When it comes to buying walking shoes, many people prioritize style over fit.
However, according to Dr. Kenneth Cornell, a podiatrist at Austin Regional Clinic in Texas, it’s important for women to have good quality shoes — not just for maximum comfort but also to prevent injuries, especially when walking for longer periods.
“Women tend to wear a wide variety of shoe types that are often not very supportive. High or medium-height heels, many flats like ballet slippers, flip-flops with thin soles, pointy shoes, and very flexible shoes can lead to foot, leg, and back pain,” Cornell explained.
That makes it all the more important to have a reliable walking shoe in the mix.
While this can vary depending on the brand, he explained that shoes for men are typically constructed with much more stability and longitudinal arch support and tend to have more cushioning across the forefoot.
Meanwhile, walking shoes designed for women are often narrower and sleeker, with less motion control and less padding across the forefoot.
With that in mind, we asked Cornell and other podiatrists to weigh in on the best walking shoes for women to help you make the best choice.
A note on price
General price ranges with dollar signs ($–$$$) are indicated below. One dollar sign means the product is rather affordable, whereas three dollar signs indicate a higher cost.
Note that shoe prices on Amazon vary significantly depending on your preferred color and size. Generally, prices range from $63 to $150, though this may vary depending on where you shop and the color you choose. On Amazon, the color and even the size of the shoes can affect what you’ll pay.
Curious about what to look for in a walking shoe? We asked Cornell and Dr. Derek Anders, a podiatrist at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Walnut Creek, California, for tips on choosing the right pair.
Go shopping at the end of the day
When it comes to shopping for walking shoes, Anders recommends trying on shoes at the end of the day when the feet tend to be at their biggest or may be swollen.
Pay more attention to the fit than the listed size
“[Pay less attention to] the stated size of a shoe and be open to the fact your feet change and your foot size changes,” said Anders.
Always try on different brands. Sizing can differ among brands and lines of shoes.
“There should be some space between the longest toe and the front of the shoe — about a finger width,” he said. “It’s also common for one foot to be slightly bigger or longer than the other, so size your shoes to your bigger foot.”
Consider your intended use and foot and ankle structure
According to Cornell, the best choice for a walking shoe varies for each person.
“Some may need extra cushioning because they walk long distances, and others might need motion control because they overpronate,” he explained. “Universally, shoes should be flexible and properly fitted.”
If you’re unsure how to identify a good fit, Cornell recommends visiting a local athletic or running store. The employees are likely to understand foot sizing and can make sure you leave with the right shoe for your foot.
Ask a professional about orthotics
If you have chronic foot pain issues you can’t seem to figure out, it may be worth talking with a podiatrist about considering orthotics.
Anders recommends wearing orthotics for 1 month to give them a chance to make a difference. It’s also important to avoid walking barefoot and limit slipper and sandal use during that time.
You can follow up with a physician or podiatrist about any changes in your comfort level in the meantime.
Podiatrists typically recommend athletic shoes with arch support and cushioning technology for walking, often from popular running shoe brands such as Brooks and ASICS.
There are also a lot of solid sandal and slip-on options out there, such as those from OOFOS and PowerStep, that are equipped with similar technology to promote optimal foot health.
Shoe shopping is nuanced, and it really depends on your foot’s individual shape and your preferences. You can look for shoes that you can try on in-store or return if the fit isn’t exactly what you wanted.
Is it OK to wear running shoes for walking?
Yes — many of the shoes podiatrists recommend for walking happen to be running shoes. If a pair of shoes provides optimal comfort on the run, they can often be solid walking shoes.
“A good running shoe will offer the foot more stability and motion control, so the structure of the shoe should be rigid in nature (as opposed to a thin, flexible shoe),” Cornell said.
Which shoes should you avoid wearing for long walks?
For long walks, Cornell said, you should avoid wearing any shoe that doesn’t offer arch support to control the collapse of the longitudinal arch of the foot, as well as support across the fall of the foot in the form of adequate padding and cushioning.
This includes flat flip-flops and ballet flats as well as high heels and boots.
Walking has numerous benefits for your health, but finding the right pair of walking shoes can be overwhelming.
When shopping for your next pair, be sure to consider your intended use and foot shape to narrow your selection.
By doing your research ahead of time and trying on shoes toward the end of the day, you can walk away with the best pair for you.
Last medically reviewed on July 10, 2023
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Anders D. (2021). Personal interview.
Cornell K. (2021). Personal interview.
Pledger D. (2022). Personal interview.
Sayed A. (2022). Personal interview.
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