a pair of shoes that are retro and aesthetically pleasing, while also giving you a great walking experience with ample cushioning, firmness and longevity for many long walks in the future, the Monarch IV’s are definitely a good option.
While they are a very comfortable shoe and have a classic look that works with any walking terrain (and any outfit), they are slightly niche. If you aren’t really much of a sneakerhead or appreciative of the call-back that Nike made with these shoes aesthetically, then you won’t see too much value out of them other than a fairly boxy yet comfortable walker.
For that reason, these shoes may simply not be best for you, despite their great qualities. But, if you’re ok with the bulky design, these are one of the best walking shoes for men especially given its price vs performance ratio.
+ Very comfortable and cushioned design
+ Solid grip on a variety of surfaces
+ Phylon midsole and Air unit for superior cushioning
+ Lightweight even though it looks fairly bulky
+ Affordable pricing given the quality
– Suited for a niche audience, unless you like the bulky look
4. Brooks Addiction Walker
Our next pair of walking shoes is the Addiction Walker created by Brooks. These shoes are a completely full-grain leather upper with a synthetic sole, meant to be highly durable yet also breathable. Brooks also chose to create the Addiction Walker with varying widths, with a range from narrow to extra-wide, and everything in-between.
The internal of the Addiction Walker has an extended progressive diagonal roll-bar, aiming to support the arch and guide your body into a healthy natural gait and ergonomic range of motion. The forefoot of the shoe has an MC Pod construction – a revolutionary outsole to set your foot into a stable and efficient position at every step. To say these shoes focus on foot health, comfort, and stability, would be an understatement.
For the sole itself, there is a BioMoGo DNA composition that adapts to your very own stride, weight, and speed. This gives you a buttery smooth ride on walks of any length – short or long. These shoes were made to help your foot while walking, giving you support and cushioning, while also having huge longevity with the full-grain leather upper, with Brooks touting it as a staple of your wardrobe for years to come.
While there is a lot to praise about the Addiction Walker, these shoes do have their own set of flaws. Most prominent is the fact that they look and feel bulky due to the density of padding used in its construction. These shoes also require a small break-in time of a day or two. For some, having a break-in time can be a major headache, and you may not want to deal with that. Others may not like it, but appreciate the fact that they will get a shoe customized to their very foot through extended use.
+ Full-grain leather upper that is durable and long-lasting
+ Has a variety of sizing options from narrow to extra wide
+ Super comfortable BioMoGo DNA insole
+ Designed to improve foot health, gait, and help with shock absorption
– Break-in time associated with this shoe
– Bulky construction
5. Ryka Sky Walk
Next up is the Ryka Sky Walks. These shoes’ upper are a mixture of 60% polyurethane (PU) and 40% textile fabric to provide you with a mixture of firmness and comfort. They are a lace-up walking shoe that employs PU as a synthetic leather-esque overlay to give you some firmness and act sort of like a pseudo-cage you might find on athletic shoes, so your foot feels a bit extra locked in.
It also features a memory foam sock-liner and a lightweight molded EVA midsole with a TPU midfoot shank for additional stability and support. Internally and externally, this shoe oozes comfort and stability, so if you are an avid walker that appreciates a snug fit, but not too much of it, these shoes may be just the right fit.
The outsole of the Ryka Sky Walk is a durable rubber compound that gives it great longevity, with a multi-patterned treading design that helps keep your feet secure on the ground, whether you’re walking on a stone path, sidewalk, or dirt path. They also come in wide options for those of you who have wider-set feet. Overall these shoes are a great lightweight choice for those of you who enjoy fitness walking.
The only considerable issue with the Ryka Sky Walk is the fact they do tend to run a little small – about a full size lower than your true foot size. If you do intend to purchase the Ryka Sky Walks, you should buy a full size up to ensure you get a snug fit. If you are the kind of person who requires a roomier fit due to wide-set feet, this may be a deal breaker for you, and you should consider a shoe model that doesn’t sit so flush on the foot. With that being said, these are one of the best walking shoes for women.
+ Firm yet comfortable upper
+ Good stability via EVA midsole and TPU shank
+ Solid traction for various walking paths
+ Comes in wide sizing
– Not true to size, requires a full size up
– Not ideal for people with wide feet
6. Reebok Ultra 6 DMX
Passing our halfway point now are the Reebok Ultra 6 DMX shoes. This pair has a mixed textile and leather upper with slight perforation in certain areas to add to its overall breathability. It may have an unassuming exterior, but it is the DMX’s interior that is the star of the show.
