Whether you’re walking your dog, working out at the gym or commuting by foot, getting daily exercise is vital for maintaining good physical and mental health. Regular physical activity — even a moderate-intensity mile walk — can improve brain health, help manage weight, reduce the risk of disease and strengthen bones and muscles, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. But if you're not wearing walking shoes that fit properly, you could develop a host of uncomfortable side effects, including pain in the feet, hips, and lower back or common conditions like bunions and plantar fasciitis, says Jesus Esparza, fit expert at Road Runner Sports.
We talked with podiatrists and fit experts to find out what key features you should look out for when shopping for a good pair of walking shoes. Here are their tips on how to break in new sneakers and how to know when to get a new pair, as well as some of their favorite options.
Our Top Picks
- Best overall: Hoka One One Bondi 7
- Best affordable option: Under Armour UA Essential Sportstyle Shoes
- Best for overpronators: Saucony Integrity Walker 3
- Best for wide feet: Brooks Glycerin 20
How we picked the best walking shoes
To help you navigate the crowded sneaker market, we talked with podiatrists about why it’s important to have a shoe designed specifically for walking and what to look for in a quality option. Here are the characteristics they recommended keeping in mind while shopping:
Material: Look at shoes made of synthetic mesh fabric because they are lightweight and breathable, or leather, which can be a bit heavier but is more durable, according to our experts.
Traction: To help you avoid injury, walking shoes should provide stability and a good grip. Shoes with rubber soles provide good traction, says Olga Shvets, a podiatrist at Central Park Podiatry in Yonkers and Bay Ridge Family Podiatry in Brooklyn, adding that rubber soles are especially good when walking on trails or uneven terrain. All of the shoes on our list have thicker rubber soles designed for stability.
Cushioning: This contributes to a shoe’s overall comfort and is determined by the amount of padding in the midsole (the area between the tread and the cloth upper of the shoe). Shoes with memory foam, gel or air all add cushioning, minimizing the impact each time your foot hits the ground, says Shvets. The most popular foam material used in the midsole of a walking shoe is EVA, or ethyl vinyl acetate, because it acts as a shock absorbent, molds to your foot and can withstand extreme temperatures and pressure, according to our experts. All of the shoes in this roundup either have EVA in its midsole or a technology that provides extra cushioning.
Support: In order to feel comfortable while walking, you’ll need a shoe that supports the shape of your foot, says podiatrist Miguel Cunha. However, not all foot arches are the same. Most fall into three categories — high, neutral or low — so you need to find a shoe that best supports your foot type (more on this below).
Heel drop: This is measured in millimeters and indicates the evenness of a shoe’s cushioning, with zero drop indicating even cushioning. While experts say a heel drop for walking shoes should be no more than 8 millimeters, some of the shoes in this list are slightly higher because they are made for high-performance walking and you can also wear them to run.
Weight: The lighter the shoe, the better for those walking long distances. Our experts recommended mesh walking shoes, because they are lighter and also allow for better ventilation, so they keep you more comfortable in warm weather. All of the walking shoes in this roundup weigh less than 12 ounces per shoe.
Best walking shoes for women in September 2023
Whether you are an avid long-distance power walker, love to hit the trails or simply want the best option for cruising around town, it’s important to find the right shoe to fit your lifestyle and foot type. We’ve asked our experts to share their top recommendations for ones that offer supreme comfort, extra cushioning and superior arch support to keep your feet feeling their best.
Every shoe in this list was either expert recommended or highly rated and aligned with our podiatrists’ guidance. Most of our picks have the American Podiatric Medical Association Seal of Acceptance too, which goes to products that promote good foot health.
Saucony designed this shoe for the neutral walker, according to the brand. “I highly recommend [Saucony] for neutral-arched or low-arched people,” Cunha says. “They provide great stability and have extra padding for shock control.” Shvets agrees: “This shoe is really great for an overpronator because it offers a lot of support.” The Integrity Walker 3 has a heel drop of 8 millimeters and carries the American Podiatric Medical Association seal of approval.
