Be Adventurous! / Be Prepared! / Health/Fitness / Reboot Camp

Choosing A Walking Shoe

Reboot Camp Post #6: I Say Trust Your Feet More Than That Salesman, But That’s Me…

My beloved old New Balance shoes, worn until they literally fell apart in 2011.

Take a look at this photo. That’s me (and Freida), walking about a year ago, and that old New Balance sneaker has just bit the big one.

When I say old, I’m really not kidding. Those shoes must’ve been 10 years old. Of course, when you don’t exercise all that much I suppose a shoe will last longer. And, to be honest, I’d bought other sneakers along the way, good ones, too. But none of them ever felt as fabulous as those old NBs.

Naturally, then, when I started walking again a few months ago, I needed some good shoes. And lucky for me, there’s a badge task for that. Sort of.

Scouts are asked to trace their bare feet, trace their shoe, cut out both tracings, and compare the two by holding them together at the sole. Of course, new shoes are recommended when a foot is longer than a shoe.

Sure, the feet of tweens are still growing, and this strikes me as an appropriate little demonstration for them, but I think we can all agree that there’s probably a bit more to finding the right walking shoe for middle-aged tootsies.

The Great Debate: Walking Shoes vs. Running Shoes

I’m a walker, not a runner (yet… time will tell), but there’s some controversy (oooh!) over whether walkers should wear running shoes. Livestrong.com puts it this way: “Although a walker can use running shoes, a runner should never use walking shoes.”

Here’s why:

We walkers hit the ground with our heels and a force between 25%-50% of our body weight, whereas runners hit the ground with at much greater force, landing on either flat feet or the balls of their feet. This reasonably means that running shoes need much more cushioning than walking shoes, especially in the ball of the foot and the heel. Extra cushioning isn’t going to hurt the walker. In fact, it matters to me a good deal–I’ve had two painful bouts with plantar fasciitis, so I’m all about comfort.

And think about this: when’s the last time you saw an athletic shoe company advertise that they’ve put their latest technology into walking shoes? You probably haven’t. They put those efforts into running shoes that now offer greater stability. “Walking” shoes just aren’t getting the love. Go to Nike’s USA page for women and you won’t even find walking shoes listed.

Seems to me there’s not much of a controversy. Walkers can definitely wear running shoes.

But that doesn’t mean that every running shoe is a good walking shoe. Running shoes often have a flared heel, extending beyond the back of the rest of the shoe. It can be great stability for runners, but it’s not a good feature for walkers; it prevents a smooth forward rolling of the foot. Running shoes may also have a higher heel than walking shoes — again, made for runners who land on the ball of their feet — so walkers need to choose a running shoe with a heel on the lower end.

See how this running shoe naturally flexes by the “toe box”? Perfect for walkers. I love these shoes!

Walkers also need to pay attention to where a shoe naturally flexes. Running shoes might flex around the mid front (the “toe box”), or closer to the arch — each are more suited to different running styles. We walkers want a shoe that flexes near the front, since we push off from the toe.

So what did I buy? Another pair of New Balance.

I’ve not read this tip on any website, anywhere, but 50 years on the planet suggests this truth: certain feet just do really well with certain brands, and I appear to be a New Balance girl. Every time I’ve veered away from the brand — always at the recommendation of a salesperson — I’ve been really disappointed. I’ve bought shoes from Nike, Asics, Saucony, Reebok, and Addidas over the years, and they’ve all brought me blisters, sore feet and pain.

True Story: In early February, I went into my local Sports Authority to buy my new shoes, and went right for the New Balance. I tried on a pair, and my feet just swooned with appreciation. A sweet young salesman, tall as a tower, came over at that point and recommended several shoes by other manufacturers that were 100%-150% more expensive than the ones on my feet. I described my history with the brand and why I believed they’d make a great shoe for me. He kept pushing… and pushing… until I noticed that he was wearing the men’s version of exact NB shoe I wanted to buy.

That pretty much put a halt to his upsell.

My “new” shoes now have over 100 miles on them. My feet feel great with no sign of the dreaded plantar fasciitis returning. And I promise to replace them before they fall apart.

Here’s the data on miles walked since the Reboot Camp started. Bear in mind that the goal is to walk a total of 15 miles, spread over five walks, each week. We’re getting there. :-)

Getting closer to a consistent outcome of 15 miles/week, spread over five walks.

Anyone else out there brand loyal to their athletic shoes? Am curious to know if I’m the only one!

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2 thoughts on “Choosing A Walking Shoe

  1. Pingback: 500 Miles in 365 Days! | Big Scout Project

  2. Road running shoes are designed for pavement and occasional forays onto packed surfaces with slight irregularities (fire roads, nature trails, wood-chip paths). Light and flexible, they’re made to cushion or stabilize feet during repetitive strides on hard, even surfaces.

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