The shoe sports a DMX air-movement technology that transfers air underfoot for cushioning that helps adapt to your stride. It has a very soft full-length MemoryTech foam sockliner as well as an EVA foam midsole for responsive and adaptive cushioning that really comforts your feet during a walk.
Because of its ample cushioning, the Ultra DMX 6 are great shoes for shock absorption, meaning every step you take will be considerably less stressful on your foot had you been wearing a different shoe. Over the course of an hour’s walk, this avoided stress leaves your feet and legs a lot less worn down than they otherwise would be, which is a great feeling to say the least. Overall, these are a run of the mill shoe aesthetically, with a great set of features that put comfort and shock absorption first, which is never a bad thing.
On the flip side, these shoes are fairly heavy, which can be a serious deterrent for some people. If you happen to be a person who likes lightweight shoes, then these aren’t really it. The Ultra 6 DMX are nearly 14 ounces, and they look the part. If you are searching for a standout shoe that is lightweight and sleek looking, you may have to consider a different pair. If you prefer a comfortable and durable shoe that will last years, then these are still a great candidate.
+ Features air movement technology to keep your feet cool
+ EVA midsole and memory foam sockliner
+ Good shock absorption for long-distance walking
– Not very good looking
– On the heavy side at nearly 14 ounces
7. New Balance MW877
The New Balance MW877 is a walking shoe with a mixture of suede and threaded fabrics making up the sleek upper. There is slight perforation to aid in the breathability of the shoe, with suede not completely covering the upper as it would reduce the durability and breathability, but instead stylishly applied around it.
Internally, these shoes feature a full-length Abzorb midsole cushion system as well as a premium insert for maximum stability and comfort. It has the same sole as the iconic New Balance model 577, but puts a twist on things by making the overall design more athletic and meant for long and intense walks.
Around the ankle area, there are copious amounts of padding, with the tongue and collar providing flush support and comfort. The outsole is a durable rubber that has flex grooving – allowing for a lot of flexibility, which is great as it doesn’t interfere with your natural walking cycle or motion.
Tangentially related is the fact that these shoes are great if you’re someone who goes for walks and prefers not having to completely change attire since these shoes can be worn with more or less any outfit for most occasions, save a few more formal events. Overall, these are one of the most comfortable walking shoes that are also fairly stylish.
Despite this, there are a few things you should be aware of – mostly the fact that this shoe’s upper is not as ventilated as it could be and that the shoe is fairly firm, which may irritate some of you who prefer a more flexible upper. Fortunately, this gets better with time when it’s fully broken in.
As for the overheating, this is a problem that is not easily remedied, other than simply wearing thin socks, or avoiding very hot days when planning your next walk. These two issues could be a deal-breaker if you live in areas of hot climates.
+ Soft and premium suede upper
+ Full-length Abzorb midsole and insert
+ Well-padded ankle area
+ Can be worn as lifestyle shoes
– Requires breaking in to reduce firmness in the upper
– Can heat up your feet easily during intense use
8. Skechers GOwalk 4 Exceed
Closing in on the tail end of our list, we have the Skechers GOwalk 4, which are unique 100% mesh uppers with perforation across the entire shoe. It is safe to say, this shoe has made sure no others can compete with its ability to remain well-ventilated and provide a cooling effect to your foot quite as well.
Because of its completely mesh upper, it is also radically lightweight and flexible beyond comparison. While the outside is fairly straightforward and unassuming, internally there is an innovative and highly responsive 5GEN midsole cushioning system in place with a Goga-Max high rebound insole that energizes every step by giving back energy absorbed on impact, fueling your next step and making your walk that much easier.
There is a soft fabric lining and the footbed itself is bamboo-lined for antibacterial odor control, though it’s unlikely you’ll be building up a lot of sweat in these shoes. The outsoles treading design features Goga Pillars to give you a “light-on-your-feet” feel, and simply put, everything about this shoe screams lightweight.
Overall, this shoe is ideal for dryer, hotter climates and roads or walkways. If that is the type of environment you’ll be doing most of your walking, it doesn’t get much better than this.
With that in mind, this shoe is not well-equipped for wet areas, as the liquid will easily seep through the upper that is designed to allow an in-and-out current of air. It is also not well designed for more rough terrain like rocky terrain. Essentially, nothing hiking related. If you do plan to go on a hike rather than walk, we have a completely different list of trail shoes you can look to for guidance. The GOwalk 4’s outsole and upper just aren’t made for that, so keep that in mind if you are in wet or rough terrain often. With that being said, if you’re looking for a normal, everyday pair, then the GOwalk 4 Exceed are definitely good walking shoes.