Material: Synthetic leather | Weight: 10.3oz | Heel drop: 8mm
The Hoka Clifton 9 — a Select Wellness Awards recipient — is the brand’s newest iteration of this sneaker. It has more cushioning and is lighter in weight compared to previous models, plus the sneaker's rocker shape propels you forward and makes for easy heel-to-toe transitions, according to Hoka. Zoe Malin, Select’s associate updates editor, says these are her go-to walking shoes due to the comfort and support they provide her feet when walking.
Material: Mesh | Weight: 7.30 oz | Heel drop: 5mm
Rebecca Rodriguez, Select’s editorial projects manager, says this sneaker — a Select 2023 Wellness Awards winner — keeps her feet comfortable and supported while she walks about 9,000 steps a day. It has a springy, lightweight feel, as well as a wide midfoot. Instead of a moveable tongue, the sneaker is designed with stretch uppers, making them similar to slip-on sneakers, but with laces. There’s also padding around the ankle for added comfort.
Material: Mesh | Weight: 9.10 oz | Heel drop: 8mm
Brooks’ Revel 6 sneaker — which earned a Select 2023 Wellness Award — offers neutral support and is built with a cushioned heel, giving it a bouncy yet lightweight feel. However, the shoe is not extra padded, allowing you to feel the ground beneath you and remain stabilized while walking, Malin says. The sneaker’s uppers are perforated so air can circulate throughout it and help keep feet cool.
Material: Mesh | Weight: 9.7 oz | Heel drop: 9.5mm
Lululemon specifically designed its Blissfeel 2 sneaker to support women’s feet, according to the brand. The 3D-molded midfoot hugs feet, which Malin says helps her feel balanced and stable while walking. The Blissfeel 2 sneaker is made with lightweight foam cushioning and grippy outsoles for added traction.
Material: Mesh | Weight: 8.10 oz | Heel drop: 10mm
Select favorite brand Hoka has upgraded its Bondi line with the Bondi 7, adding a memory foam collar to help cradle the ankle and accommodate a narrower heel, according to Hoka. Cunha recommended this synthetic-and-mesh shoe for its maximum cushioning and breathability. Its rubber sole has evenly balanced EVA cushioning across the entire midsole, resulting in a minimal heel drop so stress distributes evenly throughout the whole foot as you walk, which our experts say is ideal. The Hoka One One Bondi 7 is also the most cushioned of Hoka’s road shoe lineup, according to the brand.
Material: Mesh | Weight: 10.7 oz | Heel drop: 4mm
This walking shoe is another favorite of Cunha’s, for its ability to absorb impact and provide a cushioned landing. The extra cushioning creates a larger heel-to-toe drop, at 8 millimeters, so it’s an excellent shoe for high-performance walkers or even those who alternate with a run once in a while. The On Cloud 5 also has a removable insole and a thick rubber sole with deep treads for added stability; plus it comes with elastic laces so there’s no need to tie them up manually.
Material: Mesh | Weight: 6.4 oz | Heel drop: 8mm
Ryka created this women’s shoe specifically for high-performance fitness walking, which explains why it has a higher heel drop, at 11 millimeters. Made of synthetic mesh, these are lightweight, breathable and not too bulky, says Shvets, who loves this shoe for its “substantial bottom.” The Devotion Plus 3 is designed to accommodate a narrower heel and roomier toe and have a rubber sole for increased traction and durability while walking, according to the brand. Its EVA midsole has ample cushioning with extra arch and heel support too, according to Ryka.
Material: Mesh | Weight: 7.9oz | Heel drop: 11mm
The v13 is the newest version in the New Balance Fresh Foam 880 lineup and was designed for walkers and average runners who aren’t focused on speed, according to the brand. Shvets likes this shoe because it provides more comfort than typical walking shoes due to the additional cushioning that helps absorb impact and protect the joints. These shoes can also accommodate orthotics comfortably and are great for the elderly population, according to Shvets.
Material: Mesh | Weight: 10.6oz | Heel drop: 10mm
The Adrenaline GTS 22 is designed with cushioning technology that reacts to every walker’s unique stride and limits an ankle’s side-to-side movement so you can stay in your natural stride, according to the brand. Shvets likes this shoe for its heel counter, which is a piece of supportive material in the back of the shoe that stabilizes the heel and reduces your risk of getting blisters. “This provides stability to the foot and gives the shoe longevity,” she says. Because of its GuideRail technology, the Adrenaline GTS 22 is also an ideal shoe for pronators, according to Brooks.
