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“Let’s take a walk!” has never been as exciting a phrase as it is right now. For many of us it’s the one thing that breaks up a sometimes mind-numbing stretch of being surrounded by the same four walls. In a way, it’s a (small) silver lining to these hard stay-home times. Because walking gets you going without stressing joints. As we get older (and we’re all getting older!) gentler exercise and more all-around everyday activity (haul that laundry basket!) is what doctors most recommend.
Walking—especially on unpaved terrain, like a train or a grassy hill—works lots of tiny muscles and strengthens coordination. It also boosts your mood, gives you a nourishing dose of nature, and helps keep things in perspective—which is something we all need right now.
Of course, loving a good walk comes down to one thing: happy feet. So it’s all about the shoes. And since it’s not really an option right now to get out there and try on a dozen pairs at an athletic store, we thought we’d bring the greatest picks to your doorstep—with the help of the experts. That is, podiatrists—who know the importance of the right shoe in aligning the whole. Where to start?
“Excellent walking shoes need to be supportive, lightweight and good for your specific foot type,” podiatrist Dr. Dana Canuso told Yahoo Life. “My most recommended walking shoe is one with a moderate amount of stability, a supportive arch, and lots of cushion.”
Sounds dreamy, yes? We asked Dr. Canuso and other leading podiatrists to get specific. Here are 9 pairs they hand-picked.
Skechers Performance Go Walk Joys are a Skechers best-seller—and Skechers are a favorite of Dr. Canuso. Because these shoes slip right on, they’re ideal for quick spontaneous strolls; they’ll get you out the door fast without no fuss. Breathable air mesh uppers and a rounded toe make them fit comfortably on nearly all foot types—and their decidedly non-sneaker profile and neutral colors (choose from navy, black, taupe, and pink), make them just right with a casual outfit for errands.
This is what an “investment piece” looks like during corona times, when a masterfully designed walking shoe is worth its weight in gold. “All the HOKA ONE walking shoes are great,” Dr. Nelya Lobkova, DPM, tells Yahoo Life. “My favorite are the Bondi 6 x Opening Ceremony (pictured).” These are unisex sneakers made with maximum cushioning and a moderate heel bevel that supports the foot’s natural movement from heel to toe. Dr. Lobkova also points to the shoe’s flexible upper, made of leather, suede, and mesh. A fine feat in footwear engineering. In black or white.
Vionics are beloved by serious walkers. Dr. Lobkova is a fan too. She particularly likes the Vionic Walker sneakers pictured here. These lightweight kicks have received the prestigious APMA Seal of Acceptance for standout features like shock-resistance, a supportive heel cup, and a moisture-wicking lining that prevents blisters. “An excellent walking shoe would have flexible material or laces to accommodate any foot,” Dr. Lobkova says. This beauty has both.
Now, something for the menfolk from a longtime favorite, New Balance. This stalwart brand is at the top of the list for two of our podiatrists. Dr. Lobkova often recommends the brand’s Fresh Foam 880v10 sneakers to her patients. Their highlights include a breathable, flexible upper and plenty of cushioning. Also something mysterious called an 8mm heel drop. Decoded: “The heel drop is the difference in height between a shoe's forefoot and rearfoot,” Dr. Lobkova explains. “I recommend walking shoes have a medium heel drop (8-10mm) so there’s less tension on the Achilles tendon.” The more you know!
This pick was recommended by two of our podiatrists, one of whom has them at home: APMA member podiatrist and spokesperson Dr. Jane Anderson, DPM told us these are the walking shoes she wears. The GEL-Kayano 26 are beloved for their support, shock absorption, and breathable upper. They have an 11mm heel drop, which is extra protective for the Achilles tendon. Dr. Anderson reminds patients to replace walking shoes every 350 to 500 miles—or when they look like they’ve seen better days. “The most common cause of overuse injuries (plantar fascitis, stress fractures, tendonitis) is shoes that are worn out,” she tells Yahoo Life.
Another pick for the fellas is Skechers’ ultra-popular Max Cushion sneakers. Dr. Andersen emphasizes the importance of a wide toe box (no squeezing or squishing); this pair’s roomy rounded toe even has a reinforcement bumper. It also features a special cooling insert; a secure, lace-up fit; and copious cushioning for long-walk comfort. Available in light gray (above) or solid black.
Dr. Canuso’s other top brand is Saucony, and the Liberty line is one of her favorites. It’s no coincidence, by the way, that almost all the walking shoes recommended by professionals are actually sneakers. Dr. Anderson says, “When I have my patients look for walking shoes, I often have them look at running shoes as well.” This pair offers stability, encourages moderate pronation (in a good way!), and features a proprietary system that conforms to the shape and motion of your foot—the next best thing to custom-made.
Among Dr. Andersen’s top brands are Altras, which work well for many of her patients. The Kayenta line for women delivers a lot more than eye candy. This lightweight pair offers shock-absorbing cushion, a roomy toe box, and a responsive midsole. Perhaps best of all, though, is the Fit4Her technology, which is customized to the unique anatomy of a woman’s foot. Also nice? These are on sale. Scoop them up now.
One more for the men: Asics GEL-Nimbus 22, Dr. Canuso’s top pick for guys. She likes Asics in general (“they’re versatile and moderately priced”) and this pair in particular because it provides a ton of cushioning and exceptional support and is designed to help with over-pronation—three of Dr. Canuso’s top priorities. Be sure to get the right size, she cautions: “A shoe that’s too big and roomy can be worse than a shoe that’s too small.”
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