+ Very lightweight and supremely breathable upper
+ Goga Max high-rebound insole with bamboo lining
+ Outsole has Goga pillars to keep you light on your feet
+ Great for dry and straight-forward environments
– Not ideal in wet terrain as water can seep in
– Not ideal for rocky or rough terrain
9. KEEN Men’s Austin
Our penultimate shoe on the list is the KEEN Austin Walking Shoe. After giving you a shoe that is definitely not made for rough terrain, we thought it fitting to provide you with a shoe that was made for walking on rough terrain, without being a hardcore piece of hiking footwear.
KEEN is a respected shoe brand with a range of models, but the KEEN Austin blurs the line between hiking and walking shoes, for those of you who can’t decide which you like more, or just walk in areas that aren’t well paved. These shoes have a full leather upper which is incredibly durable and long-lasting.
It has a compression-molded EVA midsole with a removable metatomical molded PU foam footbed for great comfort, especially during a long or arduous walk. The tough upper is complemented by the non-marking rubber outsole being slightly raised and protecting the front part of your foot.
Finally, it may be self-explanatory but the upper makes this shoe fairly waterproof, meaning you don’t have to get worried if on your walking path there is a river or creek you must traverse. This is a great shoe if you don’t always intend to walk on a road or pavement, but prefer getting a little messy by going through the woods every so often. Compared to buying a full-on hiking shoe, not only is this a much more appropriate model for walking in, but also fairly cheaper, so you get the best of both worlds without paying a fortune.
With that in mind, there are two major issues with the KEEN Austin that you have to keep in mind. Firstly, there is a bit of a break-in time associated with wearing these shoes before the rugged leather upper molds to your foot’s natural shape and motions. Secondly, unless the design really pleases your eye, this type of shoe is very niche in the fact that only someone who intends to walk on rougher terrain would consider buying it.
If you are in a city or far removed from any hiking trails, the impressive qualities of this shoe will be rendered fairly inconsequential for you. With that said, it doesn’t take away much from the shoes itself and these are one of the best men’s walking shoes for those of you who like to traverse the off-beaten path.
+ Waterproof full leather upper, very long-lasting
+ Compression-molded EVA midsole
+ Molded PU foam footbed is very comfortable
+ Tough and protective non-marking rubber outsole
+ Great for walks on rougher terrains
– Break-in time needed for the leather upper to feel soft
– Overkill if not used for hiking
10. Reebok Royal ASTROSTORM
Our final shoe is the Royal ASTROSTORM by Reebok. Just as fantastic and otherworldly as its name is, the Royal ASTROSTORM gives you an alien vibe and aesthetic, being completely different from other shoe models. Taking inspiration from other top fashion walking shoes *cough* Adidas *cough*, the Astrostorm delivers a silky woven upper that easily expands or contracts to better match your natural foot shape and fit snuggly.
Even though it uses a traditional lacing system, there is nothing quite traditional about it. The shoelaces reach to the far sides of the shoe and provide a customized and snug fit. Apart from that, this shoe is easily put up via the pull-tab alone, so there’s no need to tie or untie anything, as the laces do not hinder entrance or exit into the shoe.
Internally, the shoe has an EVA midsole for great support and shock attenuation, fabric lining to reduce odor, and a padded footbed to ensure optimal comfort at all times. The outsole is a durable rubber with multi-directional treading to keep you well-gripped on the floor. If you are the kind of person who wants to stand out, or prefers a trendy and casual shoe you can wear without worry of it clashing with an outfit, the ASTROSTORM is a good choice. These are definitely a solid choice for almost any event beyond walking, and that is definitely a big draw for some.
With that said, these shoes do have a big flaw in the fact that they aren’t the kind of shoes you bring on rough terrain or do overtime in. These excel in casual scenarios rather than the most intense exercises and walks you can imagine for yourself since in a lot of ways the Reebok ASTROSTORM is a bit more delicate given its softer composition. If you do plan to be very energetic and competitive or traverse tough terrain, these shoes aren’t the best choice.
+ Aesthetically pleasing and trendy design
+ Can double as lifestyle wear
+ Soft and form-fitting upper
+ EVA midsole provides good comfort and support
– Not meant for extreme use or tough terrain
– Mostly for casual exercise and walks
To conclude, we have given you a small list of the most important aspects of a walking shoe to take into consideration as well as a variety of walking shoes we feel are some of the best to purchase in 2021, as they are all great choices when it comes to comfort, stability, and firmness.
It is up to your personal discretion which of these shoes meets your needs best, and we hope that bringing some of these to light has helped you get a step closer to picking out your next best sneakers for walking!