Material: Mesh | Weight: 10.2oz | Heel drop: 12mm
The newly designed Guide 15 offers a softer, more cushiony feel than its predecessor, the Saucony Ride 14, according to Cunha. “I always recommend this shoe because it delivers a softer heel strike and takes some stress off the foot,” he says, referencing its 8-millimeter heel drop. It’s made of breathable mesh, which provides ventilation and keeps your feet cool, along with a sturdy rubber sole for stability.
Material: Mesh | Weight: 7.8oz | Heel drop: 8mm
This latest shoe in the Glycerin lineup offers a wider midsole and outsole for extra cushioning and stability, according to the brand. Because of this, Cunha recommended this shoe for those with a wide toe box or those who have issues with bunions or hammertoes. It is made of breathable synthetic mesh with a cushioned tongue and collar that securely holds the foot in place, and it is set on a rubber sole for stability, according to Brooks.
Material: Synthetic mesh | Weight: 11.5oz | Heel drop: 10mm
Made of breathable, lightweight mesh upper, Under Armour’s UA Essential Sportstyle shoe is one of the more affordable on this list. It has a minimal heel drop, a cushioned EVA midsole and a solid rubber outsole for good traction — all of which are things our experts recommended keeping in mind while shopping for a walking shoe. It also has a sock liner that molds to your foot for extra comfort, along with extra cushioning in the heel to better absorb impact from when your heel strikes the ground.
Material: Mesh | Weight: 7.6oz | Heel drop: 7.3mm
If you had a foot diagnostic test at a running store that determined you have flat feet, Shvets says this lightweight shoe is a great option because of its high arch. It’s made of synthetic mesh, so it’s also extremely breathable, she notes. It has a gel technology cushioning system that acts as a shock absorbent and an Ortholite sock liner to manage moisture too.
Material: Synthetic and mesh | Weight: 8.35oz | Heel drop: 8mm
This sustainable mesh sneaker, which has a 4.6-star average rating from more than 2,300 reviews on the Allbirds website, has a responsive inner foam cushioning to help absorb impact, according to the brand. Its flexible, cushioned midsole is made of EVA while its upper is knitted out of a fiber from eucalyptus trees making it flexible, lightweight and breathable, as detailed by Allbirds. The Tree Dasher 2 also has a padded collar designed to keep the heel from slipping, and its signature sole aids stability, as outlined on the brand's website.
Material: Mesh | Weight: 8.5oz | Heel drop: 7mm
How to shop for walking shoes
It’s best to get fitted at a specialty running store, where the staff is better informed and knowledgeable about shoe choices and recommendations, Cunha says. “They will have more time to spend with you individually,” he said. (More on this below.) Cunha also recommended shopping in the evening, since that’s when your feet are the most swollen. “If the shoe feels comfortable at the end of the day, it will most likely feel comfortable throughout the day,” he noted. Below are four other important factors to consider when shopping for a new pair of shoes.
An anti-compression insole. Look for a footbed with memory foam or an ethyl vinyl acetate (EVA) anti-compression insole for added comfort to support the arch, Cunha says.
A rubber outsole. A shock-absorbent outsole made of rubber will help alleviate the impact of each step far greater than a shoe with a hard sole, says Cunha.
Smooth, solid uppers. The upper part of the footwear that covers the top of the foot and attaches to the sole should not only be highly durable, but should also be flexible and comfortable, according to Cunha.
Flex point. For optimal comfort, the flex point of the shoe, which is the point at which it bends and creases while walking, should match the bending point of your foot (the area between the toes and the ball of your foot); when it doesn't align with your foot, it can cause problems like arch pain or plantar fasciitis, according to our experts. Most runners and walkers can benefit from a shoe with a stiff sole that doesn't bend in half, says Shvets.
Heel drop. Having a uniform level of cushioning rather than a huge heel cushion can be more comfortable because many walkers strike the ground with their heel first and roll through their step. A lower heel drop places less stress on the Achilles tendon, according to our experts. They also say that walking shoes should ideally have a heel drop of no more than 8 millimeters. (Runners need a higher heel drop than walkers because they strike first with their midfoot, the ball of their foot or forward on their heel, according to our experts.)
How often should I replace my walking shoes?
Experts recommend replacing your walking shoes every 300 to 500 miles, according to Harvard Health. If you walk briskly for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, that translates to a new pair every six to 12 months.
How do I determine my foot type?
Your arch — whether neutral, low or high — determines the direction and severity of the way your foot rolls or pronates. “You can identify your [foot type] by paying attention to which part of your foot hits the ground first,” says Shvets. She recommended looking at the soles of a well-worn pair of sneakers to see where they are worn out, as this will indicate where you are making most of your impact and thus indicate whether your foot type is a pronator, supinator or neutral. Below is a more detailed description of the three types of feet. Knowing which type you have is the first step when it comes to buying the right sneaker.
Pronator: When your ankle or arch rolls or tips inward slightly, you are pronating. When the foot rolls too far inward toward the arch, it is referred to as overpronation. This gait can cause flat feet, which is when there is little to no arch in the feet. Some people are born with this, other times it is a result of an injury to the ligament or tendon, causing the arch to collapse. Those with pronation and flat feet will see worn tread in the middle of the heel and toward the inner edge of the heel. A shoe with a supportive sole and a firm but cushioned insole is best for overpronators, according to Cunha.
Supinator: When your weight rolls to the outer edges of your feet, you are supinating. Supinators will see a worn tread on the outer edge of the heel and should look for added cushioning at the heels.
Neutral: If your foot lands on your heel and rolls forward during your stride (so that the impact is distributed evenly across the forefoot), you have a neutral gait. Those with a neutral gait will see the most wear at the heel, as well as below the first and second toe.
Is it OK to buy sneakers online without getting fitted first?
Sizing is different across brands due to the design and materials used. “I never recommend buying any sneaker online unless you’ve had it fitted in a store first,” Cunha says. The length and width of your foot also tend to change over time due to falling arches or hormonal changes.
How can I tell if my shoes fit properly?
When trying on sneakers, the tip of your thumb should fit between the front of the shoe and the end of your longest toe, according to Cunhya. Make sure the toe box is wide enough to accommodate your toes — there should be enough room to slightly wiggle them. Try at least three different shoe models — try two different models at the same time, wearing one model on each foot to better compare.
How does a fit expert assess which shoe is right for you?
The first thing Esparza does when someone comes in looking for a more comfortable shoe or one with better support is ask them to step out of their shoes. “I look specifically at their gait,” he says. “I look at their arch type and their posture. When they are standing still, I look to see if they are leaning in or out.” He then analyzes their movement as they run on a treadmill and uses a 3D scanner to take critical measurements of their foot. When the data from the body in motion is combined with data from the foot scanner, he is able to really dial in on the style and shape of a shoe that will work best.
“Many people think that their foot size is their shoe size,” says Ezparza. “People come in wearing an 8.5 because that’s their foot size, but we have to convince them that their shoe size is really a 9. Others have no idea they have a wide foot. For runners or active people, we try to tell them they need their space so their toes can breathe.”
Does every sneaker have built-in arch support?
“That is not always the case,” says Esparza. “Most times you should have an [orthotic] insole” to offer extra arch support. Cunha agrees, noting that while custom is always best, any shoe you buy off the shelf should have an anatomical arch embedded into it to absorb the shock and take stress away from the plantar fascia. “Brooks, New Balance, Saucony, Asicsand Hoka are all designed with [this arch support],” he says.
Meet Our Experts
At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure that all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and with no undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.
- Miguel Cunha is a podiatrist and founder of Gotham Footcare in New York.
- Olga Shvets is a podiatrist at Bay Ridge Family Podiatry in Brooklyn and Central Park Podiatry in Yonkers.
- Jesus Esparza is a fit expert at Road Runner Sports in Sterling, Virginia.
Why trust Select?
Barbara Booth has published several roundups for Select including ones on the best vacuums under $100, top-rated ellipticals and popular exercise bikes. For this piece, Barbara interviewed two podiatrists and one fitting expert, and researched dozens of women’s walking shoes from reputable brands choosing highly rated models that align with expert guidance.